Who Wouldn’t Want to Stand for Salmon? It’s Catchy...
By Grey Mitchell
I grew up in Forest Service family and have made Alaska my home for more than 50 years. It has always been clear to me that Alaskans are committed to careful resource development. Fishing is one of our most iconic industries, but so are mining, timber, oil and gas, and tourism. Alaska has set the standard for balanced responsible resource development in the midst of wilderness and most of us realize we need a strong balance to provide good job opportunities.
I grew up in Juneau, which was quite literally built by the mining industry; most of downtown sits on AJ Mine tailings. Without the Treadwell Mine, a glorious dog walk along “Sandy Beach” would be impossible.
We now have two world class mines permitted and operating under the most restrictive environmental standards on the planet. Many of my friends have had amazing, life changing job opportunities at the mines. Hecla Greens Creek teamed with the University of Alaska to pioneer a mine training center that provides awesome opportunities for young Alaskans.
Within a mile of the largest zinc mine in North America, Salmon have flourished in the Hawk Inlet area. It has been a favorite line up for the salmon seine fleet for years. We can have both. These mines and all the benefits they bring for Alaskans will cease to exist if the Stand for Salmon initiative passes. Initiative sponsors have tried to argue that existing mines will not be impacted, but this is not true when the permits need to be renewed in a few short years.
But the initiative’s goals are much more intrusive and expansive than just restricting and eliminating mining. Every trickle, muskeg, and muddy skunk cabbage hole will be considered anadromous fish habitat; this will require prolonged permitting for any development regardless of the industry or individual interests involved.
Our permitting processes are already more than adequate, but this initiative aims to establish additional opportunities for entities outside Alaska to file an opposition and stop Alaskans from diversifying our economy or even just clearing a lot to build a house.
This initiative is not in Alaska’s best interest. We all agree with the goal to take care of salmon habitat, but recognize that it requires a balanced, common sense approach for the people who call this great state home. Let’s send a clear message that Alaskans can’t be fooled with a catchy phrase.