Alaska Brief Newsletter–August 2017
Fish stories and protests expose threats to the wild
On fish stories and protests
The people of Bristol Bay will share the big fish story of 2017 for years to come.
A record red salmon run exceeded projections for most areas of the region. The catch in the Nushagak district alone exceeded a million fish two days in July, with the total catch topping 19 million–beating the previous record by over four million fish.
These records give Bristol Bay cause for celebration. They also underscore the importance of thriving watersheds to the economies, livelihoods and cultures of the region. Salmon have fed Bristol Bay people for thousands of years, and now support thousands and thousands of Alaska jobs. Bristol Bay also provides half the sockeye salmon that feeds people around the world.
Saving salmon should be a no-brainer
It seems like a no-brainer to protect Bristol Bay from the proposed largest copper and gold mine in North America.
Yet, during the same week that fishermen and women rejoiced at record salmon runs, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its intention to scrap proposed protections for the region’s watershed. The EPA’s own twice peer-reviewed reports conclude that even a small mine would be catastrophic to Bristol Bay, but the agency started the process to withdraw its proposed protections.
Discarding science and public input
Why? Because this administration discards science and public input to feed corporate interests rather than Americans and the world.
Pebble Limited Partnership, the Alaska face of Northern Dynasty, a Canadian mining company, wants to mine Bristol Bay no matter what residents say and regardless of how often they say “no.” Pebble instead circumvents the region’s communities by playing PR games and making backroom deals with agency heads.
Pebble tries to draw investors by calling Pebble “the world’s largest deposit of copper” and then tells Bristol Bay it only wants a “small” mine. This playing both ends against the middle is a dangerous game that toys with Alaska livelihoods and an ancient way of life.
Celebrate salmon and remember the legacy of loss
Three years ago, however, the people near a copper mine in British Columbia, Canada, suffered the consequences of poor regulation.
The Mount Polley mine dam failed catastrophically, dumping toxic copper and gold mining waste into Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, a source of drinking water and spawning grounds for sockeye salmon. An investigation pointed to an engineering flaw as the cause, yet there have been no charges or fines levied by the government.
The mine continues to operate. The cost of its pollution does not go away just because it has evaded responsibility for cleaning it up. Instead, it falls on the backs of taxpayers, just as the devastation falls on the backs of those closest to the disaster.
Scientists say contamination of those waterways will move through the food web and threaten the salmon fishery for decades or more.
Bristol Bay knows what’s at stake
When the people of Bristol Bay oppose the proposed Pebble mine, they know exactly what’s at stake. They know they cannot trust Northern Dynasty to listen to them when they say “no.” They know Northern Dynasy will not help them when the inevitable breach happens.
There is one way to protect Bristol Bay, and that’s to stand up and speak out against the Pebble mine now. Start by joining a rally at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage on Monday, August 21.
Then make your comments heard. Tell the EPA to protect Bristol Bay.
PS: Your support of Trustees for Alaska is critical now more than ever.
The Bureau of Land Management is trying to use an oil and gas lease sale to undermine protections to the Western Arctic, including vital calving and breeding grounds for caribou and shorebirds.
Emily Charles organized a protest at the EPA office in Anchorage last month. Find out why she says no to the proposed Pebble mine and how her family taught her the importance of speaking out.
Kat’s summer internship taught her the power of landmark environment laws and the importance of taking heart from the wild.