Habitat protection should be left in place

As a woman who has made her living in Alaska’s fisheries for decades, I find it incredible that there are those who would oppose efforts to ensure Kenai Peninsula Borough streams remain healthy habitats for salmon. Yet that is just what is going on.

Two years ago, the Borough Assembly wisely adopted an ordinance in 2011 establishing 50-foot setbacks along all salmon lakes and streams under its jurisdiction, expanding protection ordinances passed in 1996 and 2008 that covered the Kenai River and its tributaries.

These setback rules are not draconian. They permit things like controlling vegetation, constructing walk ways or stairs to the shoreline, even building a small fish-cleaning station. They prohibit “major” construction, clearing and excavation that could destroy the integrity of the shoreline habitat. So you can’t erect a major structure or create a parking lot to the water. But really, who wants to?

Apparently some local realtors who believe saving habitat important to all of us is somehow unfair to individual property owners and detrimental to their property values. They’ve even got backing from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) based in Chicago, and on June 18, will argue for tossing out the two-year-old habitat regulations during a public hearing before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. Their success would be very bad for the fish habitat and for property values.

Studies from around the country have shown that enhanced protection of shoreline around streams and lakes actually boosts property values! Turns out buyers want natural areas along their waterfronts, especially when they know their yards and those of their neighbors are protected by law from deteriorating development.

Look, we Alaskans love the outdoors, enjoy our clean open areas and our salmon. What we don’t need is some Outside organization determining how we protect our resources.

Repealing salmon stream habitat protections is a very bad idea and ought to be rejected by the Assembly. Consider adding your voice at the hearing.

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