Anti-Development Initiative Goes Before State Supreme Court

The so-called Yes for Salmon ballot initiative that would overhaul regulations affecting virtually any type of project in Alaska came before the state Supreme Court April 26. The court will decide if the initiative is constitutional.

By way of background, in July 2017, the ANCSA Regional Association voted to oppose the initiative. In its letter of opposition, the association stated, “This initiative, if passed, will prevent us from developing the resources that we received under ANCSA (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) and destroy our ability to create a sustainable socioeconomic future for Alaska Native people.” The CIRI Board of Directors also voted to oppose the initiative.

An opposition group, Stand for Alaska, was formed in October 2017 with the goal of defeating the initiative and balancing economic development with strong environmental protections. It comprises Alaska Native regional corporations, Alaska State Chamber, Southeast Conference, members of construction and transportation companies, union organizations, the visitor industry and various other industry trade groups.

On Jan. 16, 2018, Yes for Salmon signature-gatherers submitted 49,500 signatures to the Alaska Division of Elections in Anchorage – enough to earn a place on the general election ballot in November. But first, the initiative must pass the review by the Alaska Supreme Court.

Should the initiative become law, it is so wide-reaching that revenues from Red Dog mine, Alpine oilfield, the proposed Donlin mine, timber harvests and other responsible resource development on ANCSA lands could be adversely affected, which, in turn, would reduce the amount of 7(i) revenues paid to CIRI – a portion of which are divided between CIRI and the village corporations and at-large shareholders in its region.

“We need good-paying, year-round jobs to sustain our communities, and this initiative would stifle those opportunities,” CIRI President and CEO Sophie Minich said. “Alaska Native people and their corporations understand the value of balancing economic development with strong environmental protections. By placing unattainable protection standards on community and village development, both large and small, Alaska Native interests would be significantly affected.”

To read more about the ballot initiative and its potential negative consequences for Alaska jobs and communities, visit