For months, the confrontation mounted, a face-off that arguably held in the balance the fate of two of Alaska's biggest industries. On one side were companies hoping to open Pebble Mine at a huge gold and copper reserve adjacent to one of the world's largest salmon runs, Bristol Bay. On the other side were fishermen and environmentalists pushing a referendum that would make it harder for the mine to open.
The two sides spent more than $10 million -- unprecedented for such efforts in Alaska -- and throughout it all, the state's highly popular first-term governor, Sarah Palin, held back. Alaska law forbids state officials from using state resources to advocate on ballot initiatives.