By LOREN LEMAN
Many people have asked me about Ballot Measure 1. Their typical question is, “I’m confused. Can you explain what it does?” I tell them I am happy to do so, but for them to really understand it will take a few minutes—perhaps even a few hours. Most people are unable or unwilling to invest that time. So I give them an abbreviated version that I will share.
I draw my conclusions from my life experiences. I am passionate about protecting our salmon, including their habitat. I want my children and grandchildren to have the same opportunity I have had to enjoy and benefit from this wonderful resource. I also care about our environment—and help people be wise stewards of it. So, why vote NO?
- It’s unnecessary. Alaska already has rigorous environmental laws and policies in place to protect fish habitat, water and air. These are updated regularly, and when statutory changes are necessary, the Legislature addresses them. I know. I authored bills to do this that became law. The Legislature is the right place to do this—with testimony from interested parties and open debate.
- It’s deceptive. I don’t like to say this, but it’s true. The sponsors have marketed this as saving salmon, which of course we all want, but that’s not what it’s really about. Very little of our salmon challenges in Alaska are from habitat destruction that this ballot measure would fix. Trying to pass complex changes to our environmental laws in eight pages of small-font legislation just isn’t fair to Alaska’s voters.
- It’s harmful. Rather than benefiting salmon, it will add several more million dollars to the State budget, further delay issuance of permits, and hinder legitimate activity important to many of us, including community wastewater treatment and disposal, seafood processing, improvements to private property, and even access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation.
I have learned from experience that words have meaning. Even carefully crafted legislation and policies are often litigated. This measure, created without careful public input, will be the retirement plan for lawyers—and we will pay that cost. Ballot Measure 1 will have negligible benefit for fish but profound impact on Alaskans. I am voting NO.
Loren Leman has fished for salmon on Cook Inlet for 60 years, practices civil/environmental engineering, served in the Legislature, and was Alaska’s lieutenant governor.