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JUNEAU – Letters of support from more than 8,000 Alaskans were delivered to the State Legislature today as House Fisheries Committee Chair Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak) reintroduced House Bill 199. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Stutes, updates state law governing development in salmon habitat. The hearing comes in the second full week of the legislative session, showing high priority for the issue among legislators and mirroring widespread support from Alaskans statewide.
“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.