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My Turn: HB 77 will deprive Alaskans of their rights

Posted: December 12, 2013 - 1:03am

House Bill 77 is a pretty disturbing piece of work.

Is it a bill to streamline resource development permitting? Or is it really just stripping Alaskan citizens of their constitutional right of access to fish, wildlife and water resources, along with public notification and comment on resource extraction?

Is it a bill that will help provide Alaskans with long-term, good-paying resource development jobs? Or will it be an end to decades and decades of fishing industry jobs, subsistence harvests and clean water for households, as well as fish spawning and rearing habitat?

How does putting immense power in the hands of an unelected commissioner of Alaska Department of Natural Resources to decide the fate of documented salmon streams, while at the same time stripping Alaskan citizens of their right to public notification and comment on these water/fish habitat altering decisions, benefit the people of Alaska?

How is this public servant working for DNR serving the public? Isn’t a law like this serving big (sometimes multinational) corporations that want to develop our resources (our being all Alaskans) rather than serving Alaska’s citizens themselves?

These are momentous decisions which will affect all of us for many years to come, and yet we are not even being allowed to comment at town hall meetings sponsored by DNR because we are told there isn’t enough time and money to do this. How is this serving the public? Some meetings are being held by publicly elected officials involved with this bill. But many are unaware of the impact this law has on our constitutional rights. Once stripped away we will not get them back.

If HB 77 passes, many prior laws passed to protect important fish, wildlife and water resources will be overruled. This bill was rammed through the House last session and now sits on the Senate floor waiting to be passed into law at the next session in January 2014. Please contact your representatives and senators and find out why they are giving away the farm with no promises of jobs or guarantees of good stewardship of the land and resources for future generations of Alaskans to come.

• Rick Gustin is a Juneau resident and lives in Fritz Creek.

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