We write this letter in the hope you can find a few minutes to help us move ahead with establishing the Jay Hammond State Game Refuge. There have been many heart-warming ideas for honoring former Gov. Jay Hammond since his untimely passing in 2005, leaving us survivors to go on with some of his lifework.
We deeply believe that creation of this refuge out of state lands in the Bristol Bay Watershed is a most appropriate way to honor his memory and put into practice Jay's philosophy of resource management, which has worked so well throughout the state; his concepts of how cooperative management provides more control for all interests than agency domination ever could.
Senate Bill SB 67, sponsored by Sen. Gary Stevens, will create this refuge while empowering local inhabitants and their representative governments and corporations to decide what mix of development and fish and wildlife protection best provides for peace and prosperity in a particular place. The fishing, mining and recreation industries will have votes on the management council.
We have supported creation of the Hammond Refuge from the beginning and thank Sen. Stevens for introducing SB 67. However, we have not been able to get a hearing on this bill because some fear such a special area designation would restrict full development of the lands included. The bill would require higher levels of effort to restrict byproducts of large projects that might harm fish and wildlife resources.
To those who viewed any controls on land use as "lockups," Jay used to say that such were "lock opens" for the people and a multitude of public uses that would be foreclosed when exclusive rights of consumptive use are given to one industry or another.
As legislator and governor, Jay is given credit not only for having been a driving force behind creation of the Alaska Permanent Fund and the dividend program, but also for his valid notion that when sufficiently protected fish and wildlife resources constitute yet another permanent fund on which Alaskans rely for jobs and sustenance.
These jobs don't need the subsidies that come along with extractive developments the roads, ports and power, all at public expense. Honoring Jay Hammond with passage of SB 67 will extend his protective embrace to his home ground in a most appropriate manner.
Jay was right about a lot of things, including the many special areas designated on his watch that coexist with mines and moose, caribou and oil and gas, fish and dams, and so on.
We are asking his friends all over Alaska to contact their legislators in Juneau, urging them to persuade the Senate Resources Committee, chaired by Sen. Huggins, to provide the first hearing on SB 67. That would be a good way of letting everybody put forth any ideas for changes, improvements or alternatives. Then, when the Legislature returns to Juneau next winter, they can enact the bill with whatever modifications are desired.
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