Anchorage, ALASKA (KTUU) A well-attended celebration of the inaugural Wild Salmon Day in Alaska had a strong political emphasis.
Wild Alaska Salmon Day Celebration
The Alaska Center opposes the proposed Chuitna Coal Mine and used the event to promote that platform.
The group was handing out free salmon in exchange for people signing up to prove they attended the event or putting their signatures on postcards opposing the Chuitna Coal Mine to be sent to the federal agency overseeing the proposed mine's permitting.
Alaska Center deputy director Ryan Schryver says he does not know of anyone being turned away if they did not want to provide a signature for either, but does apologize if any passionate volunteers miscommunicated that to people who did not provide a signature.
"If they were willing to oppose this project that would mine directly run through 14 miles of salmon streams we would give them tickets but everyone was welcome to eat regardless of their stance on the mine," says Schryver.
Those in the mining industry say they are very disappointed to hear about what took place. Deantha Crockett with the Alaska Miners Association says it's disappointing to see a day of celebration turn politically charged.
"I would hope they celebrate things about our industry and we certainly celebrate everything about the commercial fishing and sport fishing industry," says Crockett.
Project manager for the Chuitna Coal Mine, Dan Graham, provided this statement on the topic.
“We were not in attendance of the Cuddy Park event. Some of our office staff was invited and in attendance at a celebration of Wild Salmon Day at the Tyonek Native Corporation offices – a very fun and celebratory event that included Hobo Jim and some very tasty fresh salmon. As demonstrated in our project’s fish protection plans we generated over the past many years, we respect salmon and the concerns over their habitat. That is why we propose to construct new habitat ahead of any mining activity, and include more habitat construction in the mine reclamation to maintain current and future Chuitna salmon populations. It is unfortunate that the groups opposed to mining chose to politicize what was intended by the legislation to be a day of celebration.”
The Alaska Center says about 700 people attended and over 200 pounds of salmon were consumed. It says about 350 people signed petition postcards.