August 20, 2020
By Lynn Burkhead
For the last several weeks, there’s been a fair amount of good will between President Donald Trump and American outdoors enthusiasts.
That’s because of two big news items, one being the President signing the Great American Outdoors Act into law in early August and the other being a mid-month announcement of some 2.3 million acres of land at 147 National Wildlife Refuges and National Fish Hatcheries being opened up to new and expanded hunting and fishing opportunities.
All those recent big smiles also come with the nation’s shooting enthusiasts generally giving the Trump Administration a thumbs up endorsement for his strong support of the 2nd Amendment.
But for all the smiles and handshakes—metaphorically speaking, of course, in this age of COVID-19 and social distancing—not everyone is happy with the President as the 2020 election approaches. And that comes from a growing chorus of politicians, celebrities, and outdoor industry members who continue to voice their displeasure for the ongoing Pebble Mine Project controversy.
The long proposed mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region would bring a massive mining effort to a critical 49th State ecosystem that critics believe could be devastatingly harmful to vital fisheries and sensitive habitat that the state’s wildlife species depend on.
In a July 24, 2020 Fly Fisherman magazine story entitled "Time for EPA to Veto Pebble Mine," our Outdoor Sportsman Group sister publication described the proposed mine like this: "Pebble’s current 20-year mine plan (which both the company and critics agree will give way to a larger mine built over a 75-year timeline) will nonetheless destroy more than 2,300 acres of wetlands and 105 miles of salmon streams. The 75-year build out will compound the impacts by destroying an estimated 10,000 acres of wetlands and more than 330 miles of salmon streams.
"At full build out, Pebble is expected to create more than 10 billion tons of toxic waste at the site, to be managed forever, at the headwaters of two of Bristol Bay’s most important rivers."
As Game & Fish has pointed out before, that outcome is unacceptable to a number of anglers in the fly fishing industry, the conventional tackle industry, and even the hunting industry too.
Guide Rahr, the CEO of the Wild Salmon Center, put it this way in the Fly Fisherman story referenced above: "The science is clear: this mine is indefensible. It cannot be safely built without harming the fishery in Bristol Bay. And a catastrophic tailings dam failure would release toxic waste that would affect the long-term productivity of salmon fisheries. It’s just too big a risk to take. And it’s time for the EPA to step in and stop this mine."
While many in the outdoors world have strongly opposed the Pebble Mine effort over the years, that pressure is getting ratcheted up in 2020. One reason is the highly contentious election cycle that is currently playing out, another is because of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ recent release of its final Environmental Impact Statement on the potential mine.
In the words of John Schandelmeier’s Anchorage Daily News piece on the July decision, the Corps of Engineers apparently believes that the proposed mine "…will not hurt a thing."
Obviously, not everyone agrees with that position. And some of that opposition actually comes from the President’s own family while some of it comes from a former Administration member who had access to the White House.
The President’s own son, Donald Trump, Jr., a noted outdoorsman, signaled his opposition to the Pebble Mine on Aug. 4, 2020. when his Twitter account had this post: "@DonaldJTrumpJr –As a sportsman who has spent plenty of time in the area I agree 100%. The headwaters of Bristol Bay and the surrounding fishery are too unique and fragile to take any chances with. #PebbleMine."
The Trump, Jr. tweet was in response to a tweet from Nick Ayers, a Georgia investor who served as Vice President Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff from July 2017 to January 2019. Ayers’ Aug. 4, 2020 tweet read as follows: "Like millions of conservationists and sportsmen, I am hoping @realDonaldTrump will direct @EPA to block the Pebble mine in Bristol Bay. A Canadian company will unnecessarily mine the USA's greatest fishery at a severe cost. This should be stopped and I believe @POTUS will do so!"
If that pressure from his own son and a former Administration official isn’t enough for Trump to consider scuttling the mine, the President saw the chorus of opposition grow even louder on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, with the publishing of an outdoor industry and conservation group ad in the Wall Street Journal: (Link: ).
Titled "America's Great Outdoors At Its Finest," the WSJ ad's header read "Bristol Bay, Alaska - The region supports thousands of American jobs and businesses, produces wild salmon for the entire world, and is a hunting and fishing paradise."
The full page letter within the ad read: "President Trump: The Bristol Bay region is treasured by millions of Americans who love the outdoors and is no place to put at risk by a foreign-owned mine. You have the opportunity to safeguard thousands of American jobs, a booming fishing industry, and one of the wildest places left in our country. HELP MAKE HISTORY FOR AN ICONIC NATIONAL TREASURE. STOP THE PEBBLE MINE."
The ad was signed by a number of conservation groups and companies including the American Fly Fishing Tackle Association, International Game Fish Association, Coastal Conservation Association, Trout Unlimited, American Sportfishing Association, National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Marine Fish Conservation Network, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Houston Safari Club, The Wild Sheep Foundation, Delta Waterfowl, National Deer Alliance/QDMA, The Camp Fire Club of America, The Izaak Walton League, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, Simms, Orvis, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's, and Tracker Boats.
Interested in adding your own voice to the growing opposition against the proposed Pebble Mine? You can do so by starting with a visit to the SaveBristolBay.Org website project, where an online petition can be filled out and submitted to the President online. The Trout Unlimited project also contains other suggestions and resources that help with making donations, keeping up with the latest news and information, and even using social media posts with the #HuntFishStopPebble hashtag.
Concerned individuals can also contact the White House directly by e-mail, a phone call to the White House’s Comments line at (202) 456-1111, or by directly mailing correspondence to: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20500.
However one chooses to make their voice heard on this critical outdoors issue, the time to do so is now.
As the SaveBristolBay.org website says: "A decision will be made on Pebble’s key federal permit any day now. The permit application review process for the proposed Pebble mine has come to an end. Now, the decision to grant or deny the most important permit is in the upper-most hands of the Trump Administration."
As the ninth inning approaches for this contentious issue and looming decision from Washington, step up to the plate and let the White House know where you stand on the issue once and for all.