Bristol Bay Native Corp. against Stand for Salmon initiative

BBNC board chairman Joe Chytlook (right) and director Robin Samuelsen (left) at a Protect Bristol Bay press conference this spring in Dillingham. At the board’s direction, BBNC is following a “salmon first” policy, but does not support a salmon habitat protection ballot initiative. (KDLG photo)

The Bristol Bay Native Corporation is opposed to the Pebble Mine, but the regional Alaska Native corporation is not backing the ballot initiative known as “Stand for Salmon.”

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“Notwithstanding BBNC’s opposition to Pebble, BBNC believes responsible resource development can take place in Bristol Bay. Development that aligns with local opinion and does not threaten the region’s fisheries and fish habitat can and should be given an opportunity to proceed,” BBNC President and CEO Jason Metrokin said in a written statement.

BBNC does not support HB 199 – sponsored by Kodiak Republican Rep. Louise Stutes – or the Stand for Salmon initiative.

“Each would unnecessarily and negatively impact resource development projects and potentially the subsistence activities upon which our shareholders depend,” Metrokin wrote.

Stand for Salmon’s provisions might make Pebble impossible to permit, and two of its backers hail from Bristol Bay. Gayla Hoseth is a second chief with the Curyung Tribe in Dillingham, and Brian Kraft operates the Alaska Sportsman fishing lodges nestled in east and west side headwaters.

Supporters of the initiative say it will update salmon habitat protections codified in state law, giving salmon streams a higher priority. Critics say the initiative may make nearly every stream “anadromous” unless proven otherwise and could cripple all kinds of development.

The heads of the Arctic Slope and Cook Inlet ANSCA regional corporations took to the pages of Alaska Dispatch News to call on Alaskans not to support the ballot initiative, saying it threatened jobs, revenue, and development on Native lands. Their op-ed was published during the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention.

Stand for Salmon organizers are looking to collect enough signatures to certify it for next year’s ballot. The Walker administration does not believe it is constitutional.