The importance of wild salmon in Alaska is not up for debate. The protections for salmon, including its fresh as well as saltwater habitat, harvest levels and fishery health are paramount to the state’s coastal economies and communities, including those across Alaska’s North Slope. Residents statewide depend on natural resources from creeks, rivers and even the ocean for their sustainability and livelihood, and no one knows this better than the Iñupiat.
Salmon and other anadromous fish species are a part of Alaska’s past and present; with careful management, they will remain as a healthy part of our great state’s future. However, introducing a Trojan horse that would do nothing but stifle economic opportunity while delaying and even limiting necessary community development in our region (as well as others) cannot be a part of that future.
The passage of Ballot Measure 1 would be catastrophic when it comes to its adverse impacts on rural Alaska. Burdensome and unnecessary regulations when it comes to infrastructure maintenance and improvements would either cause a lag in completing important projects across my region or make them economically unfeasible altogether. This could include connecting vital natural gas lines in our villages, sewer improvements, or even the building of tundra-friendly ice roads in the winter. Delaying or forcing the cancellation of these projects or ones like them is unacceptable and altogether avoidable. That is why Arctic Slope Regional Corporation has joined Stand for Alaska, a broad coalition of more than 450 statewide businesses, trade groups and organizations from all corners of the state that is opposing the ballot initiative.
Let’s be clear about what Ballot Measure 1, if passed, would do. The poorly-written measure would dramatically extend the authority of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, forcing the agency to consider all natural waterbodies as supporting habitat for anadromous fish, those that spend a portion of their life in both salt and fresh water. These fish include salmon, Arctic char, Dolly Varden, sheefish and many other species found in waterways on the North Slope.
So far, the state has listed some 20,000 streams, creeks and rivers that are important to the current as well as future health of these species. Development that would directly or even indirectly impact those waters is already subject to a thorough review and permit process. Even Fish and Game admits the controversial measure would lengthen the process and even lead to the denial of permits. This would affect jobs in our villages and even the communities themselves; it could even affect development rights of Alaska Native corporations like ASRC in regards to its own lands, affecting future shareholder dividends and other benefits. If Ballot Measure 1 is passed, it will have a considerable negative impact on the Alaska Native community.
After a glance at the initiative’s top contributors, it’s obvious outside groups are trying to control the processes required for the development of our crucial community infrastructure. Many of these entities and organizations with anti-development interests have never stepped foot in Alaska, and yet want an important seat at the table when decisions are made on how to best protect and use our resources. It’s time to send them a clear message.
Alaska’s economy depends on current as well as future development projects, from the construction industry to the oil and gas industry, and it’s Alaskans who depend on these industries for jobs. Ballot Measure 1 is unnecessary and does not create a sustainable path forward.
On Nov. 6, we must fight for responsible resource development in Alaska, for economic growth and for our state’s future. I am asking you to join me in voting no on Ballot Measure 1.
Rex Rock Sr. is a whaling captain and the president and CEO of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.