Alaska editorial: Habitat ordinance task force moving forward

This editorial first appeared in the Peninsula Clarion:

We found reason for optimism earlier this month when it was reported that the borough’s Anadromous Fish Habitat Protection Task Force was able to stay focused on its task.

The task force was established by Borough Mayor Mike Navarre to examine and make recommendations to improve an ordinance extending habitat protection measures to bodies of water important to salmon throughout the borough. Similar habitat protection measures already are in place along the Kenai River.

The crux of the issue is striking a reasonable balance between protection of a common resource and the rights of private property owners.

Over the past several months, the task force has been examining the ordinance. During its meeting Monday, in addition to hearing some proposals to amend the ordinance, the task force was also set to hear a motion restricting the role of the task force’s facilitator, Paul Ostrander, the borough mayor’s chief of staff. The motion was a response to what were called biased comments made by Ostrander during a previous meeting, and the influence of the borough administration on the task force.

The motion was withdrawn, however, when other task force members showed little interest in discussing it.

While there are a number of valid concerns with the habitat protection ordinance — any time a task force is formed, it generally indicates a problem with the political or regulatory process — we are glad to see that the task force was able to stay focused on the ordinance and things it can do to improve it, rather than getting dragged down debating the make-up of the task force itself. Concerns about the body are now noted, and certainly the public can take them into consideration moving forward.

But the important development is that the task force is indeed moving forward with the job it was asked to do. We’re hopeful that the task force’s recommendations will be of value to the borough — private residents and public officials alike.

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