Protect Our Public Lands

Upwards of Half a Million People Asked the EPA to Finalize Protections for Bristol Bay

Brown bear eating a salmon.

At the end of May, the EPA began collecting public comments on a Proposed Determination to use Clean Water Act provisions to provide protections for the Bristol Bay region from the proposed Pebble Mine. If the proposed determination is finalized, it will restrict the use of certain Bristol Bay headwaters as a disposal site for dredge and fill materials, in effect preventing the proposed Pebble Mine from moving forward.

Bristol Bay is home to one of the last strong wild salmon runs in the world. This past summer a record 78.4 million salmon returned to Bristol Bay. Those salmon in turn feed and provide nutrition for the whole ecosystem. The strength of the run is in large part due to the health of the headwaters. The region is free of mining, dams, and other destructive industrialization. If the planned Pebble Mine went forward, it would produce billions of tons of toxic waste, require new roads and pipelines, and put the entire watershed at risk.

It’s therefore no surprise that over half a million people, including 30,000 Alaskans, submitted a comment supporting those protections this summer. The fight to stop the Pebble Mine has been raging for over two decades, and in that time over 4 million comments have been submitted in support of protecting Bristol Bay from mining. Those comments came from conservationists, Alaska Natives, scientists, sport anglers, commercial fishers, chefs, hunters, and photographers.

It is now time for the EPA to finish the job and issue permanent protections for the Bristol Bay watershed.

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