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Donlin, Iditarod and Stand for Salmon

With the temperature dipping down below freezing, it finally feels like winter is on the way. For a dog musher, it’s the season of anticipation and many questions. When will the first snowfall be? How much will it snow? Will the snow last? Are you running Iditarod again?

After participating in the Iditarod Sled Dog Race for the past five years, I am taking one off. Many folks assume my break is because of politics. While the politics of the race have been messy since my involvement, my reasons for sitting out are much more personal. However, because I am not registered for the 2019 Iditarod, I am not regulated by Rule 53, therefore I finally have the freedom to speak my opinion. Rule 53, also known as “The Gag Rule” was added to the official Iditarod Rules in 2015 with the sole purpose of ‘protecting their sponsors.’ More specifically, protecting their multimillion dollar donor and lead dog partner, Donlin Gold, from activist mushers, such as myself, that want the world to know just what this foreign company’s plan is for Alaska.  

Their plan starts with constructing a pipeline over 300 miles along the path of the National Historic Iditarod Trail, in order to fuel the remote mine. If building one of the world’s largest open pit gold mines in remote Alaska isn’t enough to disturb you, how about ruining one of the most historic and pristine trails in our state? This is why I donated my entire 2018 Iditarod winnings, $1049, that ironically came from sponsor’s money, to the Stand for Salmon campaign. While this was an enormous amount of money for me, and about all I had at the time, it’s a tiny fraction of a percent when compared to the 11.5 million that corporations have put up in opposition. Turns out, Donlin Gold has put up the most cash to oppose to Prop 1, the Salmon Habitat Initiative. Donlin’s 1.2 million tops Conoco Philips’ 1 million, however since Conoco Philips has made more in kind donations, they are getting the top credit. In my opinion, this shuffling of the donation money is a political strategy to make it seem like Ballot Measure One will hurt Alaska’s oil industry. Another farce brought by the opposition. 

The Ballot Measure is aimed at giving salmon habitat a fighting chance against large scale development projects like Pebble and Donlin. These mines would be Alaska’s biggest holes in the ground and forever change the surrounding landscape.  Most Alaskans agree that these projects need high scrutiny, deserve public input, and advisory from state officials such as the Board of Fish. As it stands now, the current regulations do very little to ensure that massive development projects are done with the highest regard for the land, animals or people that have made home in the areas since forever. Further, current regulations do not ensure that companies would be held responsible for cleanup costs, should dams fail or other disasters result. Now, Alaskans have the opportunity, on the ballot, to say, ‘it’s time we do what is right for our lands.” Please join me in voting YES for Salmon, YES for Ballot Measure One. 

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