We’re not giving up until we permanently protect Bristol Bay

The best way to protect Bristol Bay is to advance and acquire permanent legal protections for the streams, lakes and wetlands of the region that are supported by the local…

At the end of November, the Bristol Bay region received an early present when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the key federal permit for the proposed Pebble Mine. We cheered and celebrated this momentous milestone that you made possible. Your actions made the difference.

Thank you for speaking up and elevating the strong science that shows how damaging the proposed Pebble Mine would be for the communities, cultures and fish-based industries of Bristol Bay.

On Friday, December 11th, TU members across the country lit bonfires in celebration of Pebble’s permit denial and in support of long-term protections for southwest Alaska.

But even with the permit denied, our work is not done. Tell your members of congress to support long-term protections for rivers, streams and fisheries of the Bristol Bay region now.

The Pebble Partnership has already said it isn’t giving up. It plans to appeal the Corps’ decision and will try to have it overturned in court. We are confident in the science and expect the decision to deny the permit will stand. Still, our work isn’t done until we secure locally supported permanent protections so mining projects like the proposed Pebble Mine won’t threaten Bristol Bay’s world-class rivers and fisheries in the future.

There are multiple mechanisms that can help provide this kind of protection:

  • Federal legislation to protect the rivers, streams and wetlands of the Bristol Bay region. Trout Unlimited is part of a growing coalition that recognizes federal legislation is the most durable and longest-lasting way to protect Bristol Bay’s incredible fish, wildlife and water resources. By creating a newly designated area where large mine waste and pollution is prohibited from entering rivers, streams and wetlands, Congress could provide permanent federal protection for the Bristol Bay watershed. 
    Just this month, the United Tribes for Bristol Bay and local partners proposed designating the Jay and Bella Hammond National Fisheries Area to protect the region’s irreplaceable and culturally important fish, wildlife and waters. Trout Unlimited supports this concept and looks forward to working with Congress and partners to make this vision a reality. 
Senator Lisa Murkowski addressed her commitment to long-term protections for Bristol Bay at the Alaska Federation of Natives virtual conference in October 2020.
Senator Lisa Murkowski addressed her commitment to long-term protections for Bristol Bay at the Alaska Federation of Natives virtual conference in October 2020.
  • EPA action under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act allows the EPA to restrict mining waste from entering wetlands, streams and rivers whenever it determines the waste will have an unacceptable adverse effect on fish habitat, wildlife, municipal water supplies or recreational areas.  
    The EPA proposed 404(c) restrictions for the Pebble deposit back in 2014 before dramatically and inexplicably reversing itself in 2019. Trout Unlimited is in court today fighting to reinstate those protections. We are hopeful our litigation will succeed or the EPA will voluntarily initiate 404(c) protections for the Bristol Bay region. Read more about the lawsuit here. 
  • State legislation to retire the existing leases at the Pebble deposit and withdraw the area from new mineral leases. The state of Alaska owns the Pebble deposit and leases the mineral rights to the Pebble Limited Partnership. Although Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy is a staunch supporter of the Pebble Partnership, the overwhelming majority of Alaskans support protecting the Bristol Bay region and oppose the proposed Pebble Mine. The state Legislature could pass a bill to retire the existing mineral leases and withdraw the area from new development.

We have several options for obtaining long-term protection for the Bristol Bay region. There are pros and cons of each regarding what is the most durable, what we can achieve quickly, and how we can support these efforts.

Trout Unlimited is committed to working alongside our local partners, the fishing and hunting community, commercial fishermen and women, and the many thousands of Alaskans and millions of Americans throughout the country that helped get us where we are today. Long-term, durable protections for the Bristol Bay region’s incredible fish, wildlife and waters will require all of us, along with Alaska’s Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan to take action.   

Please join us in telling your members of congress that Bristol Bay needs long-term protections, and stay tuned as we forge ahead!  

By Meghan Barker.