The protection of one of the world’s most revered and productive wild salmon fisheries moved a step closer this month.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its intention to resume work to establish safeguards for the Bristol Bay watershed that could ensure that large-scale mining development, like the proposed Pebble Mine, is not allowed to devastate the region’s waters and lands.
The EPA has filed a joint motion in the federal court announcing its intention to reverse the Trump administration’s withdrawal of proposed protections for Bristol Bay and restart the administration process under the Clean Water Act. The announcement is the first step towards allowing the EPA to get back to work on lasting protections for Bristol Bay’s world-class fishery and all it sustains.
“This announcement is a historic step forward in the long fight to protect Bristol Bay, our fishery, and our people,” said Robert Heyano, President of United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “The fifteen federally recognised Tribes of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay who call this region home have worked for decades to protect our pristine watershed that sustains our sacred indigenous way of life.
“We applaud Administrator Regan for reinstating the process to consider protections for Bristol Bay and for respecting tribal sovereignty. The people of Bristol Bay are counting on the EPA to listen to the science and finish the job of protecting our lands and waters.”
The tribal-led fight to protect Bristol Bay began more than a decade ago in response to the proposed Pebble Mine located at the Bay’s headwaters. Pebble Mine would be the largest open-pit mine in North America, producing more than ten billion tons of toxic waste that will remain there forever. Bristol Bay is a bright spot amid devastatingly low catches in other salmon communities. But even the catch in Bristol Bay is at risk from the dangerous Pebble Mine.
Northern Dynasty Minerals CEO Ron Thiessen – the head of the company behind the Pebble Mine proposal – recently said: “We have by no means given up on this project” amid bipartisan public opposition. EPA’s action provides hope that this threat will not loom over the region indefinitely.