Court agrees with State that Salmon Initiative is Unconstitutional

photo by Greg Lincoln

The Alaska Supreme Court ruled today (Aug. 8th) that Ballot Measure 1—also known as the Stand for Salmon initiative—is unconstitutional because it makes an unconstitutional appropriation of state resources.
The Court directed the Division of Elections to sever the unconstitutional provisions and place the remainder of the initiative on the general election ballot.
The Alaska Constitution gives broad initiative powers to the voters, but puts some limitations on that power. One limitation is the power of appropriation, which lies solely with the legislature.
“The Alaska Supreme Court today confirmed our understanding of the initiative power and its limitations,” said Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth. “That limitation extends to the legislature’s power to allocate the State’s resources—including fisheries and waters—among competing uses.”
In this case, Ballot Measure 1 would have prohibited development of any project that would substantially damage anadromous waters (i.e., waters that support migrating fish such as salmon) and presumed that all waters are anadromous unless proven otherwise. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the State that this effectively allocated use of the waters for fish to the exclusion of other uses, such as mining. The Court has instructed that the offending provisions need to be removed.
As directed in the opinion, the Division of Elections will strike the parts of the initiative that the Alaska Supreme Court has identified as an unconstitutional exercise of the initiative power and will revise the summary for the ballot to reflect the amendments.
“I want to thank the Supreme Court for acting quickly on this case,” said Attorney General Lindemuth. “By expediting the case, we have sufficient time to work with the Division of Elections to get this on the ballot.”