As the upcoming federal election nears, Senator Sullivan is trying to burnish his conservation credentials by highlighting his effort to clean up trash in our oceans through two bills he has sponsored, Save Our Seas Act 1 and 2. A worthy effort certainly.
So, let us give Dan credit for recognizing we need to be better stewards of our ocean environment and working to clean it up is a start, but the reality is this is just a lay-up. It is hard to imagine anyone suggesting we should not be doing this.
If Dan really wants to make an environmental statement, he should be leading on climate change solutions and the long-term impacts to our marine and terrestrial environments. No state or area of North America is being more directly impacted by climate change than Alaska and the Arctic regions.
If Dan really wanted to make an environmental statement, he would not be supporting overturning the Roadless Rule in Southeast Alaska. The two main economic drivers in Southeast are fisheries and the visitor industry, both industries that are reliant on a healthy natural environment. That and a lifestyle that for many in Southeast is wholly intertwined with our natural environment have led to a majority of people in Southeast supporting retaining the Roadless Rule for all federal lands in the Tongass. Dan is simply aligning with special interests and ignoring what a majority of people in Southeast want and support.
If Dan really wanted to make an environmental statement, he would have led on the call to stop the Pebble Mine. Instead, those advocating for permitting of the mine had to be caught acknowledging that Dan is remaining silent and giving them a pass before he finally came out and pushed back against this environmental disaster. It is time to end the charade that this mine can be done responsibly and without impact to the Bristol Bay Watershed. Pebble Mine, at full scale, will leave a glory hole and a tailings pond that will be among the largest ever created in the world. Both of these toxic sites will have to be monitored and maintained in perpetuity. Think about that for a moment. This mine will be a threat to the Bristol Bay Watershed and the millions of salmon it produces every year, for eternity. It should not have taken years and a covert effort to clue Dan in that at some point in the future this mine will poison the Bristol Bay Watershed.
If Dan really wants to make an environmental statement, he should address the appalling by-catch waste of the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea Trawl Fleet. Many tons of juvenile halibut and black cod are killed and dumped overboard every year. Tens of thousands of King Salmon are killed and dumped each year as well, and many thousands of pounds of crab and other marine life are killed and discarded every year by the trawl fleet, whose only interest is bottom line profit.
Just this year, trawl bycatch has wasted one pound of halibut every 5.67 seconds during the first 10.5 months of the year, one King Salmon every 12.19 minutes and the Bering Sea / Aleutian Island trawlers wasted 2 lbs of sablefish(blackcod) every SECOND for an entire week during the week ending on September 26th. (numbers are at the time this article was written)
This would be real environmental leadership, tackling tough issues and challenging special interests. But unless he is forced to speak out, Dan remains near silent on major environmental challenges our state faces and a majority of Alaskans want to see addressed.
If Dan is not willing to acknowledge the interests of the majority, he is not representing most Alaskans and should be voted out.
We can begin this effort by supporting Dr. Al Gross for U.S. Senate in the upcoming national election. Dr. Gross understands that climate change, utilizing resources on a sustainable basis and protecting our natural environment are the best investments we can make in ensuring a vibrant economic future for Alaskans.
• Michael Kampnich is a resident of Craig. Kampnich has lived in Southeast Alaska for over 40 years. He commercial fishes for salmon, drift gillnet and halibut and has commercial fished as crew or running his own operation since 1988. Kampnich has worked in the timber industry, as a police officer and harbormaster for the city of Craig and worked for The Nature Conservancy from 2009 to 2020. He serves on the Craig City Council.