More than 8,000 Alaskans urge legislators to approve Stand for Salmon Bill ahead of bill’s hearing
January 24, 2018
House Bill 199, the “Wild Salmon Legacy Act,” would update Title 16 - Alaska’s fish habitat protection and permitting law. This law guides how the State of Alaska permits activities and development projects that may impact wild salmon; however, this law has not been updated since Statehood.
According to Stutes' sponsor's statement, the bill will create a balanced and efficient permitting system that will protect Alaska’s wild salmon runs, promote responsible development and will give Alaskans a greater voice in major permitting decisions that impact wild salmon streams. HB 199 will provide regulatory certainty for resource development companies while ensuring protection of salmon habitat.
This bill was drafted in response to a letter the Alaska Board of Fisheries sent to the Alaska Legislature in January 2017 recommending it modernize Title 16. The Board of Fisheries’ action came at the request of a group of Alaskans comprised of commercial, sport, subsistence and personal use fishermen concerned about the future of the salmon they depend on.
“I encourage all stakeholders to engage in this process so that we can achieve a true balance between responsible development and safeguarding our cherished salmon resources that we all hold dear,” said Rep. Stutes to the hearing’s standing-room-only audience, with attendees including Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten and Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon.
“Protecting our salmon habitat is important now more than ever and is an investment in Alaska’s future,” said Melanie Brown, an organizer with Stand for Salmon, who delivered the support letters today. “Considering our state’s growth, and Pebble Limited Partnership’s recent mine permit application, this is a much-needed opportunity for Alaskans to have a voice in the protection of our salmon and to hold major developments to higher standards.”
The proposed reforms for Alaska’s salmon habitat law trace back to 2016, when the Alaska Board of Fisheries unanimously supported a resolution calling on the State Legislature to update the more than 60-year-old laws governing development in salmon habitat. Those recommendations led to the introduction of House Bill 199 in March 2017, sponsored by Rep. Stutes.
“We are grateful to Rep. Stutes and the Legislature for prioritizing Alaska’s wild salmon,” said Ryan Schryver, director of Stand for Salmon, a group that supports HB 199. “Alaskans have clearly articulated their support for responsible resource development that sustains our salmon jobs, economy and way of life for generations.”
Public testimony on HB 199 is expected in the coming weeks.
Wild salmon are a major part of our culture, economy and identity in Alaska states Stutes in the sponsor's statement. is the last state with healthy populations of wild salmon and this bill protects the interests of Alaskans who rely on wild salmon for food, income and recreation.
Given the importance of Alaska’s salmon fisheries, Stutes wrote, the state must ensure that related laws are balanced, predictable and fair in both protecting salmon habitat and encouraging responsible development. HB 199 will create enforceable standards, provide for public input and expand the Department of Fish and Game’s authority to protect fish habitat and will safeguard Alaska’s salmon fisheries into the future.
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Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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