Save Bristol Bay

Christopher Wang, Posted on : October 28, 2021
Save Bristol Bay

I spoke with Elizabeth Dubovsky this week about the campaign to protect Bristol Bay from mining interests and she filled me in on Trout Unlimited’s movements this spring.

This March, she visited Washington D.C. with TU and had a chance to listen to EPA head Lisa Jackson and meet with White House chef, Sam Kass.

Lisa Jackson impressed Elizabeth with her compassion and how powerfully Ms. Jackson spoke of the power of local voices.  This summer, representatives from the EPA will be back up in Bristol Bay doing further watershed reviews and looking at how the Bristol Bay watershed impacts communities and the economy.  We both had to chuckle at this phrase.  In communities around Western Alaska, where subsistence forms the backbone of the means to existence, the viability of the ecosystem is…well…EVERYTHING.

Following their assessment, it is our  hope that the EPA will protect Bristol Bay through Section 404C of the Clean Water Act.  Section 404C authorizes the EPA to prohibit the discharge of dredged materials where an ecosystem would be adversely affected.  The due process involves public hearing and “notice”.  Section 404C has never been used preemptively (kind of a loaded word these days).  So this would be a bold and unprecedentedly commendable action from the EPA which would most probably be followed by a lawsuit from the Pebble Collective.    I’m assured that if the EPA does NOT protect Bristol Bay, there will likely be a similar lawsuit coming from the opponents of the Pebble Mine.  I by no means support frivolous litigious activity but tying this up in court will nonetheless slow the process down significantly.

To read more about the issues and get a good sense of the place:  visit the  December issue of National Geographic  featuring Bristol Bay.

Here are some simple ways to take part in the stewardship of the Bristol Bay watershed.

  1. Write your government officials.  Let them know that this is an issue that concerns you and that you want to see Bristol Bay protected.  Okay this’ll take you away from Facebook for about three minutes.  Can you handle it?
  2. Find a copy of the movie Red Gold and share it with your friends.  Watch the trailer.  I’ve got a couple copies and am happy to loan them out.  This movie is gorgeously shot, tells a very real story of people and a place that I know intimately, and will inspire you to seek out your own places.  This sense of knowing a place will change your life.
  3. Vote with your fork.  Ask your local restaurants and grocery markets if they carry wild Alaskan salmon.  The economic viability of this fishery ultimately protects it.  By eating wild Alaskan salmon, you are supporting pristine rivers, healthy habitat, and the communities that live off them.
  4. Here’s a link to more actions that you can take.
This is one of the last great wild food sources in the world and 40% of it is harvested in Bristol Bay.  We’d be foolish to force this watershed to stare down the end of the barrel of an open pit mine… cringing as we listened for that
ominous, metallic…”click”

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