JASON METROKIN | MAY 1, 2017 | 05:00 AM
“Every decision… will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
-President Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address
America elected President Trump in large part because he spoke convincingly about creating and maintaining good jobs for American workers. He has an opportunity to put his words into action by protecting Bristol Bay’s incredible fisheries and the thousands of jobs they support.
At first glance, standing up for Bristol Bay may not seem like an issue tailor-made for President Trump. After all, it was President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency that took the initial steps to protect this unmatched resource from the potential impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine.
But a deeper look will show that ensuring the Pebble Mine will not threaten the region’s fisheries is the type of move that we should expect from a President who doesn’t fit neatly into a partisan box.
By protecting Bristol Bay’s fisheries, President Trump would be standing up for nearly 20,000 American jobs they support, including 12,000 in Bristol Bay alone. He would be standing up for commercial fishermen who harvest some of the 50 million salmon that return to the Bay each year. He would be standing up for a commercial fishery that annually generates nearly $1.5 billion in national economic activity. And he would be standing up for the people of Bristol Bay who are culturally identified by the region’s salmon runs and rely on salmon to feed their families.
Bristol Bay is also a bucket list destination for hunters and anglers, where they spend millions and contribute to the employment of 850 lodge owners, guides, pilots and other staff, and add $60 million to the region’s economy.
Simply stated, Bristol Bay’s communities and people depend on the region’s fisheries and wildlife, and the Lower 48 benefits as well. As one past president and secretary of the Interior have noted, Bristol Bay is “a national treasure.” And these amazing resources would be jeopardized if the country allows Pebble Mine to be developed.
The Pebble claims are the sole asset of Canadian company Northern Dynasty Minerals. If developed as described in the company’s feasibility studies, Pebble would potentially be North America’s largest open pit mine and would eradicate, drain or otherwise threaten several of the streams and rivers vital to Bristol Bay salmon. Completion of the mine could take both demand and value from this 130-year-old fishery.
For years, the people of Bristol Bay have known Pebble could destroy everything they have built. That is why they petitioned EPA to place safeguards for mining the Pebble deposit. Though that process stalled due to a still-pending court case, the EPA’s independent science-based Watershed Assessment concluded that Pebble Mine is too risky for Bristol Bay’s fisheries, culture and economy.
Desperate for good news for a project opposed by nearly 60 percent of Alaskans and 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents, supporters of the Pebble Mine rallied around President Trump’s November victory. They believe a Trump EPA will green light all development projects. The mine’s allies have even gone as far as to exaggerate Pebble’s in-region support, inflate the jobs it would create and float permitting a smaller mine previously deemed economically unfeasible.
These rosy predictions fail to understand that the size, scope and location of the Pebble Mine are not up for debate. They also fail to account for the free market; in February, an investment fund recommended shorting Northern Dynasty’s stock, calling it “worthless.” Its detailed report prompted multiple law firms to file lawsuits regarding possible federal securities violations resulting from the relentless promotion of the Pebble Mine.
Alaskans are on board with the President’s efforts to promote American jobs. Indeed, there are many opportunities to create jobs here, from investing in military installations to responsibly tapping into our vast oil reserves.
But few other issues offer President Trump an opportunity to stand up for thousands of American jobs — jobs directly threatened by a foreign corporation whose promised jobs will not last forever.
We are confident President Trump will do the right thing and protect the sustainable jobs in Bristol Bay.
Jason Metrokin is president and CEO of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation in Anchorage, Alaska.