AK lawmakers introduce bill to update salmon habitat laws for first time since statehood 

Alaska lawmakers are preparing to discuss changes to laws that protect salmon habitat that have not been updated in nearly 60 years. HB 199, introduced by Kodiak Representative Louise Stutes targets fish and game habitat protections when permitting development projects. A Salmon Policy Forum next week in Juneau aims  to prompt discussions among a diverse group – from miners to researchers and lawmakers to historians and fishery managers.

 We’re looking to provide a balanced approach with many different perspectives on salmon habitat policy in Alaska – our state laws and what is working and what’s maybe not working, and provide discussion on that. 

Lindsey Bloom is manager of United Fishermen of Alaska’s Salmon Habitat Information Project, a forum sponsor.

 This forum is not at all intended to push any agenda. It is educational and informational and looking to get the ideas out on the table and have a more in depth conversation about it. 

The salmon policy forum also is hosted by the group Salmon Connect and the Center for Salmon and Society at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks. The Center has two objectives, says fisheries professor Milo Adkison.

Our twin focuses are maintaining the viability of salmon and salmon dependent communities.  I I think most anyone who has studied the issue of what caused salmon to be lost in other parts of the world – it’s been loss of habitat. 

University researchers are well equipped, Adkison says, to facilitate meaningful, unbiased discussions.

We have a unique role in being science focused and also being viewed as a neutral and objective party and that allows us to bring people together to discuss and have a neutral and objective forum where people can talk about things that can be done without the usual political head banging that you see in places like the board of fish or the legislature and places like that. 

All Alaskans want to protect the salmon resources. As lawmakers take on tweaks to habitat laws the forum’s goal, Adkison says, is for people with differing viewpoints to work together towards that common goal.

We are firm believers ion the idea that different groups can differ in their objectives, but no one can  get what they want done without really understanding the facts. That’s what we hope will come out of this – a real awareness of what the issues are in salmon habitat protection, what is or isn’t working in the current statute and what exactly the proposed legislation, what kind of changes it would make. 

The public is invited to the Salmon Policy Forum  on Tuesday evening, April 11 from 5:30 – 8 at the Rockwell Ballroom in Juneau. Learn more at Facebook.