Only one applicant for ADFG chief
Members of the boards of Fisheries and Game will meet jointly Jan. 16 to choose an applicant to forward to Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy for the commissioner’s seat, but it likely won’t be a long meeting with just one applicant.
Doug Vincent-Lang, whom Dunleavy appointed as Acting Commissioner on Dec. 4, was the only person to submit an application to be the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He previously worked with the department from 1999–2014, last serving as the director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation.
In his application to the board, he outlined his wildlife management philosophy, including preserving fish and wildlife for public use, sustainable population management and maximum sustained yield.
Maximum sustained yield is embedded in the state constitution, requiring fish and wildlife managers to manage populations for the maximum benefit of Alaska’s residents.
“I would exert the authorities of the Commissioner and recognize and work within the authorities of publicly appointed Boards and Commissions,” he wrote. “I believe that sustained yield can have different targets depending upon the population. Many, if not most of, Alaska’s fish and wildlife populations should be managed for their maximum sustained yield, including many of our salmon and ungulate populations.
“Other populations, such as rainbow trout and some predator populations, should be managed for some other level of optimized yield different from maximum sustained yield.”
He also wrote that while officials should listen to the advice of ADFG scientists, scientists should not be making policy decisions.
“In short, science would inform my decisions, but not make them,” he wrote. “I recognize that there are many other inputs into the decision process than science only.”
Vincent-Lang has been involved in a wide variety of projects in his time with ADFG, including leading a research group on the since-scrapped Susitna River hydroelectric project, working on legislation to require sportfish guide licensing and leading a team that developed a strategic plan for the Division of Sport Fish.
Leadership at the ADFG has historically been fairly contentious. In 2015, five people applied for the seat, with former governor Bill Walker’s choice Sam Cotten ultimately winning the Joint Board’s approval; in past years, more than a dozen people have applied. By law, the joint boards interview and vet the applicants, forwarding an applicant to the governor for his approval before the nominee is forwarded to the Legislature for confirmation.
The joint boards are scheduled to meet in Anchorage on Jan. 16, with comments due Jan. 7. Because the Board of Game is meeting in Petersburg just prior to that, the members will travel to Anchorage in time for the meeting to begin at 7 p.m., or if weather delays their travel, the meeting will be delayed or rescheduled for a following day, according to the notice, issued Dec. 18.
Meanwhile, as acting commissioner, Vincent-Lang made three key appointments on Dec. 14: Benjamin Mulligan as deputy commissioner, Edward Grasser as director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation and Rick Green as a special assistant to the commissioner.
Mulligan previously worked for Fish and Game from 2010–15 as a special assistant and holds a bachelor’s degree in fisheries biology from the University of Wyoming.
Most recently, he served as the vice president of the Alaska Chamber. He also previously worked on staff for former Mat-Su Rep. Bill Stoltze, including as chief of staff.
Grasser has served as the vice president of the Safari Club International since 2013 and worked as a lobbyist and activist on Alaska wildlife issues for decades.
He has also worked with the Alaska Outdoor Council, the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Federation and the Outdoor Heritage Foundation of Alaska. He previously worked in the department as a special assistant from 2005-06, and Vincent-Lang listed him as a professional reference in his application for commissioner.
Green, who is better known as conservative radio host Rick Rydell, broadcast his program until accepting the program. He will be charged with outreach to stakeholders, according to the press release.
“Green will work closely with the state’s hunters and fishers to improve communication and build trust,” the release states.
Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected].