Anti-Development Initiative Likely to Appear on Ballot

All projects on CIRI land must co-exist with the fish and wildlife upon which many of our shareholders and their families depend. Photo by Jason Moore.

On Jan. 16, Yes for Salmon (formerly Stand for Salmon) submitted 49,500 signatures to the Alaska Division of Elections in Anchorage – enough to likely place its proposal on the ballot in 2018.

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 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.

Following guidance from the Alaska Attorney General, the proposed initiative was rejected in September 2017 by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. Sponsors appealed the ruling, and the state Superior Court overruled the lieutenant governor, giving signature-gatherers until Jan. 16 to collect sufficient signatures to place the issue on the 2018 ballot.

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.

A new campaign group, Stand for Alaska, was formed in October 2017 with the goal of defeating the initiative and balancing economic development with strong environmental protections.

The ANCSA Regional Association submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in January 2018, expressing its continued opposition to the constitutionality of the initiative and outlining the detrimental effects it will have on Alaska Native people and corporations.

“Alaska Native people already say ‘yes for salmon’,” said CIRI President and CEO Sophie Minich. “This initiative would hurt the state’s economy, prevent our people from developing the lands conveyed to us under ANCSA and restrict our ability to create a sustainable future for Alaska Native people. Existing laws and regulations are working, and this initiative is a disproportionate response to a problem that does not exist.”

CIRI has long supported environmental standards that protect the state’s salmon resources. All projects on CIRI land must co-exist with the fish and wildlife upon which many shareholders and their families depend. Additionally, over the years, CIRI has supported others working to restore and maintain salmon habitat within the region, including the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and Tyonek Tribal Conservation District.