EPA Letter from Sport Fishing and Hunting Groups supporting protection for Bristol Bay, Alaska
To view the more than 800 signatories, click here.
September 13, 2012
Lisa Jackson, Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20460
Cc: President Barack Obama
Ken Salazar, Secretary, Department of Interior
Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary, Department of Commerce
Nancy Sutley, Chair, Council on Environmental Quality
Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Mike Pool, Acting Director, Bureau of Land Management
John Jarvis, Director, National Park Service
Daniel Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Jo‐Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works
Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator from Alaska
Mark Begich, U.S. Senator from Alaska
Dear Administrator Jackson,
We, the undersigned hunting and angling organizations and businesses representing millions of sportsmen, outdoor recreation groups and related businesses, thank you and the EPA for taking the first step in protecting Bristol Bay from the dangers of the proposed Pebble Mine, by conducting a scientific assessment of the region’s watershed. We look forward to working with the EPA and other decision makers during this public process to determine the fate of Bristol Bay, Alaska.
Our 809 sporting conservation groups, businesses and trade associations thank you for personally visiting the Bristol Bay region in 2010 and your agency’s many subsequent visits leading up to and during the watershed assessment. Your effort to meet with the region’s local residents is greatly appreciated; as the world’s greatest wild sockeye salmon fishery is facing unprecedented threats from proposed development of a massive mining district. We write today to ask you to use all the tools at your disposal to protect a sport fishing and hunting destination that is unrivaled in America and perhaps the world, for this and future generations of sportsmen and women.
The proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay poses numerous significant and potentially long‐lasting threats to one of the world’s foremost sport fishing and hunting regions. Specifically, fish habitat (including spawning and breeding grounds), wildlife habitat and recreational areas are all threatened by several hard rock mining proposals ‐ most notably, the Pebble Mine. The potential impact from this type of activity could be severe. It is estimated that the Pebble Mine would produce between 2.5 and 10 billion tons of waste containing elements, such as copper and other heavy metals, that would threaten several fishery areas including spawning and breeding grounds for world‐renowned populations of salmon.
If this project moves forward, these toxins would have to be contained and potentially treated in perpetuity ‐ in an area of high seismic activity, which increases the risks tremendously. Because the
Pebble property straddles the Kvichak and Nushagak river drainages – two of the most productive salmon systems on the planet ‐ any release of this waste into the surface or groundwater has the potential to severely harm Bristol Bay’s salmon and the livelihoods of the sport fishing and hunting business owners, all of whom depend on them for their economic support.
Sport fishing in Bristol Bay generates $60 million annually; anglers looking for “once in a lifetime” experiences on rivers such as the Nushagak, Mulchatna, Koktuli and Kvichak support more than 800 full‐ and part‐time jobs. Mining activity and increased development associated with mining will detrimentally impact these areas by direct impacts to fish and habitat. Development will also negatively impact opportunities for sport fishing and hunting operations in the area by diminishing the quality of the experience. Despite the remote nature of the region and the costs associated with traveling to it, on a yearly basis up to 65,000 visitors come to Bristol Bay for recreational opportunities to fish, hunt, and view wildlife.
Secretary Salazar and the Obama administration recognized that oil and gas development in this area is simply not worth the risk, the same is true for mining operations in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. The fish and wildlife values in the region, its size and setting, and the national significance of its resources are, in the words of Secretary Salazar and President Obama, “a national treasure that we must protect." The risk to this national treasure is too great and the resource too unique and irreplaceable to allow the Pebble Project to continue forward.
While we thank you for planning an assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed to better understand how future large‐scale development projects may affect Bristol Bay, it’s not enough. The EPA has the authority under the Clean Water Act to invoke Section 404(c), which would give Bristol Bay the protection it needs from mining and other large‐scale developments.
The undersigned organizations and businesses urge EPA to proactively fulfill its mission to protect the environment and human health in Bristol Bay, AK by using its authority under Clean Water Act Section 404(c) to withdraw waters and wetlands in the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed from future specification as disposal sites for dredge and fill activity associated with mining operations. The EPA has an opportunity now to guarantee a future for Bristol Bay that will generate economic opportunities while also conserving sporting traditions for generations to come.
We look forward to working with the EPA and all federal agencies with an interest and role in the future of Bristol Bay’s tremendously productive lands and waters.