JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — An initiative aimed at protecting salmon habitat has cleared a significant hurdle on its track to making a November ballot, the Alaska Division of Elections said.

The division on Tuesday said it is currently reviewing each of Stand for Salmon's more than 40,000 signatures, the Juneau Empire reported . To pass the review, Stand for Salmon needs only 32,127 signatures or 10 percent of those who voted in the previous general election.

As of Tuesday, more than 38,600 signatures were verified.

"I would say that we're excited but not surprised that we were able to collect the required number of signatures," Stand for Salmon Director Ryan Schryver said.

The initiative would create a more stringent permitting process for development projects on salmon habitat in Alaska.

Opponents say the initiative is bad for business, while supports say they're streamlining a 60-year-old law in an attempt to protect Alaska salmon.

Once finalized and approved, the initiative goes to Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who will have to approve it before it's printed on the ballot.

Mallott previously declined to certify the initiative when it was applied for in September 2017, citing concern that it is unconstitutional because it effectively spends state resources without going through the Legislature. It's one of the few legal reasons Mallott can cite when declining to certify a ballot initiative.

Stand for Salmon tweaked the initiative's language and reapplied. The law department again found the same problems. But Stand for Salmon appealed that ruling in the state superior court, which found the initiative doesn't violate the constitution.

Mallott and the Division of Elections filed an appeal in October of last year to that ruling. That appeal is still being decided upon in court.

"We're confident that the initiative language is line with the Alaska Constitution and that the supreme court will allow Alaska to weigh in," Schryver said.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com