On Election Day, Nov. 6, Alaska voted on Ballot Measure 1, the Stand for Salmon habitat protection initiative.

Early polls showed the initiative polling well within margins, but voters struck down the measure 2-to-1.

“Everything I heard from our polling before the election was that we were within margins and it was extremely close,” said Lindsay Bloom, who consulted with Stand for Salmon and helped write the original proposal that evolved into the ballot measure. “The results frankly, from my perspective, were shocking.”

“It makes sense because of all the money that was being pumped into the ads,” said Melanie Brown, organizer with Stand for Salmon and a commercial salmon fisherman. “The ads they had were so slick. It was just unreal. Those ads were really convincing.”

The opposition group Stand for Alaska raised at least $12 million, compared to Stand for Salmon’s $2 million. The opposition also had powerhouse Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on its side. A two-page mailer from Murkowski landed in mailboxes across the state less than two weeks before the election, urging recipients to join Murkowski in voting against the measure. It was followed by another postcard piece from the senator as well as television ads.

Murkowski’s opposition to the proposition did not come as a surprise. The opposing sides are largely represented as fisheries advocates versus the oil and gas sector. In Alaska, oil and gas pay a lot of bills.

The Stand for Salmon advocates argue that they’re trying to put fisheries on equal footing with development and other modes of resource extraction. Despite a resounding defeat, in the end “over 60,000 Alaskans voted for protections for our salmon,” said Bloom. Organizers believe this is something to build on.

“We all agreed a while back that Stand for Salmon is going to continue as a movement,” Brown said. “We’ve built up a huge network because of this effort, and everybody seems pretty resolute in continuing to work together on pushing policy in a better direction. And I definitely want to be part of that. I’m not backing down.”

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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