Friday, February 25, 2011
If we can't save this, we're lost...
I've never had the privilege of fishing for salmon and those storied rainbows in Alaska's Bristol Bay drainage, but I hope to, someday.
But my opportunity, and the opportunity of thousands of anglers who dream of casting flies in one of the most storied fly fishing destinations on earth, might be slipping away thanks to the stubborn plans of an international mining company that seems determined to put an open-pit gold mine at the top of the drainage.
Despite the protests from the commercial and recreational fishing industry, natives living in the region and thousands of sportsmen who live all over the country, the plans to create the world's largest-ever open-pit mine in the worst possible location continue. Thankfully, as of Feb. 7, the issue will get a thorough EPA review, but more must be done to protect the world's most prolific salmon runs, and undoubtedly the world's greatest rainbow trout fishery. Yesterday, sportsmen went straight to the top and asked President Obama to step in and get involved in the issue.
As a new advertisement from the coalition to stop the mine says, "The Real Gold Mine is Already Here." This basin sees the most productive commercial return of sockeye salmon in the world. Add the four other Pacific salmon species, and the native presence of Arctic char, Dolly Varden, rainow trout, Arctic grayling and northern pike, and the drainage is an angling Mecca that will pay dividends for generations to come. The resource the area offers now will never play out. It won't pollute the landscape. It won't be subject to the booms and busts of the commodities markets. It will simply pay out, slow and steady, forever. If we let it.
Open-pit gold mining is a nasty business that uses chemicals like cyanide to leach gold from ore. The track record of existing mines is poor, at best, even in arid climates where runoff and spills aren't the factors they would be in the wet and wonderful Bristol Bay drainage. The mining company swears it can do things correctly, but given that sketchy track record and all that's at stake, it's simply not worth it.
This is simply the best of what's left of our natural world, and we're fortunate enough to know the ecological bounty it possesses. If we're lucky, we'll get the chance to fish this amazing place one day. If we're not, it could be because some international mining conglomerate has trashed the best of the Last Frontier to get at a finite resource and pad a bank account or two.
If you're interested in keeping Bristol Bay just as it is today, and protecting the long-term, renewable resources that swim up the rivers and streams of this remarkable place, please visit savebristolbay.org, and take action.
Time is short.