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Edited salmon initiative OK'd for ballot

Backers of the ballot initiative touted to protect salmon habitat won a somewhat split decision in the Alaska Supreme Court Wednesday and it will appear on the November General Election ballot, though in edited form

The Stand for Salmon Initiative had been challenged by the Lt. Governor for making resource decisions via the ballot, which the Alaska Constitution prohibits. The Alaska Supreme Court, in a decision with one partial dissent, sent the case back to Superior Court with orders that the Lt. Governor be directed to place it on the ballot with two retractions.

The Supreme Court agreed with the Lt. Governor that the initiative would unconstitutionally encroach on Alaska Department of Fish and Game decisions, but found that excising two problematic sections from the initiative solved that problem.

The initiative reached the ballot with over 40,000 Alaskan signatures, many collected in the Central Kenai Peninsula by Cook Inletkeeper. Kaitlin Vadla is the regional director

“It’s a very common sense thing to do. It’s updating this old law that we already have on the books to make sure that we’re developing responsibly in salmon habitat. It just seems to be the most common sense thing we can do, as a state, you know. We’re not special. Alaska is just young. If we’re not forward thinking and we don’t have good laws on the books, we’re just going to end up like everywhere else that’s lost their salmon habitat.”

She held up Washington State as an example she’d rather Alaska not emulate. “They’re spending millions and millions of dollars to try and bring back salmon, and I think we should try to avoid that. Try to do it right, here. And I think that means being forward thinking and being visionary about salmon habitat and about what we’ve got here.”

SalmonState is an environmental group based in Homer, Anchorage and Juneau. Lindsey Bloom is a fisheries analyst with SalmonState and says a significant portion of the initiative is still moving forward, including public input on projects damaging salmon habitat.

There’s a lot of meat on the bones in terms of what’s in there and that is going to move us forward into having a modern law that fits with and sort of aligns with the modern development we’re seeing in Alaska right now,” Bloom said, adding that the court’s ruling may also help garner more support from voters who were wary of the initiative.

The ruling comes just before Alaska Wild Salmon Day on Friday. Cook Inletkeeper plans to advocate for the ballot initiative with celebrations in both Soldotna and in Homer Festivities will be at Soldotna Creek Park and at Karen Hornaday Park, respectively.

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