Habitat Division move deserves more scrutiny

Posted: Monday, February 24, 2003

Homer Rep. Paul Seaton has announced his intention to take up the governor's decision to move the Department of Fish and Game's Habitat Division to the Department of Natural Resources. Seaton, who chairs the House Fisheries Committee, said he petitioned House speaker Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, for the opportunity to review the controversial proposal in committee after outcry from the public.

Executed in the feel-good name of permit-streamlining in an effort to advance the governor's aggressive resource development policies, the proposal has raised eyebrows in many circles. Opponents of the move charge that permit-streamlining could lead to softening of environmental standards that may not always be healthy for the state's salmon streams and their fragile ecosystems.

Seaton said he believes the governor's intent is not to degrade habitat. But since around 100 different individuals and groups registered concerns with his office, Seaton said he thinks it is necessary to explore the idea more extensively to ensure that habitat protection remains a primary motivation for any regulatory body.

Hearings should begin next month. Seaton said he does not expect the governor's proposal to be scrapped as a result of the committee referral and subsequent hearing. Rather, if any problems are found with the idea, the governor will make the necessary changes and resubmit it.

Whatever the final outcome, giving this proposal a thorough review in the Fisheries Committee is an excellent idea. There is far too much at stake to sell out our resources for a quick buck.

As the dust settles at the Capitol and legislators roll up their sleeves for the work ahead, we applaud Seaton's initiative in addressing constituent concerns and doing what he can to protect a very valuable and public resource.

-- Homer News

Feb. 20

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