by Shoren Brown
Bristol Bay was put on the national front burner by Frontline, which tackled the controversial Pebble mine proposal and the enormity of what's at stake for the people and fisheries in a July 24 broadcast on PBS. "Alaska Gold," explored the scale and value of the mineral deposit, the global scale of the fishery and the battle for Bristol Bay's future. Reported by veteran journalist Blaine Harden (formerly of the Washington Post), and produced by the award-winning investigative Frontline team, "Alaska Gold" probes the probability that something could go wrong with a mega-sized project like Pebble.
Frontline also put out several online articles about the program, including one on the global demand for copper, made the full program available online and offered a transcript of the show. And coverage of Frontline's "Alaska Gold," was widely disseminated in newspapers, websites and blogs.
Other media reported on the more than 200,000 comments the EPA received on its draft Watershed Assessment of Bristol Bay - with an astounding 98 percent supporting EPA protection of Bristol Bay under the Clean Water Act.
Fox News weighed in last week, with a piece headlined, "$500 Billion Alaskan gold mine in upstream battle with EPA, salmon advocates." And, Jeanne Devon, aka Alaska Muckraker, wrote an opinion piece in Huffington Post called, "The Time to Toss Pebble Mine is Now. Really." She sets the dilemma with this: "It's an issue of fish vs. cyanide, Alaskans vs. multinational corporations, Native culture vs. the bottom line, sustainable jobs vs. instant gratification, and food security vs. greed. It's a battle between holding on to the best of our state, and the last great wild salmon run in the world, and letting it all slip away to line the pockets of the already wealthy multinational mining conglomerates. We have a lot at stake."
At the same time, more than 700 businesses across the U.S. released a letter urging President Obama and the EPA to protect the 14,000 jobs tied to Bristol Bay's fisheries and natural resources and to reject the Pebble mine. "Bristol Bay is too important a fishery to risk with a large-scale mine like Pebble," said K.C. Walsh, owner and president of Simms Fishing Products, in Bozeman, Montana. "Conserving Bristol Bay is important to our customers and to the future of jobs in recreational angling and related businesses. We ask President Obama to secure Bristol Bay once and for all."
Lastly, with sockeye salmon season winding down in Bristol Bay, reports are in that over 20 million fish were harvested for an average of $1 a pound – one of the bright spots in Alaskan salmon fisheries this year, some of which were closed after paltry fish returns.
Shoren Brown is the Save Bristol Bay campaign director for Trout Unlimited.