by Grant Fairbanks
Alaska is the last great producer of wild Pacific salmon. We became a state due to the mismanagement of this salmon resource by the federal government in the1900s. In 1952, 85 of residents of the territory voted to transfer fishing management from the Federal government to the soon to become state of Alaska. In 1959, President Eisenhower, signed the statehood act. Our new constitution then reflected the commitment to sustaining salmon harvests.
Now, 60 years later, we are again fighting against outside influences that threaten our salmon.
Foreign mining conglomerates and other resource extraction industries are now permitting projects through political pressure on our many state departments that are tasked with protecting Alaskan salmon.
Recently, more than 40,000 Alaskan voters signed a petition asking our lawmakers to fix this problem during the recent legislative session. However, pressure from the oil and mining industry lobbyists caused our politicians to fail in these efforts.
State law now allows the citizens to fix this problem by voting Yes in the November election on Ballot Measure 1, an act providing for protection of wild salmon and fish and wildlife habitat.
At present, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game doesn’t allow public notification and participation during the permitting process concerning projects involving salmon streams. Ballot Measure 1 asks that the state fix the weakened salmon protection statutes and allow public review and comment. This updated statute will help protect our salmon from political decisions influenced by the industries that could harm salmon waterways.
The advertisements paid for by outside mining companies and the large Native Corporations are using fear mongering to influence the Alaskan voters. The advertisements infer that no more runways can be built, no more pipelines, no more anything, if this proposition passes. Not true: the measure merely guides how we build those things responsibly.
They say the present statutes and laws are good enough to protect our salmon. These so called, “good enough laws” just last month allowed the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to issue Title 16 fish habitat permits to the Donlin Gold mine in the Kuskokwim watershed. This mine, if built, will be the largest gold mine on earth. These issued permits will allow this mine to build over and destroy, a salmon stream, and the mine waste water will need to be treated for the next 1,000 years. The state of Alaska has never knowingly permitted a perpetual water treatment mine before.
We need to strengthen protection for fish habitat and modernize the permitting system so salmon streams can’t be destroyed and we need a process to guide responsible development. The opponents of this proposition that are funding these negative ads are this very gold mine, the large native corporations that own the mineral rights, and oil companies.
We are asking these companies to develop in a responsible manner and not to harm our salmon streams and river. We say that if they can’t develop their project in a salmon safe way then don’t do the project in Alaska. Don’t let the negative ads by these companies harm Alaska salmon.
Join the 40,000 Alaskans whom started this petition and ensure our salmon are protected for future generations. Don’t let the 10 million dollars of false advertising by outside corporations cause harm to our salmon. We became a state due to salmon destruction by outside interests and now we Alaskans need to speak up loud and clear. We Alaskans are not against development, we just want it done in a responsible and salmon safe manner.
Grant Fairbanks is a resident of Bethel, Alaska.