Today, the Alaska Supreme Court struck an important provision from the Stand for Salmon Ballot Initiative. It ruled the initiative’s ban on “substantial damage” – including permanent harm to salmon habitat – violated the Alaska Constitution because it amounted to an “appropriation” which impermissibly limited the Legislature’s discretion to make public resource decisions. The Court did, however, allow the Initiative to proceed forward with the offending language deleted.
We believe the Court made a bad decision. But – and this is a big but – the Supreme Court retained other important habitat protections, and preserved our public right to notice and comment on fish habitat permits.
Now, the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative will go to the voters in November, and even in its revised form, it will be head and shoulders above the 60-year-old, one sentence long habitat law currently on the books.
While we’re disappointed in the Court’s decision, we’re even more taken aback by the Walker Administration and the big Outside mining companies who’ve already ponied up more than $9 million to stop Alaskans from protecting our wild salmon.
When Bill Walker took office, he convened a fisheries task force, with stakeholders from around the state. While the task force represented a broad variety of people and perspectives, it came to consensus around a vital policy idea: Put Fish First.
The Fish First Policy makes a lot of sense. Wild salmon in many ways define what it means to be Alaskan; they support our economies, they feed our families and they shape our cultures. So it’s a good idea to make public resource decisions with an eye toward protecting our wild salmon first.
But the Walker Administration’s Fish First Policy was nothing more than political window dressing. While it’s bad enough the Walker Administration has done nothing to update our old and broken fish habitat law, it’s even worse it spent our taxpayer dollars fighting to keep the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative away from Alaskan voters.
Now, however, we have a clear path to November 6, when Alaskans will vote whether to protect our wild salmon. While the big mining corporations are working to buy power, we’re working with Alaskans across the state to build power. But we cannot do it alone. Join the fight to protect the last wild salmon runs on the planet. Or make a donation. Because our wild salmon are on the line.