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In Deep

Bristol Bay: It’s not over yet


‘It ain’t over until it’s over’… that’s the timely reminder from the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) regarding the long-term development of Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

Earlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blocked Alaska’s bid to revive the infamous Pebble copper and gold mine by appealing directly to the US Supreme Court.

“But the legal fight is only beginning, not finished,” warns AFFTA. It is a ‘certainty’ that Alaska and the Northern Dynasty mining company will still work to reverse the EPA’s decision, says the Association.

The likelihood, says AFFTA, is that Alaska will start the process in the lower courts and appeal any unfavourable decisions to the Supreme Court.

A statement from Northern Dynasty said: “While it is a disappointing decision, it is important to note that this is not a comment on the arguments put forward by the state. We have long stated our belief that the EPA has acted outside of its regulatory authority and that remains our position today.

“The legal issues raised by the state will now work their way through the lower federal courts. We will also evaluate our legal options in contesting the extraordinary steps the EPA has taken to preemptively stop the Pebble Project.

“Pebble is for Alaska and the nation. It could create jobs for Alaskans, provide an economic catalyst for the state and provide a much-needed source of critical minerals for the long-term safety and security of the United States.”

The United Tribes of Bristol Bay and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation responded by saying that while the latest ruling was great news, it meant that the State and Northern Dynasty would now go through the normal legal process to challenge EPA’s veto.

“The legal fight will still happen, and this reinforces the need for federal legislation that would permanently protect the broader Bristol Bay region from future mines such as Pebble,” said a statement. “The sporting community has been a steadfast ally in this battle for decades, and we must remain vigilant.”

In the meantime, AFFTA has called for immediate action to retain protections on around 1.25 million acres of land in the Bristol Bay region.

Across Alaska, the Bureau of Land Management is considering options on the future of 28 million acres of D-1 lands (areas protected from mining), including those in Bristol Bay. “These lands have been protected for over 50 years and if the protections are lifted we will not get them back,” warns AFFTA.

With the comment period on the draft Environmental Impact Statement running until February 14, the Businesses for Bristol Bay and Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska has put together a toolkit to help AFFTA members craft an action item that will engage members, customers, fans and followers. 

Assets to help generate comments can be found here

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