Malena Marvin is the Executive Director of Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.
Walk up to most houses in rural Southeast Alaska, including ours, and the first thing you see is an impossibly long row of battered XtraTuf rubber boots. There are boots for the family, the friends who stopped by to chat, extras for the summer folks who came to visit or work as crew, and probably a pair or two with mysterious origins. Together, they tell a story of a certain way of life, one lived by the tidelines and on the water, and one defined by adventure and hard work outdoors.
Wrangellite or Skagwegian, Republican or Democrat, Native or newcomer, our families are diverse. But our family values in this place do have a few common elements. Jars full of berries and fish are the obvious one. A commitment to taking care of friends and neighbors is another. I also look across the islands and fjords of our region and see that few of us are more than one degree of separation from a family whose livelihood depends on fishing or tourism dollars.
It’s in reverence to our unique way of life, to these things that unify us, that today I’m asking Gov. Bill Walker to work harder for clean water, and to walk his talk about putting Alaska’s fish first when it comes to policy. Because while all of us in Southeast Alaska kept up full-tilt fishing, recreation and harvest schedules over the last few weeks, our leaders made some quiet decisions about the future of our communities that make me wonder how “extra tough” their footwear really is.
I have yet to meet an Alaskan who actually wants a dozen Canadian mega mines built in the headwaters of our salmon rivers. Their short-term economic benefit would flow only to Canada, while we in Southeast would absorb the near certainty of perpetual pollution and catastrophic toxic spills.
From Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to the 13 tribes in the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, from the Ketchikan assembly to a variety of fishing gear groups, everyone gets that these mines simply cannot go forward if we want abundant Southeast salmon for generations to come. With these mines, we risk the salmon that make us unique and that brings us together.
The Boundary Waters Treaty between the U.S. and Canada guarantees Alaska a real seat at the table on any decision Canada makes that could impact our waters downstream. This is not theory or advocacy, but a statement of legal fact. If Walker chooses, he can demand a real say in the permitting of new mega mines on the Stikine, Taku and Unuk rivers.
For the rest of this article, click here: http://juneauempire.com/opinion/2015-07-09/home-runs-alaskas-leaders-must-walk-their-salmon-talk