Constitutional Authority

Unlike many states in the union, Alaska enshrined its regard for natural resources in its constitution. Article 8 — Natural Resources lays out the framework for management of renewable resources:

  • § 2. General Authority — The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the state, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of the people.
  • § 3. Common Use — Wherever occurring in their natural state, fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved to the people for common use.
  • § 4. Sustained Yield — Fish, forests, wildlife, grasslands, and all other replenishable resources belong to the State shall be utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle, subject to preferences among beneficial uses.
  • § 15. No Exclusive Right of Fishery [as amended in 1972 to allow limited entry] — No exclusive right or special privilege of fishery shall be created or authorized in the natural waters of the State. This section does not restrict the power of the State to limit entry into any fishery for purposes of resource conservation, to prevent economic distress among fishermen and those dependent upon them for a livelihood and to promote the efficient development of aquaculture in the state

Because fish and wildlife were recognized as critically important to the fledgling state, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game was created as a cabinet level department run by a commissioner, who answers directly to the governor. The directives of the constitution were included in statute by the legislature under Alaska Statute 16.05.020. The functions of the commissioner are to:

(2) manage, protect, maintain, improve, and extend the fish, game, and aquatic plant resources of the state in the interest of the economy and general well-being of the state.

The legislature also created the eight-member Alaska Board of Fish and Game, which was split into two seven-member boards (one for fisheries and one for wildlife) in 1975. The purpose of these boards is for conservation and development of fisheries and wildlife resources [AS 16.05.221 (a) and (b)].