How I'll be celebrating Alaska Wild Salmon Day

Heidi and a Bear Trail Lodge client with a nice Bristol Bay rainbow. Photo courtesy of Heidi Wild

Re-posted from the Peninsula Clarion.

By: Heidi Wild

In 2018, Bristol Bay broke the record of returning wild sockeye salmon. As the rest of the state closes to salmon fishing, Bristol Bay is breaking records. I’m stunned by this and keep repeating it to myself over and over. Bristol Bay broke the record.

Celebrating Wild Salmon Day this Friday, Aug. 10, means a lot to me. As a sportfishing guide at Bear Trail Lodge in King Salmon, I routinely take clients who are filled to the brim with awe, wonder and respect for the resource we are lucky to enjoy here in Alaska. But as a resident of Wasilla, the rest of the year, I’m concerned. I know the returns on my home rivers have been low and are getting worse. On one hand, I’m so proud of the management and caretaking that has been done in Bristol Bay, and on the other I’m worried about what’s been happening in the rest of the state and wondering if it’s too late.

I don’t have the scientific background to weigh in on increasing the returns in the Mat-Su, Kenai, or southeast. But I do have the common sense to know that in Bristol Bay, we have a chance to get the wild salmon story right, and that 2018 is the time to do it.

I know that mining has a role in Alaska’s economy and of course, we can always use more jobs. But this fight requires us to look at the bigger picture. If we have any appreciation for the industries that economically sustain the entire region, for the resource that upholds Native cultures, that provides for my family, if we have any regard for the well-being of future generations of Alaskans, we’ll work together to stop the Pebble mine.

In honor of a state holiday near and dear to my heart, Alaska Wild Salmon Day, what follows is how I’ll be celebrating in hopes that you’ll join me.

First, come Nov. 6, I’ll be voting yes on ballot measure one, the Salmon Habitat Initiative. This would update Alaska’s laws that dictate how projects like roads, mines, or dams move forward when they’re planned for areas that have salmon habitat. The initiative allows the responsible projects to advance but takes a much closer look at ones that could be harmful. If the project will harm salmon habitat, the developer will have to adjust its plans or look elsewhere. If it won’t harm salmon habitat, the project will move forward. These are the kinds of sensible laws Alaska needs to protect our salmon.

Second, I’m going to be following Pebble’s permitting process closely and weighing in every chance I can get. The process we’ve seen thus far is nowhere near thorough enough for what’s at stake with this proposal. Though I’ve commented dozens of times in the past, I’m going to keep doing so. After all, without our voices speaking up over the past ten years, Pebble mine could already be operating in Bristol Bay.

Third, I’m going to enjoy the resource and enable others to enjoy it too. Our salmon are beautiful, incredible, tasty, and a cultural cornerstone. They make the amazing fishing upon which my job depends possible. They are the bedrock of our state. It’s up to us to ensure it remains that way.

For these reasons, I am excited to celebrate Alaska Wild Salmon Day this Friday, and will work to ensure this holiday is one in celebration of salmon, and not in memory of them, for many, many years to come.

Heidi is a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. A fly fishing guide, owner of Wild on the Fly, and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

Ballot measure support —Paid for By Trout Unlimited Alaska, Anchorage, AK. Nelli Williams Director, approved this message. Top Three Donors are Dan Michels, Wasilla, AK; Alaska Fishing Unlimited, Port Alsworth, AK; and Josh Grieser, Anchorage, AK.

By Jenny Weis.