Push To Save Bristol Bay Heats Up

Sockeye salmon

The Sportsman?s Alliance for Alaska is taking its campaign to protect the Bristol Bay Watershed abroad in an attempt to spread the word on the negative effects of the proposed Pebble Mine.

Partnered with Trout Unlimited, Sportsman?s Alliance is at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen?s Show in Portland, Oregon to generate awareness by sharing out information, handing out decals, and asking people to sign a petition.

?Many Oregon sportsmen have a deep appreciation for untamed Alaska,? said Tim Bristol, Director of Trout Unlimited?s Alaska Office. ?We truly believe that once people understand the dangers of the proposed Pebble Mine they?ll sign this petition to help save the wild treasure that is Bristol Bay.?

Bristol Bay, located in southwest Alaska, is a 40,000-square mile wetland (about the size of Kentucky) with nine major rivers. It is home to the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world, and an abundance of trout and king salmon. The area is threatened by the proposed Pebble Mine to extract gold and copper, a project run by multinational mining company Northern Dynasty.

Northern Dynasty?s plan is to create an open-pit mine up to two miles wide and 1,700 feet deep. Such an undertaking would potentially destroy salmon runs, habitat, wildlife, and the overall beauty of the area as mining would dump up to 10 billion tons of toxic waste into the heart of the watershed.

Such devastation would be costly to Alaska. The untamed wilds, beautiful landscape, and excellent fishery of Bristol Bay bring in a lot of tourism money to the state, while the fishing industry alone generates nearly $500 million a year.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a statement earlier this week to undergo a scientific assessment of the watershed.

?The Bristol Bay watershed is essential to the health, environment and economy of Alaska,? said EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran. ?Gathering data and getting public input now, before development occurs, just makes sense. Doing this we can be assured that our future decisions are grounded in the best science and information and in touch with the needs of these communities. We look forward to working with Alaskans to protect and preserve this valuable resource.?

Scott Hed, Director of Sportsman?s Alliance for Alaska, is excited about EPA?s decision to get involved with the debate.

?Everyone from catch and release anglers to big game trophy hunters and companies that make fly rods and firearms have all united to save Bristol Bay. And the best way to do that is to ask the EPA to protect Bristol Bay,? Hed said. ?This unique region is just far too special to allow a huge open-pit mine that leeches toxic waste.?

The Sportsman?s Alliance of Alaska will be at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen?s Show through to Sunday, Feb. 13 at the Portland Expo Center. In addition, fly fishing guide and writer Mark Hieronymus will conduct seminars about Bristol Bay trout fishing today through Friday (7 p.m. Wednesday; 5 p.m. Thursday; and 4 p.m. Friday at the Fly Fishing Theatre).

For more information, contact Kristin Dizon at 206-631-1989 or kristind@strategies360.com

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