by Scott Hed
Forty hunting and angling leaders descended on Washington, D.C. last week to participate in the Bristol Bay Sportsmen's Summit. It was incredible to witness the drive and passion that sportsmen and women from across the nation have in support of the efforts to protect Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine project.
Having worked on this issue for over six years, the Summit represented something of a culmination (yet, just another step toward our ultimate goal) of the efforts to date to inform and engage America's hunting and angling communities in our campaign. The diversity of supporters from the hook and bullet realm - now numbering over 500 groups and businesses who have asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect Bristol Bay - was also reflected in the selfless individuals who traveled from 17 different states to give a few days of their time to talk to federal decision-makers about the importance of Bristol Bay. Our contingent included Bristol Bay lodge operators from Alaska and a few other states, current and former state politicians, current and past executives and officers of Trout Unlimited, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Dallas Safari Club, Camp Fire Club of America, Pope and Young Club, American Sportfishing Association, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, Wildlife Forever, North American Hunting Club, North American Fishing Club, and many state or local sportsman group leaders and outdoor business owners. Our sporting leaders were excited and proud to be joined by executives and board members from the Bristol Bay Native Corporation. It was terrific to work alongside the leaders of BBNC, who are fighting for the future of the region which has supported their families for many generations. One of the strengths of this campaign is the fact that the in-region support is so widespread and pervasive, and the fact that support outside of Alaska continues to grow at such a tremendous rate only serves to make the overall campaign more effective.
We kept our charges extremely busy over the course of our time in DC. Over 40 meetings were held with Congressional offices as well as with staff at the White House and the Administrator of the EPA, Lisa Jackson. Trust me, attempting to schedule delegates in that many meetings in that short a time frame is a challenge, and I salute my colleagues who helped with those logistical details.
At the close of the Summit the big question was: Did we move the needle? I believe we did. The talents and passion of these 40 sportsmen and women carried the message for the millions of hunters and anglers from across the country who have either been to Bristol Bay and can’t wait to return, or who haven’t been there yet but dream of visiting Bristol Bay someday. During our training session the day before our meetings began, I told the delegates that they were in DC to play a part in what may become the signature fisheries conservation victory of our lifetimes. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that. If Bristol Bay can be risked to something like the Pebble Mine, then I truly believe that everything is on the table – no place is off limits. Because of the depth and diversity of the parties fighting for Bristol Bay – from Bristol Bay villages to the farthest corners of our nation – I continue to believe that the good guys have a fighting chance. After the events of last week’s Sportsmen’s Summit for Bristol Bay, our decision makers have been reminded again how important this issue is for the people of Bristol Bay and all who treasure it.
Scott Hed is director of the Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska.