Here we are in 2017, Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, a place still somewhat wild, still living with the populations of advancing time, a place that prior to a century ago was for the most part unrecognized by the marks of mankind.
Look around today, if there is a symbol of wild surviving time, it is a fish, a salmon. If there is a fish of the people, our people, a physical, cultural, and spiritual symbol of the people, it’s wild Alaska salmon.
Science has revealed through lake sediment studies that salmon have recovered from massive landscape and climatic disturbances for millennia, but historic records also show human development and habitat destruction have overwhelmed and consistently eliminated salmon runs around the planet. Our speeding human vehicle has mowed down the youthful promise of wild salmon’s future from most of the rest of Earth.
Let’s consider a metaphoric crosswalk: Alaska’s salmon habitat laws have not been updated since statehood, there is a ballot initiative circulating the state for signatures of Alaskan voters called Stand for Salmon that would simply update salmon habitat development policies to give salmon stream protection priority in the permitting process of habitat development, as well as public input in the decision making. To put this ballot before the voters signatures from 70 percent of voters in each district must be collected. We need many more signatures from this district, with only three weeks remaining to get them.
I’ve discovered that the public arenas of today are for the most part corporate owned, even here, and every one that I have approached has declared signature gathering off limits all the way out the parking lot. Even a state-sanctioned ballot initiative which has gone through a rigorous and contentious process to even be allowed to be circulated is immediately and offhandedly rejected. It’s a labyrinth of political deflection, in an important public process.
I believe it is well past time for an open statewide discussion about the indelible importance of Salmon to our state, as a people, in addition to the indelible concerns of economic development. I recently attended a fisheries panel discussion specifically addressing the salmon habitat protection issues brought up by House Bill 199 and the Stand for Salmon initiative which was held locally, and I was able to question industry and state officials as well as state legislators about these proposed measures to protect salmon habitat. I was told by some including a local state legislator that the ballot process is a bad idea, and that such important decisions should be left to the legislature and the”compromise” process, when in reality I see this voting process to be the same process they trust to get in and stay elected. I also don’t see compromise happening effectively or even eventually with the dualistic inaction so common in Juneau.
There are signature gatherers for the Stand for Salmon ballot initiative out and about in the local struggling to get signatures, including myself. Please sign this initiative to at least provoke a necessary statewide discussion, and show the legislature that something can and needs to be done, and yes it needs to be done now.
Here are some places locally to sign the petition:
In Soldotna, The Map Store, across from Fred Myers, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday through Friday, Mountain Mama’s, The Bridge lounge, River City Books or Kenai River Brewing.