Wildwood Outfitters Blog and Fishing Report
The Last Stand
For over a decade, anglers from around the world have battled the greatest challenge our sport has ever seen. It comes not in the form of invasive species, climate change, or over-fishing, but rather something far more sinister. Greed, money, power, and politics are the greatest enemy to us now. The fight for Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed has raged on in the news and social media for years, from public comment periods to bumper stickers. Now, when it seemed like the fight was finally won, we are facing our last stand to save the last great wild salmon run in North America.
This isn't just about the fish; it's about jobs and a cultural impact that extends deeper than the proposed quarter mile-deep pit. Salmon fishing in Alaska supports nearly 15,000 jobs and brings in upwards of a billion dollars a year. It's truly one of the last wild places where an angler can hope to experience salmon fishing the way it was before any human interference. What happens to this revenue stream, and these jobs, if the mine destroys the watershed forever? Pebble Mine is only proposing 20 years of mining operations. Is 20 years of mining worth scarring the greatest salmon run in the world forever?
For years the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been hesitant to allow the mine to go forward. As scientific studies were done to assess the potential hazards, public comment periods were rolled out to gauge how people felt about this proposed mine. Millions weighed in against the proposal, and essentially every fishing company in America echoed the sentiment. So rarely do we have a chance to speak in unison on a topic, but Pebble made it happen. The thinking so misguided, the stakes so high, and the potential damage so catastrophic that anyone who cares about fish and the places they call home stood up against this proposal.
It seemed like the battle was won until the EPA stunningly dropped environmental protection for this area and would allow the mine to move forward. This comes on the heels of multiple financial partners and sister mining groups backing out of the Pebble Partnership. Those "wins" appeared to be the final nails in the coffin and we could finally start to breathe easier again knowing Bristol Bay was safe. Unfortunately, the shocking reversal by the EPA also comes after a meeting between President Trump and the Governor of Alaska, Mike Dunleavy. According to the Governor, President Trump said he is doing everything he can to work with them on their mining concerns.
In some ways it's incredibly deflating to see the events of the last two weeks unfold. Years of work, money, dedication, and passion had seemingly paid off, and the last great salmon run in the world would remain intact. Then, with one brief meeting, politics and greed brought Bristol Bay to the brink of disaster. This is our last stand, and our action is needed now more than ever to defend this untamed region in our northernmost state.
For some, the feeling has always been, "Well I don't live in Alaska, so why should I care?" It's not an entirely unfair point, as we wouldn't want non-Pennsylvanians meddling in our affairs, but this is about something bigger. If this proposed mine is allowed to continue, despite over a decade of work, money, activism, scientific studies, and support from the angling community, what does that mean for the next mine that's proposed in Wyoming, or Oregon, or Pennsylvania? A dangerous precedent threatens to be set, and the only way to stop the runaway train from derailing is by stepping up our support and letting politicians know that we aren't fine with being ignored as our outdoor treasures are destroyed. Our angling tradition runs deep in this country, and no mine should be allowed to impair that. We are a nation of sportsmen and women that has the unique ability to pursue fish on public lands unencumbered.
This is the wrong mine, in the wrong place. It's up to us to make sure everyone knows it.
Want some more info and ways to get involved? Check out Save Bristol Bay, a group dedicated to protecting the salmon, jobs, and communities that threatened to be eradicated by the proposed Pebble Mine.
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