My turn: Thank you for supporting 'No on 4'

Posted: Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Finally the primary election is over and we've all had a chance to catch our breath, so I'd like to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who helped defeat the anti-mining ballot Measure 4. It went down by about a 15 percent margin statewide.

Measure 4's proponents said it was needed to stop the Pebble Mine project. The mining industry also was accused of lying, but the people who appeared to be dishonest were the proponents of Measure 4.

Using a statewide bulldozer to flatten an entire industry didn't make sense to most people. Pitting fishermen against miners for political gain was a new low in Alaska, too. Up to now, mining and fishing industries have worked well together to protect the environments where they operate as well as nearby fisheries.

The Kensington Mine is a classic example of successful collaboration between the mining and fishing industries. That success is why a majority of local fishermen have not led the effort to stop the Kensington Mine. Yet voters understood that Kensington was a fresh example of how easy it is to hold up mining projects for many years without the hammer of Measure 4.

Given the multitude of tools at the federal and state level available now to stop and delay a single mine proposal, Measure 4 wasn't needed.

Those opposed to the Pebble project can still use all those existing tools to stop it, so their claims that Measure 4 was needed didn't ring true.

Sadly, there were acts of vandalism and racism brought into the fight. Accusations were made about the Native community being used by the mining industry, tires were slashed, and signs and bumper stickers were regularly stolen or defaced.

Despite all those problems, we still succeeded in persuading voters Measure 4 must not pass. For the record, the Native folks I worked with throughout the campaign were genuinely concerned about the effects of Measure 4 on their livelihoods, and their support for our efforts was a result of their own desire to defeat it - nothing more and nothing less.

The "No on 4" supporters in Alaska came from all walks of life and from all political persuasions. This was not a partisan or racial issue - it was a community, regional and state issue for us all. I am touched by the dedication of our supporters. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with the all the individuals, families and leaders who understood the stakes and volunteered to help.

Special thanks go to Hecla Greens Creek Mine and Coeur Alaska Kensington Mine as well as the local chapter of the Alaska Miners Association and the many mining vendors who got involved. Many employees and family members worked hard to defeat Measure 4. This support, together with the financial support the local mines provided, was crucial to our efforts.

Additionally, I want to thank Tlingit Haida Central Council President Bill Martin; Kootznoowoo Inc. Board Chairman Mathew Kookesh; Sealaska Corp.; Goldbelt Inc.; the Southeast Conference; the Juneau Chamber of Commerce and other chambers throughout the Panhandle; many Southeast village corporations, shareholders and tribal members; as well as many other businesses, employees and family members across Southeast Alaska. They were all instrumental to our efforts. We couldn't have achieved victory without their support.

The miners who founded Juneau and arrived to find ancient and honorable peoples here willing to work with them to safely develop the rich resources Southeast Alaska has to offer would be very proud of us today. How refreshing it is to see that spirit is alive and well.

Thank you to everyone who defended the mining industry when it really mattered. We are proud to be a part of Alaska's mining family. And we are proud to work together with local fishermen and others to protect our waters and resources as we all responsibly pursue our livelihoods.

• Liz Arnold is the Juneau coordinator for Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown.

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