Katie Riley was one of 51 Sitkans who spoke about the Yes for Salmon intiative. No one came forward to speak against it. (KCAW photo/Erin Slomski-Pritz)

Over 50 Sitkans turned out Friday morning (9-21-18) to show support for Ballot Measure 1, known as the “Yes For Salmon” Initiative. And for the first time in five hearings statewide on the controversial issue, not a single person came forward to say “no.”

Downloadable audio.

Lt. Governor Byron Mallott told the audience that the choice to hold a hearing in Sitka was an intentional one.

“We had the obligation to choose where these hearings were held,” he said. “I’ll just say for the record, myself, these hearings on this subject would never be complete unless there was a hearing in Sitka.”

Read reporting on this season’s salmon activism in Sitka, primarily around the renegotiation of the Pacific Salmon Treaty.

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott (l.) confers with special assistant Scott Meriweather, at a Ballot Measure 1 hearing in Sitka Friday morning (9-21-18). Mallott told the audience that he felt obligated to hold a hearing in Sitka. The community has been the epicenter of salmon activism — primarily from the troll fleet — this year. (KCAW photo/Erin Slomski-Pritz)

Stand For Salmon organizer, Melanie Brown, delivered the opening statement in favor of the initiative on behalf of the Yes for Salmon campaign. Four previous hearings on the initiative have been held around the state, and Sitka’s was the first to occur without an opening statement in opposition. In fact, during the two hours of public testimony, no one came forward against the measure.

Katie Riley was one of 51 people who signed up to voice her support.

“This measure provides for clear science-based standards to guide responsible development,” Riley said,  “while also protecting fish habitat instead of prioritizing short-term extraction of non-renewable resources over the critical renewable resource that is the basis of many Alaskan’s sustenance, livelihood, and cultural identity.”

Riley noted that the measure was by no means comprehensive but instead served as a first step in the direction of improved habitat protection. Author and naturalist Richard Nelson also gave moving testimony, recognizing salmon’s cultural, social, economic, and ecological importance.

“Now Alaska is a state that moves on the backs of salmon,” Nelson said. “In the future, we may find that if we don’t properly take care of habitat, that our industrial activities [such as] clearcutting, mining, dams, and pollutants will do the same thing to salmon that they’ve done everywhere else. So we’ve got a chance to not do that in Alaska. So that’s why I so strongly support this Proposition 1, and I think it’s the single most important vote in my life, my yes vote on Proposition 1.”

By law, the Lt. Governor is required to hold a minimum of two public hearings on the initiative in each of Alaska’s four judicial districts, at least 30 days prior to the November general election. The final three hearings take place in Fairbanks, Bethel, and Dillingham.