Written by Sue Mauger, Science Director
We live in, play around and benefit from a salmon landscape. Wild salmon unite and define us as Alaskans. We pride ourselves in living differently up here, but we are making the same mistakes that others made across the world when they chose incompatible development over salmon.
Stand for Salmon is our opportunity to make a different choice in Alaska – a choice for balance.
Unfortunately, corporations and our congressional delegation are stonewalling Alaskans by arguing that Ballot Measure 1: Stand for Salmon is a solution looking for a problem. Apparently they think protecting freshwater habitat is not important since the most-often cited culprit for the poor returns of Chinook and sockeye salmon is the recent “blob” of warm water in the Gulf of Alaska.
Perhaps corporations, which look no further than the next shareholder meeting, and politicians, who look no further than their next election, are the last ones Alaskans should listen to as we consider the long view. Ballot Measure 1 is not a hurried reaction to poor returns; Stand for Salmon is rooted in a long view of history and of the future.
By pointing fingers at the ocean, we risk losing sight of the value of habitat closer to home. And as we have seen in other places around the world – places once rich in salmon – healthy habitat is vital to healthy fish runs. And it’s easy to lose. We must articulate the standards needed to protect our freshwater habitat now if we want our runs to recover when ocean conditions improve in the future.
I’ve been looking closely at our salmon streams around Alaska for the last 18 years and, in that time, our knowledge about freshwater habitat has increased substantially. For example, we now know that even the smallest tributaries are important parts of the larger ecosystems that support our salmon. We now understand that groundwater and surface water are intimately connected, and we must protect this connectivity if we hope to sustain healthy fisheries. We know that our non-glacial streams are warming and that water volume is changing seasonally as glaciers melt faster and winters become less snowy. Ballot Measure 1 ensures consideration of these complex interactions that make up our intact salmon habitat.
As a scientist and as an Alaskan, I believe Stand for Salmon is a necessary and wise response to:
- a history of incompatible development on salmon landscapes across the world with a clear-eyed vision of a different future;
- the Board of Fish having requested the legislature do something to improve our 60 year old law and our legislature doing nothing;
- the dismantling of the Alaska Coastal Zone Management Program when Alaskans lost their voice to comment on projects that impact their community; and
- clarify the existing vague language by incorporating predictable and reasonable standards so that developers and Alaskans understand the expectations of developing in a salmon landscape.
Stand for Salmon is actually one of the easiest things we can do to support our salmon. We have endless examples of ways NOT to mess up the nursery areas for baby salmon. If corporations and our congressional delegation are really concerned about issues in the ocean, I truly look forward to their leadership as we get to work on the really hard issues: ocean acidification, climate change and hatcheries.
Protecting our freshwater systems from the same willful neglect of other places where salmon habitat and salmon runs have been decimated is an easy choice. Please take the long view for Alaska and our salmon. Vote YES on Ballot Measure 1.