Thursday, May 9, 2013

Now's the time...

Comment and help save Bristol Bay.
The EPA has released its updated watershed assessment for the Bristol Bay watershed, and it says exactly what you might think it says: Pebble Mine would endanger the drainages irreplaceable salmon runs, and put 14,000 commercial fishing jobs at risk in the process.

Now's the time to comment on the assessment and let the EPA know that American sportsmen and women aren't about to stand idly by and watch one the world's greatest treasures be trashed forever.

Pebble Mine, you'll recall, would be the largest open-pit mine in the world, and the multi-national conglomerate of corporations that wants to construct it would dig it in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the world's most economically vital salmon system.

Common sense says this is the wrong mine in the wrong place. Greed and the desire for short-term gain says the gold and other heavy metals buried beneath the permafrost more than excuse the mine's construction. I suppose if you're sitting in a high-backed leather chair in London or Johannesburg counting the profits before the mine is even approved, the latter might make sense, especially if you've never gripped a fly rod, or dreamt of casting to the massive rainbow trout that depend on the millions of sockeye salmon that migrate up the watershed every summer.

The Bristol Bay drainage is an American icon. The lands and waters of this amazing place are truly wild, and most of them belong to all of us, as a birthright.

Don't stand by and let our resources be turned under for short-term gain. This place deserves better.

Tell the EPA to put a stop to this nonsense once and for all.


  1. The US Government AP class at my school debated this topic recently. Most of the data supporting the fishing industry came directly from the TU playbook. The side supporting the mine relied heavily upon scientific evidence that the mine and the fishing interests could coexist given the modern mining technologies. Frankly, this is not your granddaddy's mine. The day of the old prospector leading his burro into the Sierra Madre in search of the mother lode is over.

    The fishing industry at Bristol Bay supports only a subsistence life style for the indigenous residents who are leaving at the rate of 23% annually to find gainful employment elsewhere. The current population is less than 8,000 souls and most live off government relief when the salmon aren't running - that would include the remaining 44 weeks per year.

    TU claims the salmon run supports upwards of 67,000 jobs "across" Alaska. A world class copper and other mineral mine would support millions of new jobs worldwide - including hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in green industries that rely upon copper and other strategic minerals. Deeply embedded in the TU propaganda are statistics that the salmon harvest is declining due to over-fishing by multi-national fishing interests in international waters. The claim that the salmon could provide another "10,000 years" of this resource is a historical fallacy based upon conjecture only.

    Finally, The Pebble Mine interests state flatly that they intend to protect the fishing industry and if they can't they will abandon their claim. Given the world demand for the vital resources deposited in abundance at Pebble, and their claim that modern mining technology can protect the fishing industry, it seems only logical to approve the mine and let both industries live in harmony.

  2. The Bristol Bay salmon fishery supports 12-14,000 jobs directly. The mine, at peak of construction, would support 1,000 jobs directly, and that number would diminish as it was operated.

    The commercial salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, according to a study just out, provides about $500 million in direct income to workers across the USA every year.

    And your last paragraph is a fallacy. John Shively, CEO of the PPL said "flatly" that the mine will impact the salmon fishery. Period. He said that in March 2013. Just digging the mine will destroy 70-80 miles of spawning and rearing habitat. One spill... one leak... one earthquake... that's all she wrote.

    We have in place right now a stable economic contributor and provider of American jobs... the mine would employ some Americans, obviously, but the money would leave the country for offshore destinations.

    And you're barking up the wrong tree for propaganda... that salmon run is likely the most scrutinized of any in the world--the data is shockingly complete. If that run is allowed to function sustainably--and assuming we avoid the apocalypse--we'll have Bristol Bay sockeye forever. You want propaganda, talk to the PLP. They've got loads--even their own scientists had to refute their latest "report." It's sickening.

    Pebble's products? A few decades? It's tailings and taint? Generations.

    1. I spoke directly with Mr. Shively at the Tulane Environmental Law Summit in February. He stated unequivocally that the mine would not proceed if there was expected damage to the fisheries. The jobs created by the salmon run are not part of the local economy. The population of the entire area is less than 8,000 souls, Consequently, your claim that the fishery provides 12-14,000, while restated from the 67,000 jobe claimed by the Alaska Conservatory, includes jobs throughout Alaska and other regions; including some jobs on foreign fishing craft.
      The EPA studies you cite so adamently assume a mining technology long abandoned. Modern mines deal rather immediately with cyanide pilution and contain any runoff with impermiable clay or artificial means. As I stated earlier, this is not your grandaddys' copper mine!
      Further, your claim that the salmon fishing is permanent is refuted by the statistically quoted decline in the salmon catch and population - even before any mining takes place. As to environmental damage, volcanic or earthquake incidents can damage the Bristol Bay watershed just as much as any mine tailings.

