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Salmon conservation takes commitment

Posted: May 30, 2012 - 8:48am

Do residents of the Kenai Peninsula deserve salmon? I am not sure they do.

That is a pretty blunt stance but the recent discussions over stream and lake buffers again points out that residents here do not care very much about salmon populations, except in the short term for economic gain. My dad said if you want to see where a person is going watch their feet not their eyes. Let's examine the footprints in the sand.

The history of the Peninsula and salmon protection is full of examples of poor stewardship. First, we have little to no zoning to define long term development relative to biological attributes needed to maintain salmon populations. Stream buffer discussions, for example, are replete with me, me, me attitudes with little regard for future generations who may want salmon in their culture.

Numerous technical papers, written about streamside vegetative buffers, have concluded that a 50-foot buffer along salmon streams and lakes is inadequate in the long term. Minimum fixed distances are at least 100 feet and variable width buffers are preferred. What does the Peninsula have? A 50 foot buffer and now we are debating removing or altering that distance against all biological rationale -- for what reason -- short term landowner desires for grass lawns and docks?

Landowners are not the only culprits. On the Kenai River and other Alaskan streams users have degraded habitat by putting hydrocarbons into the rivers in levels exceeding water quality standards. Today levels of silt and other materials, entering the Kenai River due to boat wake erosion, are causing water quality standards for turbidity to be exceeded in a five-mile section of the river.

What is the State agencies' and local residents' response? What I hear as a biologist and concerned citizen is prove it harms fish, it costs too much to fix, we do not want guides to be impacted, let's change the standards, or it may reduce fishing opportunity. Worse of all these arguments are being made by sport fishing organizations that claim to be habitat oriented and supported by local funds and fund raising events under the guise of habitat protection.

So do Peninsula residents deserve salmon? It is not too late to change the footprints in the sand. To do so will require a simple philosophy. We choose to have salmon in our future and our grandkids' future. We will put short-term gains in perspective of long term goals. We will pay the price, for salmon are not like weeds. They need nurturing and protections.

Finally, we will thank the federal government for federal laws and lands that provide to protection to our streams and lakes. For without these national protections we are probably incapable of protecting them from ourselves.

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Carver 05/30/12 - 11:31 am
Problem? What problem?

Kenneth Tarbox is absolutely right . . a voice crying in the wilderness, so to speak. We have been warned by him as well as by others:

"Though the fate of salmon rests in human hands, it is not clear that we will be able to save them even if our society wants to. Part of the problem lies in the conflict between the inherent uncertainty of the natural sciences and the certainty demanded by policy makers when balancing natural resource protection against economic opportunities."

—"King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon," Montgomery, Westview Press, 2003

Problem? What problem? What's a healthy run of salmon compared to a nice lawn right down to the river or to the money generated by an ecologically-abusive sportfishery? Gotta get our priorities in order . . ;-)

Watchman on the Wall
Watchman on the Wall 05/30/12 - 01:17 pm

Carver please explain to me how you can say that this person is one crying in the wilderness so to speak, yet you discredit what Norm Olson says about the govts. desire to restrict OUR Freedoms and we need to be prepared for it?

Breaking News Flash for you as well the Fate of salmon or any thing else does not depend on man, nor shall it ever depend on man as we will destroy everything if allowed the time to do so and thats why Jesus said that if he did not return & stop it ALL LIFE would be destroyed.

Yes we do deserve the Salmon but all the Illegals or law breakers don't & there in lies the problem greedy people.

Psalm 2

Carver 05/30/12 - 01:24 pm

Sorry, WotW, but I don't know what you're talking about???

jlmh 05/30/12 - 02:09 pm
No one ever knows

No one ever knows what Jerry is talking about.

northernlights 05/30/12 - 07:38 pm
What can we do?

I agree with your letter, in fact over the past several years I have read other letters from you. You have always stood for the protection of our rivers as I do to. I absolutely hate watching the abundance of fish die a slow death year after year. We can't live just for the day and not be concerned about the future of the rivers. Two years ago, they counted 15 kings returned to slykok, that is horrifying. I understand guides wanting to make good money each year fishing, I understand property owners want a nice big green yard, locals want their fish, sport fisherman/women love to fish, as I do. Common sense has to be used, just like our physical health, take care of yourself now so you can live many years down the road. We have to take care of our rivers and lakes, and truthfully, I dont know what to do. How can my voice be heard, I have no desire to go to meetings and listen to the arguements, its discusting. What can I do to help? I care about the future of the Kenai and kasilof river. Please let me know what I can do.

cbeard 06/08/12 - 10:36 am

I have doubts about the salmon, and fishing/wildlife in general, industry's survival based on definitions of what pro-salmon means. You have the big contingent of anti-pebble mine people that have been active enough to stall the mine or other ecological disaster projects indefinitely, but within that group of people there is only a small minority who actually support preserving wild salmon and habitat by limiting commercial fishing.

Like it or not, Alaska is being overfished more every year, but the addiction to salmon (or rather, the dollars it brings in from the thousands of tourists who come to fish) is so strong that the state actively supports the for-profit industry and its "biologists" reports only seem to matter when it wont effect commercial activities. Funny enough, the state assigns limits on non-commercial fishing for low returns even though it makes up less than 10% of fishing activities.

There are just too many people participating in these harvests, with more and more permits being given every year, and not enough wild stock to keep up. The only way to truly save salmon or any other of our threatened/pollution tainted species is to close fishing for a year, maybe two if the returns are dire the previous year, and let the wild species replenish. This could even be done on a rotation basis. One year no salmon, the next no halibut, the next no moose, the next no razor clams, so on and so on. Hunting and fishing aren't any different than your personal finance. If there's a low return, you need to tighten your belt. Going without a species for a period of time is like paying down principal to reduce your future interest rate. Right now we're just going into debt and getting closer and closer to bankruptcy, and in this case bankruptcy would mean the extinction of a species, and if too many of those go, the extinction of the source of income for thousands of Alaskans and the extinction of tourism.

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