Alaska’s salmon habitat protection and permitting laws have not been updated since statehood 60 years ago. Many Alaskans believe it’s time to modernize the laws to reflect current challenges; others believe they are adequate as they are. A forum next week in Kenai will bring all perspectives to the table –

“Our objective for the event is to provide a venue for the public to get educated about the habitat protections, how they are now and how they might be changed – to get a basic understanding of what’s out there, to discuss problems that exist and to talk about some of the changes being proposed, including state legislation and the initiative.”

Lindsey Bloom is director of United Fishermen of Alaska’s Salmon Habitat Information Project, a forum co-sponsor with the University of Alaska/Fairbanks. It will convene a mix of perspectives from Alaska natives, conservationists, oil and gas, mining, fishing, legislators and more.

“The purpose is to have a conversation. It’s not about necessarily getting people to agree with each other or come to some conclusions about a specific policy. From UFA’s perspective it’s bringing the information and all the various view points out into the open.”

Last January the Board of Fisheries requested that the legislature update Alaska’s Fish Habitat Permit Law.   It was introduced as House Bill 199 and is set for first hearings in the upcoming session.  Meanwhile, a statewide petition is gathering up to 45,000 signatures to put the issue before the voters.

 “So we have volunteers collecting signatures on this petition in areas from Nome to Sitka.”

Ryan Schryzer is director of Stand for Salmon, a primary backer of the salmon protection initiative. He says getting signatures is 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  and people are signing quickly.”  

The deadline to submit the petitions to the Division of Elections is January 15 at the start of the legislative session.

“I’m extremely confident we are going to hit our goal and that voters will have this option in front of them in 2018.” 

 Next Thursday’s Kenai forum will help educate people about the issue and encourage them to participate in the legislative and petition process. The Salmon Habitat Forum takes place Thursday, Dec. 15 starting at 5pm at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association Building.

It will be live streamed on Facebook at UFA/SHIP.

Find more on the ballot initiative at