On April 16, Brian Kraft, owner of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge in Bristol Bay, Alaska, was named Orvis’ Conservationist of the Year — fitting recognition for his 15-year-long effort to safeguard the Bristol Bay fishery.
Kraft has been a key leader in the fight against the proposed Pebble Mine. While running his sportfishing businesses in Alaska, he led the charge to educate others in Bristol Bay and across America on the threat the mine presented. What started in the early 2000s as traveling by snow machine to different communities in Bristol Bay to talk about the threat of Pebble led to testifying in front of Congressional committees and speaking on prime-time television about why Pebble’s permit must be denied in 2020. Check out this video from Orvis to see a snapshot of Brian’s history fighting for the most prolific sockeye salmon fishery on the planet.
Despite the challenges posed in 2020 from a global pandemic, the angling community was thrilled to mark a significant victory in the fight to protect the fish and wildlife resource of Alaska’s Bristol Bay region. In 2020 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District issued a record of decision that denied the Pebble Limited Partnership’s permit application under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. This decision, and the precedent it sets, relieves the immediate threat of the Pebble Mine to Bristol Bay’s incomparable fish habitat, and some well-deserved affirmation made over the past two decades by local tribes, community leaders and residents and amplified by the conservation community and many others. Nonetheless, our work for Bristol Bay continues until there are permanent protections in place for the people, fish and fish-based resources in Bristol Bay.
In a Facebook post, Kraft responded to the award:
“It is humbling to be bestowed with the recognition as the 2021 Orvis Conservationist of the Year for efforts relating to our long battle against the proposed Pebble Mine in headwater rivers of Alaska’s Bristol Bay drainage. This certainly has been a classic David vs Goliath battle, and there were many times in which it did not look good for our side.”
We thank Brian for his years of advocacy for a place that has sustained generations, brought anglers and hunters on lifetime trips and supported the people of Alaska for years on end. We look forward to working with Brian to advance permanent protections for Bristol Bay so that we don’t have to fight Pebble — or any other mining company — in the future.