When is a Lie a Lie?: The Corporate Campaign Against Alaska Salmon
Calling a person or a group a liar is somewhat taboo, even in our evolving post-fact world, because the accusation is fairly serious. And of course the main difference between […]
splash graphic

Calling a person or a group a liar is somewhat taboo, even in our evolving post-fact world, because the accusation is fairly serious.

And of course the main difference between a flat out lie and garden variety misinformation comes down to intent: did the speaker know what he or she was saying was untrue, yet say or present it anyway?

A few weeks ago, I attended a debate on the Stand for Salmon Ballot Measure 1 in Kodiak. The audience included a variety of executives and shareholders from local Native Corporations from the Kodiak area.

Kim Reitmeier represented the “no” side in the Stand for Salmon debate. Ms. Reitmeier is the CEO of the ANCSA Regional Association, which is an organization set up “to promote and foster the continued growth and economic strength of the Alaska Native Regional Corporations on behalf of their shareholders.” Its mission is to “collaborate to create a sustainable socioeconomic future for Alaska Native People.”

One of the first slides in Ms. Reitmeier’s presentation said the Stand for Salmon Ballot Measure 1 “eliminates our science-based fish habitat protections.”

That line struck me like a hammer to the head. It was patently untrue.

The current law – the Anadromous Fish Act (aka Tile 16) – has one simple, undefined standard for protecting our fish habitat. It says the ADFG Commissioner must ensure the “proper protection” of fish and game when issuing a permit that destroys or impacts habitat.  See 16.05.871(d). That’s it. There’s no definition of “proper protection.” There are no rules guiding our fisheries managers on how best to implement this squishy, nebulous statutory standard. It’s an incredibly bare-bones standard, especially considering it’s the only thing we currently have that specifically protects our salmon habitat.

The Stand for Salmon Ballot Measure 1, on the other hand, seeks to remedy this shortcoming by injecting objective, science-based standards into our fish habitat permitting process.  It would add the following habitat protection standards to modernize our 60-year-old fish habitat law:

Fish and wildlife habitat protection standards. (a) The commissioner shall ensure the proper protection of fish and wildlife, including protecting anadromous fish habitat from significant adverse effects. (b) When issuing a permit under AS 16.05.867-16.05.901, the commissioner shall ensure the proper protection of anadromous fish habitat by maintaining: (1) water quality and water temperature necessary to support anadromous fish habitat; (2) instream flows, the duration of flows, and natural and seasonal flow regimes; (3) safe, timely and efficient upstream and downstream passage of anadromous and native resident fish species to spawning, rearing, migration, and overwintering habitat; (4) habitat-dependent connections between anadromous fish habitat including surface/groundwater connections; (5) stream, river and lake bank and bed stability; (6) aquatic habitat diversity, productivity, stability and function; (7) riparian areas that support adjacent fish and wildlife habitat; and (8) any additional criteria, consistent with the requirements of AS 16.05.867-AS 16.05.901, adopted by the commissioner by regulation.

Because I was so confused by Mr. Reitmeier’s presentation saying the Stand for Salmon Ballot Measure 1 “eliminates our science-based fish habitat protections,” I sent her an  email asking for a clarification:

On Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 9:19 PM, Bob Shavelson <bob@inletkeeper.org> wrote:

Hi Kim –

It was really nice to meet you in Kodiak yesterday, and hope you made it to your kid’s performance on time.

I had a question about one of the first slides in your presentation – it stated that ballot measure 1 would remove science-based standards, and I couldn’t understand that.

From my reading of the current and proposed laws, I think the ballot measure actually adds objective standards – because the current “proper protection” standard is anything but “scientific.”.

Can you help me understand what that statement on the slide meant?

Thanks –

Bob

Cook Inletkeeper

After I had not heard back in a few days, I wrote again:

From: Bob Shavelson <bob@inletkeeper.org>
Date: Tue, Sep 11, 2018 at 12:35 PM
Subject: Re: Kodiak
To: kim@ancsaceos.org

Hi Kim –

Just checking back to see if you care to respond. I don’t want to believe the ANCSARA and Stand for Alaska folks are deliberately misleading Alaskans, but from the slide I saw, I can;t interpret it any other way without some clarification.

Thanks –

Bob

Cook Inletkeeper

I’m still waiting for a response.

The point here is not to vilify Ms. Reitmeier.  I doubt she reviewed the slide before it appeared on the screen, and it was likely prepared by one of the “no” side’s corporate public relations firms, because we have seen similar claims elsewhere.

Rather, the point is that the corporate campaign opposed to the Stand for Salmon Ballot Measure 1 is spreading gross misinformation to scare and confuse Alaskans.

And now that we’re putting them on notice, if they continue to do it, it will be safe to say they’re outright lying.