A controversial salmon initiative headed before the Alaska Supreme Court on Thursday.

At the heart of the issue is whether the Yes for Salmon ballot initiative is constitutional.

Last fall, Lt. Governor Byron Mallott rejected the initiative put forth by a group called Stand for Salmon.

The measure calls for updating laws regarding fish habitat and setting guidelines for the Department of Fish and Game regarding permitting for projects like mining or oil and gas. Mallott said that would cross the line into appropriating the state’s natural resources, and that’s up to the legislature, not the public.

A superior court judge overruled Mallott in October 2017 and said the Stand for Salmon group was allowed to collect signatures.

Early this year, they turned in 42,000 signatures, more than needed to get the measure on the November ballot.

A group called Stand for Alaska opposes the measure because they say the language in the initiative would effectively eliminate large-scale projects around the state.

“Stand for Alaska believes the court hearing today highlighted just how complex and burdensome this measure is, and the serious risks it poses to development projects statewide,” said Kati Capozzi, the campaign manager.

Ryan Schryver, the director of the supporting group Stand for Salmon, said the issue is about promoting responsible resource development.

“The crux of the issue is putting Alaskans back in the decision making position of how we want to manage our resources. It involved robust public process so that Alaskans can know what’s going on and weigh in and help make the decision along with the Department of Fish and Game,” Schryver said.

Attorneys for the state asked for a decision from the Supreme Court before September. If the court rules in favor of Stand for Salmon, the Division of Elections needs time to get the ballot language updated for the November election.

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