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Voice of the Peninsula: King salmon series strangely silent on king salmon habitat

January 17th, 2014 | Posted by Alaska Salmon Alliance in Articles | In-River | Opinion | Salmon

By Bob Shavelson, Cook Inlet Keeper

Morris Communications is the Georgia-based media group that owns the Peninsula Clarion, Homer News, Juneau Empire, Alaska Journal of Commerce and numerous other media holdings in Alaska. In November, company chairman William Morris III announced a special 10-part series to help Alaskans “find the facts” about declining King salmon runs.

The special series recently concluded, and overall, it provided useful information that can help Alaskans understand the complexities of the King salmon life cycle and its management. Unfortunately, the series was strangely silent on one of the most important issues facing wild salmon across Alaska: healthy, productive habitat and the ever-growing threats to it.

In over 33,000 words, the series made no serious effort to address salmon habitat. Maybe it was simply an oversight. Or maybe habitat protection has become sadly politicized in the rising tensions of the Cook Inlet fish wars.

It’s not as if salmon habitat issues have not been in the public eye lately. The proposed Pebble mine has galvanized tens of thousands of Alaskans around salmon habitat protection, and in Cook Inlet, there’s a growing wave of Alaskans concerned about the proposed Chuitna coal strip mine, which would be the first project in state history to completely remove miles and miles of wild salmon streams.

But here’s the problem: habitat protection implicates thorny legal, social and economic issues which in turn arouse incredibly strong passions. A prime example is the effort in 2013 to strip away habitat buffers along salmon streams and lakes in the Kenai Borough. Some property owners balked loudly at what they considered improper government intrusion. No one questioned their love for salmon, but the debate was raucous. Fortunately, a majority of Alaskans rose up in defense of salmon habitat.

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