The Pebble Mine
In June of 2008, I was contacted by Men’s Journal Magazine after word of an emerging environmental story coming out of Alaska had begun to draw national attention. The proposed Pebble Mine was a battle we had been involved with since 2004 and one around which stakeholders across a broad spectrum of user groups had been galvanizing. When editor Daniel Duane called me that June, an incredibly diverse and unique coalition had long been formed and was firmly entrenched in the battle to save Bristol Bay, and the largest sustainable salmon fishery on earth. Sport hunters and fishers, commercial fisherman and women, lodge owners, roughnecks, and native groups had joined forces with environmental activists to fight the multi-national mining interests bent on developing what could possibly be the largest open-pit mine on earth – perched right at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. The stake of the deposit, the overwhelming magnitude of the project, the threat to the salmon fishery, and the uniqueness of the coalition, combined with almost 4 years of local headline news had provided the spark to to ignite the national media. Suddenly, it seemed journalists from the New York Times, Outside Magazine, National Parks Magazine, National Geographic, and Frontline, were flooding the Bristol Bay region and as a consequence flooding the world with information about this special place on earth.
In late August, 2008, I hopped on my Honda 4-wheeler and bounced down the dusty airstrip to pick up Daniel and renown photo-journalist Corey Rich after their amazing bush flight to Lake Clark. Our goal was to spend the next 9-days rafting the Chilikadrotna River, one of the tributaries threatened by the proposed mine, exploring the watershed, gathering images and stories from the region, and formulating a plan to spread the word of this development to the rest of the world. To complete the story and the team, we were joined by Dr. Carol Ann Woody – the go-to fisheries biologist in the Bristol Bay watershed, her husband and fellow scientist Dr. Joel Reynolds (Joel’s a biometrician), and Lance Holter, an environmental activist from Maui with a penchant for big conservation battles, Alaska’s wild spaces, and for catching big fish on a fly rod.
And so the expedition began. After a couple of floatplane rides, we found ourselves on Twin Lakes and the headwaters of the Chili. We spent the rest of the trip rafting, fishing, watching bears, catching fish, eating well, drinking scotch, and talking about Alaska – not the Alaska one would see from a bus or cruise ship, but the “REAL” Alaska in which we found ourselves thoroughly immersed. While I could go on forever about the trip, I won’t. The article was featured in the March, 2009 issue of Men’s Journal and was associated with the video above. Daniel Duane and Corey Rich do a far better job than I ever could. Enjoy and thanks for helping to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay Region – the fight goes on.
The Mining Threat
While the EPA recently used their authority to halt the the project, we are still looking for permanent protections for this amazing region of Alaska. Both Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks are still being threatened by the development of the Pebble Mine – a large scale, open pit, strip mine proposed for the headwaters of the Bristol Bay region. Both the Nushagak and Kvichak Rivers are threatened – systems that support thee world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, were designated Alaska’s first trophy rainbow trout area, and provide rearing and spawning habitat in both Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks for all five species of pacific salmon.
The Bristol Bay area is known for its fishing, both commercial and sport, its stunning landscapes, its tremendous wildlife populations, and its wilderness value. Sustainable industries like ecotourism and commercial and sport fishing bring millions of dollars of revenue to the state of Alaska every year. Large-scale mining in this area would eliminate ecotourism opportunities and threaten thriving businesses that depend upon clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and intact ecosystems.
Alaska Alpine Adventures strongly opposes the proposed Pebble Mine and the development of a massive mining district in this incredibly sensitive and spectacular wilderness.
To learn more about the proposed Pebble Mine development and to help protect it, please visit Trout Unlimited.
Dan Oberlatz – Owner