Salmon got a big lift this month.
The Alaska Supreme Court put an end to litigation between Stand for Salmon and the State of Alaska in a ruling that allows Alaskans to vote on a ballot measure updating and strengthening the law protecting fish habitat.
If passed in November, Proposition 1 would give Alaskans a voice in the permitting process for projects that could potentially harm fish. It would also make sure that the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has permitting jurisdiction over all water bodies. Right now, it only has authority over fewer than half them.
Prop 1 would further establish standards and tools for Fish and Game to enforce these safeguards. The current law has none of these protections for salmon.
One of our blog posts this week outlines the measure in more detail, but from a legal standpoint, the decision is a big win for fish and voters.
We represented Stand for Salmon and the public interest in court, arguing that the Alaska Constitution gives voters the right to use the initiative process to have a say in how we protect salmon.
Now Alaskans get to have that say
The Alaska Legislature had the opportunity to pass similar legislation, but failed to do it. If our leaders won’t lead, it is up to citizens to get the job done.
Every Alaskan knows the importance of fish–especially salmon–to Alaska. Salmon provide thousands and thousands of jobs. They draw residents and visitors to our communities. They feed our families, including those who have fished and eaten salmon for thousands of years.
Yet, an Outsider reminded me last week that protecting habitat means more than jobs, recreation, and a full food cache. It means allowing people to cooperatively safeguard and independently access fresh, delicious, affordable food they can get for themselves.
It means protecting the most nutritional, flavorful food on our planet.
It means recognizing food not just as commodity on a plate, but as the work of nurturing, nourishing, and protecting its growth and health for now and into the future.
Hank Shaw, a self-described hunter, angler, gardener and cook, and the author of several wild food cookbooks, talked about cooking with fish and game at a foodie event at the Anchorage Museum last week. He described wild foods as the most palatable, most precious source of sustenance and nutrition.
Protecting our food means protecting its habitat
As a keystone species in the ecosystem, salmon gives us food but it also ends up being the fertilizer that ensures that its habitat–and ours–is healthy.
The places in our country that have lost salmon did so through neglecting the health of salmon habitat. Alaska can–and hopefully will–do it differently. Alaskans can choose to make salmon fillets, dried salmon, smoked salmon, salmon spread, blackened salmon, and all the salmon we see and hook and dry and smoke and cook and eat a source of sustenance and nutrition for generations to come.
Yes, Proposition 1 is about fish, but it’s also about the future of wild foods and our way of life in Alaska.
It’s time to choose the world we want. Now get out and vote!
PS: Your support of Trustees for Alaska is critical now more than ever.
Intern Maggie Massey reflects on her time with Trustees: It is hard for me to believe that my internship with Trustees has come to an end. The past ten weeks were a blur of substantive legal work, thoughtful conversations, and playful office dog antics.