Who are you funded by?
We have many funders, including Alaskans and Alaska organizations. For a full list of ballot initiative supporters, please check with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
What are you trying to accomplish?
Alaska’s law guiding development in salmon habitat is 60 years old and needs to be updated. The Stand for Salmon ballot initiative ensures a prosperous, thriving economy for everyone through accountable management of Alaska’s development projects. Because there are no specific rules limiting the amount of damage allowed to fish habitat during a development project, our wild salmon are at risk. Clear rules would create stability and transparency for everyone involved, ensuring continued long-term access to good-paying jobs for both the development and salmon industries while protecting the strong legacy of Alaska salmon for future generations.
Alaska’s population has more than tripled since the law regarding development in salmon habitat was written 60 years ago. As the population continues to grow, so do development pressures that have the potential to permanently affect our salmon fisheries. At the same time, worldwide demand for Alaska’s non-renewable resources is expanding rapidly. Currently, there are no specific rules guiding how fish habitat should be protected during a development project. This initiative creates clear rules, bringing certainty and stability to development projects and allowing Alaska to grow and develop responsibly.
What is the problem with the current law?
There are a number of problems with the current law.
Currently, there is no definition for what it means to “develop responsibly” in salmon habitat.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game issues fish habitat permits for development activities in salmon streams, but the standard for permitting is vague and does not provide the Department of Fish and Game with all the tools necessary to protect waters important to salmon.
The law only applies to the waterways that are listed in a statewide list of salmon streams called the Anadromous Waters Catalog. However, the Department of Fish and Game estimates that less than 50 percent of Alaska’s salmon-bearing streams have been listed in the catalog -- with the other half not subject to permitting requirements.
The law does not require public notice nor does it provide an opportunity for Alaskans to participate in decisions that have the potential to damage Alaska’s fisheries.
Under current law, Department of Fish and Game does not have all the tools needed to enforce permit violations.
Isn’t the Alaska Legislature addressing these problems?
In January, 2017, the state Board of Fisheries asked the Legislature to create enforceable standards for salmon habitat protection and to increase public participation in the fish habitat permitting process. HB 199, introduced in March, addresses these issues. However, the bill has not received a vote in the Legislature. The ballot initiative will ensure follow-through in the event that the Legislature does not move forward with the bill.
How does the initiative affect large development projects?
The initiative establishes a two-track “major” and “minor” permitting process. For all projects, the initiative creates a clear definition of what it means to develop responsibly in salmon habitat. When evaluating for a major permit, the Department of Fish and Game is authorized to carefully analyze the project, collect public input and work with the applicant to avoid or minimize impacts to fish habitat. Projects can be successfully permitted in compliance with updated standards by changing project siting, design and implementation or by sufficiently minimizing damage to habitat so it can be restored back to normal conditions.
What happens to mines that are already operating in Alaska?
The updates proposed in the initiative do not apply retroactively to mines that have already been permitted and are currently operating in the state. However, if the operators of the mine seek to expand the mine footprint in a manner that would require a new fish habitat permit, they would need to meet the new rules.
Will the initiative change the permitting process for Alaskans looking to recreate in or near salmon habitat?
No. The activities that require a permit will remain the same under the initiative. The Department of Fish and Game does not require a fish habitat permit for fishing, hunting, wading, bird watching, berry picking or similar activities.
Will the initiative affect subsistence activities?
The vast majority of subsistence activities do not require a fish habitat protection permit. Under the current law and under the updates proposed in the initiative, a permit is required to cross a stream with an ATV or other motorized-wheeled vehicle. In rural Alaska, where the majority of subsistence activities occur, the Department of Fish and Game has the authority to issue a general permit to cover a region of the state where people conduct a similar activity. A general permit is issued rather than requiring each individual wishing to conduct the activity to get an individual permit. The Department of Fish and Game commonly uses a general permit to authorize stream crossings at designated points or more broadly for rural areas of the state. The initiative keeps this practice intact.
Will updating the law impact commercial fishing?
Commercial fishing permit holders are not required to obtain a fish habitat permit prior to conducting fishing operations, and that won’t change. There will be positive impacts, though. Updating the fish habitat protection and permitting law will strengthen protections for important spawning, rearing and migration habitat that salmon rely on to reproduce, grow and thrive. These habitat areas are vital to the survival and strength of our salmon populations, which in turn will sustain Alaska’s commercial fisheries now and for generations to come.
Does the ballot initiative target Pebble Mine?
No, the initiative does not target any project. It simply sets up standards to guide responsible development in the state while protecting Alaska’s salmon fisheries.