  3. No, those studies take into account the mining proposal from PLP--if that technology is outdated, then PLP's plan is outdated.

    Second, Shively DID acknowledge that the mine would have an impact on the fishery ( Just building it would knock out about 100 miles worth of salmon spawning and rearing habitat--that's in the study and that's in the PLP mining plan.

    I think we'd all agree that a volcano or an earthquake could knock out the whole fishery. Acts of God, if you will... and that happens. But let's not build the world's largest open-pit mine in this place.

    And there are 14,000 ALASKA jobs provided by the fishery. I acknowledged that the job impact goes across the country. Domestic jobs. Not offshore jobs.

    Simple as that.

  4. I ask what is TU's real motivation for stopping the mine? Is TU really just trying to preserve the local economy or is the motive just to keep a few outdoor outfitters in business during a 6 week salmon run? Because I see that "Clear Creek Lodge" figures prominently in the above advertisement. Another question that Shively answered in New Orleans: What percentage of the entire salmon run does that 100 mile stretch the mine will occupy represent? Frankly, if the opposition to the recovery of billions of tons of vital minerals and the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs (including jobs in "green" industries) is to preserve a sport fishing industry where only the most financially privileged have access, than we must re-think our priorities as human beings. Who really benefits from the salmon run? 8,000 native souls locked in a millennium time warp by their ignorance or is it really the wealthiest among us who can afford the exorbitant cost to access to this remote area?

    Progress has costs. It is not a zero-sum game. Finding ways to allow both the mine and the salmon fishing industry to coexist is a worthy task. Simply denying the world economy access to the largest copper deposit on planet earth so a few fishermen can drown a some worms, is not progress. It is, in reality, a continuance of the "flat earth" mentality.

  5. TU's mission statement is clear: To conserve and protect North America's trout and salmon and their watersheds. Our motive has nothing to do with keeping a few hundred guided fishing operations in business, although those operations help us meet our mission. It has nothing to do with protecting long-standing subsistence culture--and many would scoff at your "ignorance" perspective, wondering why in the hell you'd choose to live the way you do, as, to them, it seems just as odd as how you perceive their lifestyle. But those folks help meet our mission. This is the mission revisited frequently by our board of directors and our senior staff, many of whom make their living (and good ones at that) using the very minerals that would come from beneath these waters.

    It doesn't all have to make sense... not every acre of quality land need be turned under to support your (unsubstantiated) claims that "harvesting" these minerals (as if they'll grow back) will boost the global economy. That's the beauty of mankind--we can make choices... we can manifest our own destiny... we can seek compromise, and when it's unattainable, we can dig our heels in and say, "No. Not here."

    We all love and value different things. The native Alaskan who fishes for subsistence and loves it is no different, as his core, than the civics teacher from south Louisiana who loves to share his knowledge and experience with high-school students... it's what makes us all unique. Don't marginalize a culture that's thrived for thousands of years because you think you know what's better for them. They'll make that call.

    And we'll continue to strive to meet our mission.

  6. I applaud TU and its mission. Protecting the environment and preserving native cultures is a worthy goal. But one must ask if that goal cannot be reached while at the same time addressing progress?

    Those few remaining Alaskan "natives" who populate the Bristol Bay watershed appear to be in the decline. The population of that area is getting smaller - a 23% decline over the past decade. While it is important for government to protect private property, who is responsible for the common? And who should administer that responsibility? Do we wait for the last subsistence fisherman to leave or die before the larger population can prosper? There has got to be some middle ground that allows for the preservation of a native culture and a vital source of protein, while still allowing the recovery of strategic minerals that promote progress and preserve national security. "Digging" ones heels in does not provide solutions - it only promotes antagonism and inefficiency.

    Both sides of this issue have credence. Failure to recognize the value of either is not a principled policy and may be a distortion of any environmental mission.

    As to that civics teacher in South Louisiana, he has learned that even an environmental disaster like the recent oil spill in the Gulf has not ultimately damaged our cuisine nor our culture - and we have private industry (BP) to thank for much of our recovery. The opposition to crude oil and gas drilling in the Gulf has disappeared because both industries have learned to live and prosper together - a symbiotic relationship that provides jobs and progress for both.