“Yes for Salmon” grassroots advocates today delivered petition booklets with nearly 50,000 signatures to the Division of Elections in Anchorage. It’s enough to qualify as a ballot initiative for Alaska voters in November.

Voters will help determine if the Alaska law governing development in salmon habitat should be updated, something not done since statehood in 1959.

Ryan Schryver is director of Stand for Salmon, a primary backer of the initiative. Volunteers gathered signatures from Southeast to Nome and he said last month it was an easy sell.

“When they talk about this initiative helping to put the standards in place that will encourage responsible resource development and protect the salmon for future generations, they are all in .” 

The current habitat law only applies to waterways in an Anadromous Waters Catalog that includes less than half of Alaska’s salmon streams, says the Department of Fish and Game.

That means other waters  are not subject to permitting requirements. The old law also does not require public notice, nor an opportunity for Alaskans to participate in the habitat permitting process.

Last January the state Board of Fisheries asked the legislature to update the law.

In response, Representative Louise Stutes of Kodiak introduced House Bill 199, the Wild Salmon Legacy Act. Stutes also chairs the state fisheries committee.  She says the ballot initiative will fire up action this session, especially by oil and gas backers  in the senate resources committee who are opposed.  

“They would probably just shelve it and it would not go anywhere. But now, it’s a very popular bill with the public, the initiative is very popular and highly supported. People in this state want to maintain clean, clear waters for a sustainable fishery, overwhelmingly so. 

 “Now we have some leverage because it’s like ‘you don’t want to work with us, ok then you’re going to get the initiative and the public is not as accommodating as we might be on the House fisheries committee.”

Stutes says she believes the salmon habitat law can be crafted so that it works for everyone.

“My intent is not to put any resource out of business. We all live in this state. My intent is if you are going to develop a resource, you have to maintain clean, clear habitat areas for our salmon. It may require additional permitting but we can work together.”

Learn more at Yes for Salmon  ————–