Let’s protect Alaska’s other permanent fund — our fish and wildlife

As we struggle toward a sustainable, long-term balanced budget plan, everybody knows this is an urgent and critical part of salvaging our depressed economy and saving the integrity of our oil-based Permanent Fund. At the same time, we also know we need to build our sustainable economy to help reverse the current job loss and deepening recession.

“Building a sustainable economy” sounds like spending a lot of money. Fortunately, there is an opportunity to help do just that that won’t cost a dollar and will help protect what could be termed “our other permanent fund” – our extraordinary fish, wildlife, wild lands and waters.

Jay Hammond advised me, after I was first elected governor, that however I thought I would spend my time didn’t matter, because fish and game would be 75 percent of what Alaskans wanted to talk about and deal with. Between subsistence, bycatch, Alaskanizing groundfish fisheries, Canadian mines and treaties and their hijacking a ferry over fishing disputes (to list a few), it seemed at times that his 75 percent was an understatement.

However, as we both knew, fishing and hunting and the wild habitat that creates and nourishes them are essential to Alaskans in the many ways that it defines our lives and why we love this land. Those values are priceless, and their actual economics are impressive. The fishing and tourism industries create annually almost $12 billion in total economic spending, and 95,000 jobs. Both are long-term sustainable and growing industries.

The sustainable resources — fish, wildlife and the wild lands and waters — that create these industries and their economic benefit to Alaska depend upon the same fundamental concept that governs our oil-based Permanent Fund — protect the principal to assure future earnings. The Permanent Fund constitutionally protects the principal. Similarly, we must adopt policies that protect our fish, wildlife and wild lands and waters – the “principal” of our visitor…

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