Alaskans turned out in force this week at three public forums in Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula to voice strong opposition to proposed legislation that would weaken the public’s ability to have a say in how our salmon rivers are managed.
Hundreds of people attended the meetings in Soldotna, Homer and Anchorage to tell the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that House Bill 77 must be dropped or completely re-written. The bill would eliminate the need for public notice when development activities are planned on state land in Alaska. It would give vast new powers to the DNR commissioner to issue general permits for development, such as mining, on state land as long it doesn’t cause significant or irreparable harm.
Many who spoke at the meetings said the draconian measure seriously erodes the public’s right to participate in decisions being made about key Alaskan resources like salmon and clean water.
“We are the original people. We have a right to speak” on these matters, said Peter Christopher, an elder from the predominately Alaska Native village of New Stuyahok.
The bill, aimed at streamlining development permitting, is a priority for Gov. Sean Parnell. It is expected to be taken up early in the legislative session in Juneau starting next month.
Read the Anchorage Daily News story or watch local television news coverage about the hearings.