Alaska Commissioner of Natural Resources

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Alaska Commissioner of Natural Resources
General information
Office Type:  Nonpartisan
Office website:  Official Link
2014 FY Budget:  $32,242,500
Term limits:  None
Length of term:   Serves at pleasure of the governor
Authority:  Alaska Statutes, Title 39, Chapter 5, Section 20
Selection Method:  Appointed by Governor Sean Parnell
Current Officeholder

Joe Balash.jpg
Name:  Joe Balash
Officeholder Party:  Nonpartisan
Assumed office:  September 25, 2013
Compensation:  $135,000
Other Alaska Executive Offices
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The Alaska Commissioner of Natural Resources is a state executive position in the Alaska state government. The commissioner is the principal chief executive of the Department of Natural Resources, which manages all state-owned land and water resources except fish and game.

Current officeholder

The current Acting Commissioner of Natural Resources is Joe Balash.[1] He was appointed on September 25, 2013 to serve as a temporary replacement for resigned officeholder Daniel S. Sullivan. Sullivan had served as commissioner from his appointment by Governor Sean Parnell on November 18, 2010 until his resignation went into effect September 24, 2013. [2]

On September 11, 2013, Sullivan announced his intention to step down from the commissioner's post. In his resignation letter to Gov. Parnell, Sullivan cited vague plans "to explore new opportunities and challenges in the next phase of my life."[3] Sullivan's decision amplified preexisting speculation he was launching a 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate in 2014.[4] His resignation became effective September 24, 2013.

Before becoming commissioner, Sullivan served as state attorney general from 2009 to 2010. He was also a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Business Affairs from 2006 to 2009. Before entering public service, he was an attorney for the firm Perkins Coie, LLP. Sullivan earned his B.A. in Economics from Harvard University and his J.D/M.S. from Georgetown University Law Center.


The natural resource commissioner's authority is based in statute, which establishes the commissioner as the principal executive officer of the Department of Natural Resources.[5]

Alaska Statutes, Title 44, Chapter 37, Section 10

The principal executive officer of the Department of Natural Resources is the commissioner of natural resources.


Like all principal executive officers in the Alaska government, the commissioner of natural resources must "furnish corporate surety bonds in the instance and amount required by law," the cost of which is paid by the state. Otherwise, there are no special qualifications for the office of commissioner of revenue.[6]

Alaska Statutes, Title 44, Chapter 23, Section 50

The principal executive officer of each department and subordinate officials shall furnish corporate surety bonds in the instance and amount required by law or determined by the governor upon recommendation of the commissioner of administration. The state shall pay the cost of the bond. The attorney general shall approve the form of the bond.


The commissioner of natural resources, like all Alaska executive department heads, is appointed by the governor and subject to confirmation by a majority of the members of the legislature.[7]

Alaska Statutes, Title 39, Chapter 5, Section 20

The governor shall appoint the head of each principal executive department in the state government. Each appointment is subject to confirmation by a majority of the members of the legislature in joint session.

Term limits

There are no term limits for the office of natural resources commissioner. The officeholder serves at the pleasure of the governor.


Alaska law does not prescribe any particular procedure for dealing with vacancies. It is the governor's responsibility to appoint a new commissioner of natural resources, subject to approval from the legislature.


As head of the Department of Natural Resources, the commissioner is responsible for "all state-owned land, water and natural resources, except for fish and game, on behalf of the people of Alaska."[8] He or she appoints and oversees the directors of the eight divisions of the department -- see, for example, Alaska Director of Agriculture.

The commissioner has additional duties with respect to the development, regulation and promotion of Alaskan agriculture:

Alaska Statutes, Title 3, Chapter 5, Section 10

(a) The commissioner of natural resources shall

(1) direct, administer, and supervise promotional and experimental work, extension services, and agricultural projects for the purpose of promoting and developing the agricultural industry within the state...

(2) procure and preserve all information pertaining to the development of the agricultural industry and disseminate that information to the public;

(3) assist prospective settlers... desiring to engage in the agricultural industry in the state with information concerning areas suitable for agriculture and other activities...

(4) review the marketing, financing, and development of agricultural products inside the state...

(5) regulate and control the entry into the state and the transportation, sale, or use inside the state of plants, seeds, vegetables, [etc]...

(6) regulate the farming of elk...



The Department of Natural Resources contains eight separate divisions, each of which is responsible for developing some particular natural resource or group of resources. Each division is run by a director who reports to and is appointed by the commissioner. The divisions include:

  • Division of Agriculture
  • Division of Coastal & Ocean Management
  • Division of Forestry
  • Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys
  • Division of Mining, Land & Water
  • Division of Oil and Gas
  • Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation
  • Support Services Division

The commissioner of natural resources also oversees a number of smaller offices, including:

  • Joint Pipeline Office
  • Mental Health Trust Land Office
  • Public Information Center
  • Office of Boating Safety
  • Office of History & Archaeology
  • Office of Project Management & Permitting/ACMP
  • State Historic Preservation Office
  • Recorder's Office/UCC

State budget

The budget for the Department of Natural Resources in Fiscal Year 2014 is $32,242,500.[9]


See also: Compensation of state executive officers

In 2012, the Alaska Commissioner of Natural Resources was paid an estimated $135,000. This figure comes from the Council of State Governments.

The commissioner's salary is bound to a range determined by statute; it must be no less than Range 28 of the Alaska executive branch employee salary schedule nor more than Range 30.[10]

Historical officeholders

There have been 22 Alaska Commissioners of Natural Resources since 1959.[11]

Recent news

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Contact info


550 W. 7th Ave., Suite 1260
Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: (907) 269-8400
Fax: (907) 269-8901

See also

External links

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