Few things are more important to the Alaska Policy Forum — or to Alaskans in general — than individual liberty and self-determination. We are an organization that believes the most critical issues facing our state should be left in the hands of those who know the state best.
Alaskans don't need or appreciate Outside interests that seek to impose their own agenda on our state — agendas that may run counter to our best interests, or to a prosperous future defined by freedom and opportunity.
We've seen what can happen when Outside activists insert themselves into the management of our state's economy and resources — from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore drilling to critical measures such as constructing the King Cove Road. Too often, such debates have harmed rather than helped the public discourse.
An obscure ballot measure intended to force an unnecessary and anti-growth overhaul of Alaska's fish habitat policies threatens to become the latest example of Outside interests meddling in Alaska's future.
Stand for Salmon, a private group funded almost exclusively by wealthy elitists and activist environmental organizations with no interest in Alaskans' livelihoods, developed ballot language and deployed paid staff to garner the signatures needed to put the potentially devastating measure on the ballot this November. Leveraging Outside money and influence from places like Oregon, New York, California, Boston and Washington, D.C., this group is aggressively pursuing a policy shift that is both disconnected from reality and potentially catastrophic for Alaska's already struggling economy.
There appears to be widespread agreement among Alaska's business, legal, Native and even conservationist communities that the ballot proposal is both unnecessary and harmful. The state already has some of the most advanced and thorough fishery management and permitting processes in the nation. Responsible public and corporate administrators fully understand both how to manage our salmon population and why it is so important to do so.
Alaskans have joined together to acknowledge that attempting to comply with the revised rules proposed by these Outsiders would be borderline impossible, and that both new and existing projects would face dire consequences in the face of this arbitrarily aggressive measure. Alaskans recognize that the measure would harm communities by making development of community infrastructure projects like roads and dams effectively impossible. Alaskans further concur that major investment in sectors like oil, gas and mining could grind to a halt, and that jobs and revenue alike would be negatively impacted at the worst possible time.
These facts are clear to Alaskans. But the Outside influencers pulling the strings on this ballot measure do not seem to care about the impact their work will have on our state — they never have. So what's driving the Big Money attempting to shape Alaska's future to their liking?
A quick look at the measure's APOC financial filings makes clear that many of its member groups have ties to multimillion-dollar anti-resource development campaigns taking place around the country. Some of the same foundations pouring resources into the campaign — and the in-state groups supporting the effort — are well-known for blocking development of critical infrastructure projects, damaging the reputations of energy companies and their employees, and undermining the financial viability of countless public pension funds by demanding divestment from fossil fuels.
Their strategy seems to hinge on exploiting every possible opening in a state's political landscape to advance a common goal of moving the nation away from fossil fuels and halting development of the very projects that states like Alaska depend upon so deeply for economic opportunity. This particular campaign focuses on salmon, the next may focus on timber — but the common thread is anti-energy, anti-commerce.
Their interests, quite simply, are not ours. We have our share of challenges in Alaska. As the ballot measure is discussed in the months leading up to November, it is essential for voting Alaskans to recognize that a vote against Stand for Salmon is a vote for our state's right to determine its own future. Let's keep Alaska's future in our hands.
Paula Easley is a member of the Board of Directors of the Alaska Policy Forum, a free market think tank working to empower and educate Alaskans and policymakers by promoting policies that grow freedom for all.