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.

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Disappointed by JAHC director’s opposition to Ship-Free Saturdays

As a member of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, I was… Continue reading

Juneau residents pack a room at the downtown public library for a June 6 meeting of Eaglecrest Ski Area’s board of directors. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: Eaglecrest unplugged

Serving on a board or commission is hard work and that service… Continue reading

Downtown Juneau in late October of 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Mitigating the loss of tax revenue from cruise ship free Saturdays

The cruise ship free Saturday initiative presents us with a modified lesson… Continue reading

Leaders at Bartlett Regional Hospital listen to comments from residents during a forum Monday about proposed cuts to some services. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
My Turn: Bartlett board faces challenges

Once upon a time, Alaska’s capital had a well-run municipal hospital, but… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: SEARHC’s goals seem likely to limit, rather than expand, health options in Juneau

Max Mertz’s comments at the Bartlett Regional Hospital public forum about SEARHC’s… Continue reading

Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower after he was found guilty of all counts in his criminal trial in New York on May 30. (Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times)
Opinion: Trump’s new fixers

“Alaska Republicans back Trump after historic conviction in hush money case,” the… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Allow locals to have their town back once a week during the summer

Perhaps Nate Vallier shrugs when he sees eagles and bears (My Turn,… Continue reading

Juneau School District administrators and board members listen to a presentation about the district’s multi-million deficit during a Jan. 9 meeting. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: School board recall not a cure for ‘failure to thrive’

Decline happens over time. Kinda like the way we gain weight and… Continue reading

Two skiers settle into a lift chair as they pass trees with fresh snow at Eaglecrest Ski Area on Dec. 20, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: Eaglecrest Ski Area attempting to do too much without sensible leadership

Ever wonder what the 50-year-old clearcut above the beginner slopes at Eaglecrest… Continue reading

A Carnival cruise ship is berthed Juneau’s cruise ship docks during the summer of 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Ignoring the consequences of ship-free Saturdays?

Backers of a cruise initiative to block large cruise ships from docking… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Don’t believe doom-and-gloom predictions for ship-free Saturdays

As a 54-year resident of Juneau I have seen the summer cruise… Continue reading