We are Alaska hunters and anglers. We live here, work here and play here. Our passions and family traditions rely on fish and game habitat, and access to them. We value science-based management and a transparent process that includes public participation. At the ballot box on Nov. 6, we urge you to vote yes on Ballot Measure 1 to ensure that the fantastic hunting and fishing opportunities Alaskans enjoy are available for generations to come.
An opinion piece that ran in the ADN earlier this month claiming 'outdoor leaders' oppose Ballot Measure 1 was extreme and misinformed. It was an attempt to scare sportsmen and women to vote against their own best interests to protect fish and game habitat. We, along with dozens of Alaska-based angling and hunting businesses and sporting organizations, support Ballot Measure 1. There is no way we would support something that restricts access to our fish and wildlife resources.
The claims made in the previous piece were taken out of context and not based on what actually appears in the ballot measure. The numerous benefits of Ballot Measure 1 were conveniently left out, and the facts were distorted in attempt to make sportsmen and women fearful about protecting habitat. However, the opposite is true: Healthy habitat is the foundation of good hunting and fishing.
Here are the facts, based in science and the actual language of the Ballot Measure: If passed, outdoor activities will not be subject to new permitting criteria. Ballot Measure 1 isn't about access, it's about proper protection of fish and game. Under the new law, you will still be able hunt, fish and use boats, planes and ATVs to access Alaska's world-class fishing and hunting grounds. Most of these activities fall into the "de minimus" category (activities that are "too minor to merit consideration") and will not require a permit under the new law, as they do not require one now. The Department of Fish and Game would retain the ability to issue general permits by area, which they routinely use to grant access for vehicle crossings for hunting.
There will be new areas of the state where projects will need a permit that didn't before. The reasoning for this is simple: Fish and Game officials estimate that only half of the state's salmon streams are included in the "Catalog of Waters Important for the Spawning, Rearing or Migration of Anadromous Fishes," which triggers the requirement to obtain a permit. By creating a reviewable presumption that a river has salmon, the initiative takes a proactive and careful approach with this vital state resource. Getting a permit in the "new areas" is simple: request a review for the area. If there are no salmon, a permit is not necessary.
Someone building a dock, driveway or cabin will easily obtain a permit from Fish and Game under the new law, as they do today. Activities that don't have major impacts on salmon habitat can proceed with little if any additional hurdle. But, if any of these projects have the potential for causing significant harm to salmon habitat, the department will take a closer look — as it should. This is a common-sense approach.
Most importantly, projects that have the potential to cause significant adverse effects on salmon habitat will be required to meet high standards and mitigate the impacts of their project to proceed. This ensures water quality, quantity and habitat access are maintained during a project. Large projects will also be required to post a bond, which protects the public if the developer messes up.
Smaller projects having low impact on salmon habitat will ultimately receive the green light. These provisions of the initiative help our salmon stocks avoid a "death by 1,000 cuts" that we have seen time and again in the Lower 48 states, which are now mostly devoid of wild salmon.
Ballot Measure 1 gives Alaskans, not outside development corporations, control of what happens on our prized fishing and hunting grounds. The opposition, including outside development interests like the Pebble Limited Partnership, is misleading Alaskans and would have us falsely believe the initiative will take away our ability to enjoy this great state. These opponents to the initiative want to defend their pocketbooks at the expense of salmon habitat.
The Alaska Supreme Court confirmed that Ballot Measure 1 would not shut down development in Alaska. Ballot Measure 1 simply gives the Department of Fish and Game the tools it needs to do its job, while allowing opportunities for input from Alaskans.
Josiah Brown, of Cooper Landing, is a hunter, angler, longtime sport fishing guide and business owner. Brad Kirrof Palmer, is an angler, junior high science teacher and fishing business owner. David Lisi, of Cooper Landing, is an angler, fishing guide and business owner. Dick Marshall, of Soldotna, is a retired fish and wildlife biologist, longtime angler. Ed Schmitt, M.D., of Kenai, is a longtime angler, chairman of the Kenai Area Fisherman's Coalition. Phil Shoemaker, of Wasilla, is an Alaska Master Guide, pilot, fishing and hunting business owner. Chris Tobias, of Wasilla, is an avid sportsman and sport fishing business owner. Nelli Williams, of Anchorage, is an angler, mother and director of Trout Unlimited – Alaska.
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