Alaska’s Bristol Bay at risk: Jeremy Jauncey joins WWF to find out why

Alaska’s Bristol Bay at risk: Jeremy Jauncey joins WWF to find out why


This mine is too big and it can’t be built.
This is not an environmentally-okay thing to do.
The Pebble Mine fight has been going
on for 20 years, and it pits two huge industries
in Alaska head to head. You’ve got the largest
salmon fishery in the world and you’ve got
this huge mine project.
A few months ago, I joined WWF in southwest
Alaska, an area that has one of the world’s
most productive marine ecosystems.
From our base across Cook Inlet in Homer, we traveled
to witness the largest salmon migration in
the world, in an area that includes Bristol Bay,
a place on the frontlines of the fight
against the international mining industry.
So here’s the issue, underneath the ground
in this area is one of the largest copper
reserves anywhere in the world. When you have
natural resources like that, you have people
that want to mine it. Around 20 years ago,
the first group of miners put together proposals
to start pulling this out of the land, and
it was rejected.
But recently the EPA have
fast-tracked potential legislation that would
allow it to be developed, which means that
the marine ecosystem, one of the most productive
in the world, the homeland to the bears, all
of this amazing natural beauty would be ruined
in the pursuit of profit.
Dave Aplin, a senior program officer at WWF
has been working to help protect the region
from the threats of industrial development
for 15 years.
I sat down with him in Homer
to learn as much as I could about Pebble Mine
and what was going on. Are they taking into
account the wider economic impact? Do they
look at the sustainable tourism industry? Do they
look at all of these additional factors that
keep communities together, that bring revenue
to support livelihoods? Do they take that
into account?
No. We don’t think they’ve done a comprehensive
job of what they’re supposed to do.
The salmon feed the entire system, so it’s not
just the bears and the beluga whales and the
eagles. It’s the caribou and moose that
are eating the vegetation that have been fertilized
and enhanced by that salmon system. It’s
the birds that move through here. So the whole
system depends on that annual enrichment of salmon.
It’s gonna damage the clean water
and the fisheries that people depend on.
Bristol Bay is the last salmon stronghold on the planet.
Spending time with Dave opened my eyes to
the catastrophic impact this mine would have
on the people of Bristol Bay, but I wanted
to see firsthand the impact it would also
have on the environment.
With the help of conservation expert Drew Hamilton, a man with
more than a dozen years of experience observing
and leading guided tours in the area, we planned
a route to go and see these bears for ourselves.
We’re in the headquarters of Beluga Air.
We’re about to go out and see some bears.
Can you just tell me a little bit about what’s
happening in Pebble Mine?
The Pebble Mine fight has been going
on for 20 years and it
pits two huge industries in Alaska head to
head. You’ve got the fishery, the Bristol Bay
sockeye fishery, the largest salmon fishery
in the world, and you’ve got this huge mine project.
Now the bears that we’re gonna
see today they’re not always there. They
follow seasonal food sources. Some might be
on this side of the mountain; some might be
on this side of the mountains. But if you’re
gonna put a 38-mile road corridor that’s
gonna bisect their home ranges, not only is
it gonna have a negative impact on the bears,
it’s gonna have a negative impact on the
homegrown bear industry that’s popped up
here on the Kenai Peninsula.
An hour’s flight from our base in
Homer across some of Alaska’s
most spectacular coastline into Katmai
National Park, was an area accessible only
by seaplane.
It offers a tourism experience
like no other as expert guides bring you up
close and personal with wild Alaskan bears.
Tourism is yet another critical industry at
risk from the development of Pebble Mine.
Now the most powerful part of this tourism
development is that it employs over 500 Alaskans,
and 75 percent of that revenue stays here
in Alaska, which means local people can provide
for their families as well as provide for
the conservation needed to look after these
amazing animals.
The impact this mine will have cannot be overstated.
The environmental degradation will be massive.
The fish, the bears, their ecosystem will
be dramatically damaged and left vulnerable
to the risks of catastrophic mining disasters
that will destroy the wildlife, their habitats,
and people’s livelihoods.
But there is hope. Congress in the U.S. has the opportunity now
to cause us to take a step back, to actually
do more detailed science and make a serious
evaluation of whether or not this should go
ahead.
Just educate yourself. If you know
more, you can take action. If you take action,
you can have impact and you can help protect
this beautiful part of the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *