Let’s finish the job and protect Bristol Bay once and for all.
Last year was a roller coaster in the fight to stop the Pebble Mine. From the lowpoint of July, when it looked like the project might get a greenlight, to the media frenzy of August, when WSC helped rally key political figures and tens of thousands of grassroots supporters to push back on the mine, to the revealing Pebble Tapes in September, which triggered Alaska’s senators to take clearer stance against the mine — the saga from played out from month to month.
Finally, at the end of November, the Army Corps denied Pebble’s permit, delivering a massive short term victory, all the more so given the times we’re living in.
However, we want to be absolutely clear: The work is far from done.
True protections for Bristol Bay must provide a lasting guarantee to future generations that our lands and waters will not become a mining district.” — United Tribes of Bristol Bay Board President Robert Heyano
The Army Corps denied the permit for Pebble’s current design. Nothing prevents the company from coming back with a new proposal for mining in Bristol Bay.
In fact, on January 21, Pebble formally challenged the decision from the Army Corps and ask them to reconsider its mine plan. And Last week, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy threatened to file an appeal challenging the Army Corps decision. Pebble Limited Partnership clearly has no intention of backing down and the company is leaning on remaining political allies to help it.
That’s why we need clear and lasting protections for Bristol Bay.
Time to End the Mining Threat
For over a decade, the communities of Bristol Bay have called for the United States Environmental Protection Agency to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to create lasting protections for the region.
At the end of 2020, a coalition of Bristol Bay organizations updated this request by releasing a “Call to Protect Bristol Bay,” which acts as a roadmap outlining the true protections that provide long-term certainty for those dependent on the region’s robust salmon runs. These salmon runs not only feed Bristol Bay communities but they fuel a $1.5 billion fishing industry and provide seafood to the world.
“True protections for Bristol Bay must stop the immediate threat of mining, ensure that no future proposal will hurtle through the federal permitting process unchecked, and provide a lasting guarantee to future generations that our lands and waters will not become a mining district,” said United Tribes of Bristol Bay Board President Robert Heyano. “Any protections that do not meet this standard are unacceptable.”
This Call asks for two policy steps. First, the EPA must use section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to veto the Pebble Mine. No other approach can create an immediate safety net for those who depend on Bristol Bay. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency have all concluded that mining in the headwaters of the Nushagak and Kvichak rivers presents a clear danger to the productivity of Bristol Bay’s salmon runs. Yet, the agencies haven’t removed the long-term threat. The EPA must start its veto process immediately.
Second, the Call outlines the importance of Congress in protecting Bristol Bay for the long term. It offers conceptual language to establish the Bristol Bay National Fisheries Area, which would protect the watersheds of Bristol Bay, Alaska perpetuity. At its core, this bill needs to prevent toxic mine waste from the proposed Pebble Mine and large scale projects like it from harming Bristol Bay rivers, lakes and wetlands.
At Wild Salmon Center, we are thrilled to support this push for lasting protections. We are proud to stand with the people and communities of Bristol Bay who have long depended upon healthy salmon runs to sustain their cultures and local economies.
There are multiple ways to stay engaged in this effort:
First, we encourage all followers and supporters to sign the pledge calling on the Biden Administration and EPA to veto Pebble!
Third, share the pledge and continue to follow WSC and our coalition campaign, Stop Pebble Now, as we push for the protection of America’s greatest salmon stronghold protection with the new Biden Administration and the new Congress. And let’s keeping pushing until we finish the job: durable protections that Bristol Bay and its people deserve.