Alaskans should feel proud of our current high environmental standards for natural resource development.
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There isn't a state in the U.S. to compare to our high standards; so it is sad to have politicians like Reps. Jay Ramras, Bryce Edgmon, Nancy Dahlstrom, Les Gara, Beth Kerttula and others of the Legislature to politicize natural resource development in our state. In addition, sportsman groups, lodge owners, numerous conservation groups and fish-processing companies are all part of this concerted effort.
These politicians' actions and proposed legislation to halt development don't make any sense when considering our current high standards. It makes one wonder what other purpose drives their quest to stop any and all natural resource development in Bristol Bay. Lacking any proof of any environmental damages, is this their form of a preemptive strike?
By their actions, they have driven a wedge between family members, village against village and ethnic groups against each other. They have instilled warrantless fear without any proof that development will destroy any and all renewable resources, destroy the water ways, land and air. They have instilled fear in many local village people, that their traditional life style and the traditional hunting and fishing will totally disappear as a result.
Generally, prudent politicians wait for study reports to voice their judgment. In this case, Ramras, Edgmon and their allies are not willing to follow our rules that have worked so well. So the question remains what is it that drives these politicians to cause such disharmony among the people of Bristol Bay?
It doesn't make sense that these same politicians and related groups would be the first of many who would oppose a state constitutional amendment to allow a subsistence priority for Alaska Natives, yet they use a loss of subsistence to locals to further support their no development legislation. Does the end justify their means?
Rural Alaska is suffering from a lack of employment and faces rising energy costs. How are these politicians addressing these pressing needs? Or are they saying welfare is the only option? Edgmon hasn't offered any remedies addressing his district's lack of employment and high cost energy needs, he doesn't have any plans; it my be he is feeding his hungry ego instead of solving pressing problems.
The anti-development politicians and their related groups are not only pursuing legislation to stop natural resource development in Bristol Bay, they are also actively engaged in municipal, village and regional corporations elections using hired lobbyists to solicit friendly candidates to further their anti-development positions. Of course their support of certain candidates and financial support isn't disclosed to the public. This is all part of their reckless efforts to further their cause.
Our state will be in trouble if we stand by and give any credibility to those politicians. There is comfort however that the majority of our state legislature includes prudent and sensible people, unlike these short-sighted politicians and allies who are led by some distant star or some secretive group and purpose.
We depend on the prudent and responsible legislators who are in the majority, thank goodness.
One can be certain, regardless of the outcome of natural resource development in Bristol Bay and Alaska, these politicians and opposing parties will not feel an ounce of remorse for the division and disharmony they have caused to the people of Bristol Bay. Their reckless actions caused disharmony that will take years to heal.
The authors of HB 134 and companion SB 67 should feel ashamed for their political and reckless actions.
Lorianne Rawson is a commercial fisherman from South Naknek.
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