Conservation Featured

Three things to watch for in Bristol Bay in 2021

It’s an understatement to say 2020 was one for the books in Bristol Bay. We took on Pebble and prevailed — the proposed mine’s most important federal permit was denied. Thanks to strong science and advocates across the country putting the fraudulent and risky mine plan in the spotlight, Pebble has been stopped for now.  

Thank you for your role in safeguarding the fish, people, cultures, and fish-based industries of southwest Alaska.  

But our work isn’t done.  Here’s what to watch for in the coming year.  

  1. Pebble will appeal the permit decision. The company behind Pebble Mine has pledged to appeal the permit decision, and it’s likely we will see litigation from the Pebble Limited Partnership. The rationale for the permit decision is legally robust and scientifically backed, and therefore is unlikely to be overturned. Still, the decision will require defending.  
  2. A decision will be granted in Trout Unlimited’s lawsuit against the EPA. Alongside tribes and other local organizations, Trout Unlimited sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over their decision to withdraw protections for Bristol Bay that were established in the 2014 Bristol Bay Proposed Determination. If enacted, these protections would have limited how much Pebble could impact the world-class salmon and water resources of the region. Our lawsuit was dismissed in early spring, but Trout Unlimited was the only group that went onto file an appeal that sent our case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case is still under review, and we expect a decision any day. If the court decides in our favor, the EPA will put safeguards back in place for Bristol Bay that set us up to advance permanent protection for the region through the Clean Water Act. 
  3. We must secure permanent protections for Bristol Bay through Congress. In 2021, we will work toward Congressionally-enacted protections for the people and industries who rely on the Bristol Bay fishery. In the fall of 2020, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski verbally shared her commitment to these long-term protections for Bristol Bay. We plan to work with the senator and other allies of the region to ensure that Pebble, or other mining companies with their eye on Bristol Bay, don’t have the opportunity to pursue this kind of development that is incompatible with the fishery.  

Given what we are looking at in 2021, the two best ways to help Bristol Bay this year are:  

  1. Tell your members of Congress to support long-term protections in Bristol Bay.No matter how far they are from Bristol Bay, elected officials need to know that this place is a unique treasure with global importance. It’s critical that we have bipartisan support – please tell your members of congress that they must support long-term protections for Bristol Bay using this letter.  
  2. Donate to Trout Unlimited’s Save Bristol Bay efforts. With Pebble dead for now, we’re  ready to play offense. We need your support to pursue permanent protections for the region.  Your financial gift ensures that we can continue to deliver the voices of influential Alaskans to decision-makers in D.C. and mobilize people across the country to be vocal in this critical year. Please consider donating today.  

Our work for Bristol Bay has always come in two parts: 1) stop the proposed Pebble Mine and 2) advance long-term protections that are supported by the community and durable. This year, we look forward to leaving Pebble in the past and working for permanent safeguards for Bristol Bay. Thank you for sticking with us, and stay tuned for the next call to action.

By Meghan Barker.