Bristol Bay leadership urges measures to protect natural resources

A coalition of Bristol Bay organizations, led by the Bristol Bay Native Association, is calling for steps to ensure long term protections for the region’s natural resources.

While relieved that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a critical permit for the proposed Pebble mine, residents must be assured “that no matter what the political winds, our way of life is protected from the threat of mining in our region,” said Ralph Andersen, president and CEO of BBNA, in a statement released on Wednesday, Dec. 2.

“True protections for Bristol Bay must stop the immediate threat of mining, ensure that no future proposal will hurtle through the federal permitting process unchecked, and provide a lasting guarantee to future generations that our lands and waters will not become a mining district,” said Robert Heyano, president of the board of United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “Any protections that do not meet this standard are unacceptable.”

Veteran commercial harvester Robin Samuselsen, chairman of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., called for establishment of a National Fisheries Area in Bristol Bay, to provide stability for tribal communities, as well as the commercial fishing industry, which relies on the Bay for the annual harvest of millions of wild sockeye salmon.

“This should be a common-sense piece of legislation that should have the support of anyone who claims to represent Alaskans in Washington,” Samuelsen said.

The effort also has the support of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay, said Katherine Carscallen, director of that entity. Protections outlined in the “Call to Protect Bristol Bay” would give Bristol Bay fishermen and residents the certainty and security they have been seeking for years, she said,

The proposed “Call to Protect Bristol Bay” is at bit.ly/CalltoProtectBB.

The call for protecting Bristol Bay’s fisheries and wildlife resources comes in the wake of a decision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in late November to deny a critical permit needed for development of the Pebble mine project, abutting the Bristol Bay watershed. The Corps determined that the plans presented by the Pebble Limited Partnership did not meet necessary criteria for the permit. The PLP plans to challenge that decision in court.