Opinion: Please vote ‘yes’ on Ballot Measure 1

Opinion: Please vote ‘yes’ on Ballot Measure 1

This year’s Stand for Salmon initiative, Ballot Measure 1, is a long-overdue measure that will help restore balance between development of Alaska’s natural resources and the preservation and protection of our fish and wildlife populations.

Alaska’s economic health and quality of life depend on the development and use of its natural resources. Competing uses can damage or destroy resources if not properly managed. For decades, Alaska effectively managed its resources. This did not happen by magic. It took planning and hard work by the public, project applicants and government agencies. It took a law that brought disparate interests together to resolve conflicts between competing uses, particularly conflicts between industrial and mineral development and the state’s highly valued fish and wildlife. That law, the Alaska Coastal Management Program, was terminated in 2011. Ballot Measure 1 is a step towards restoring some of what was lost.

For activities occurring within Alaska’s extensive coastal area, the coastal program allowed local governments to plan for and fully participate in state and federal permitting decisions that would impact their communities. The program provided for public participation in a coordinated review of resource development projects. And it established standards that all levels of government — local, state and federal — were required to consider prior to authorizing uses and activities under their authority.

Among the coastal program standards was one that addressed protecting habitat and the fish and wildlife populations dependent on that habitat. The standard allowed the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to mitigate project impacts on a wide range of habitats, including areas outside the banks of rivers, lakes and streams.

With the loss of the state’s coastal program, the remaining laws that specifically address habitat are limited in scope and authority. Two laws enacted in 1959 give the Department of Fish and Game the authority to regulate activities within the banks of rivers, streams and lakes, but not adjacent lands important to maintaining healthy fish populations. Laws that regulate land use are implemented under the authority of other state and federal resource agencies. These laws might include habitat protection as a factor in permitting decisions, but other factors may take precedence; and Department of Fish and Game experts are generally relegated to a consulting position — other state and federal agency personnel have the final say regarding how activities impacting habitat may proceed.

Ballot Measure 1 puts consideration of habitat protection at the same level as other factors and gives the Department of Fish and Game authority to mitigate project impacts that affect salmon habitat both in and outside the banks of rivers, lakes and streams. It does this by establishing an anadromous fish habitat permit that Fish and Game may issue for activities that will alter anadromous fish habitat, including floodplains and adjacent riparian areas and other areas that contribute to fish productivity. To maintain flexibility, the measure provides different permit types that allow for less stringent requirements for minor activities that will not cause significant adverse effects on anadromous fish habitat.

Alaska’s salmon are threatened by many hazards we cannot control, such as ocean warming, pollution and ocean acidification. For the fish that survive and make it back to Alaska’s waterways, we must ensure they return to a healthy habitat. Lawmakers have failed to act. It is now up to us. Please vote Yes on Ballot Measure 1.


• Lisa Weissler is a retired attorney specializing in Alaska natural resource and oil and gas law. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.


More in Opinion

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

HEX Cook Inlet, LLC and Subsidiaries receives a check from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Administration in October of 2023. (Photo courtesy of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Administration)
My Turn: The Legislature should rein in AIDEA

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Administration (AIDEA) is second only to… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: What’s wrong with this picture?

At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24, I and several other moms and… Continue reading

Palestinians sell goods next to buildings destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. An estimated 1.5 million Palestinians displaced by the war took refuge in Rafahor, which is likely Israel’s next focus in its war against Hamas. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)
My Turn: Palestinian residents are helpless victims in attacks made by leaders

In 1948 the United Nations gave the country of Palestine to European… Continue reading

The Juneau School District administrative office, which would be closed and turned over to Juneau’s municipal government under a pending consolidation plan. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Opinion: Juneau School District edges closer to balanced budget, but what’s next?

After a marathon public hearing last week, the Juneau School District (JSD)… Continue reading

Students at Juneau Community Charter School play chess in a classroom. (Juneau School District photo)
Opinion: Final Draft – Civic education and the problem with standardized testing

There’s a lot of intense disagreements with the education bill that the… Continue reading

Joe Geldhof is a parent of two daughters who attended public schools in Juneau and a former Juneau Assembly candidate. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: Focus on saving teacher jobs, not buildings or nostalgia, to fix school district crisis

The numbers are bad. Really bad. Even dire. Juneau is losing population.… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: JDHS is a much better facility for high school students

The Douglas Bridge was completed in 1935, unifying our community in more… Continue reading

Most Read