Alaskans comment in record numbers to preserve EPAs proposed protections for Bristol Bay

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Contact: Alannah Hurley, United Tribes of Bristol Bay, (907) 843-1633 or ahurley@utbb.org

Nelli Williams, Trout Unlimited - Alaska Program, (907) 230-7121 or nwilliams@tu.org

Tim Bristol, SalmonState, (907) 321-3291 or tim@salmonstate.org

Alaskans comment in record numbers to preserve EPA’s proposed protections for Bristol Bay

The EPA’s proposal to withdraw protections for rivers and clean water was met with opposition by almost 26,000 Alaskan comments and 2,000 Bristol Bay residents in a public comment period.

ANCHORAGE, AK – By internal count, the Environmental Protection Agency received more than 750,000 comments supporting the federal agency’s proposed protections for Bristol Bay, Alaska from threats posed by the Pebble Mine.

Alaskans spoke up in record numbers to express their opposition to a proposal to withdraw Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay waters. EPA developed the withdraw proposal after a back-door settlement between Administration officials and the Canadian backers of the mine. Almost 26,000 Alaskan comments were submitted between July 11 and October 17, eclipsing the number who commented during a 2014 comment period and demonstrating local and regional support for protecting Bristol Bay is as strong as ever.

Joining the Alaskans are an estimated 700,000 plus commenters from the Lower 48.

The Alaska comments included an unprecedented number from the Bristol Bay region. Approximately 2,000 Bristol Bay residents from Perryville to Port Alsworth asked the EPA to uphold the proposed protections; almost double the 1,200 who weighed in during the last comment period.

“The Bristol Bay region has once again been crystal clear in its opposition to Pebble Mine and the threats it poses to our traditional ways of life in Bristol Bay. We are frustrated that new EPA officials wish to turn their back on the strong record of science and the voices of Bristol Bay’s people. Even worse, we’ve come to learn this reversal came at the request of Pebble’s executives. But, that frustration only strengthens our determination to secure protections for our region,” said Robert Heyano, president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay.

Over the course of a multi-year public review and comment processes, including this latest comment period, about 2.2 million comments flowed in from around the country and across the political spectrum as Americans contacted EPA to say that large-scale mining is not worth the risks to Bristol Bay’s unique and thriving fishery.

Once again it is abundantly clear that a majority of Alaskans, along with anglers and hunters around the country, want Bristol Bay's salmon, jobs, businesses and communities protected from the ill-conceived and risky Pebble Mine proposal,” said Nelli Williams, director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. "The message from Alaskans to the Pebble Partnership is clear: Pack up and go home. Your mine is not wanted in Bristol Bay. We will continue to push for safeguards until we are certain that Bristol Bay's important, productive rivers remain the way they are today far into the future."

Many public comments cited the 14,000 American jobs sustained by the region each year, in addition to the extensive scientific study, which shows that the type of mining proposed cannot be done safely alongside a resource as sensitive as the Bristol Bay fishery.

More than 150 Alaska businesses have voiced their opposition for EPA’s proposed withdrawal, along with village and regional corporations, Tribes, municipalities, and other entities from across the state, and thousands of local residents and commercial fishermen.

Sustaining Bristol Bay Fisheries statement:

“Bristol Bay has a long legacy of proactively protecting our fishery. Alaska's very constitution was crafted in large part to ensure its sustainability,” said commercial fisherman Katherine Carscallen. “Now we are counting on the EPA to finalize necessary proactive protections for Bristol Bay's renewable resource and the industry it sustains, and listen to the thousands of Alaskans and fishermen who have requested them.”

Nunamta Aulukestai statement:

"The people of Bristol Bay again spoke loud and clear,” said Myrtice Evalt, executive director for Nunamta Aulukestai (Nunamta), a coalition of Bristol Bay Alaska Native Village Corporations and tribes working to protect Bristol Bay. “The people of Alaska and the Lower 48 again spoke loud and clear. And though the EPA told us we could not talk about science in this comment period, the science speaks loud and clear, too. The EPA needs to put in place the protections its own assessment demands. For it to ignore us again would be a willful attack on our culture and way of life."

SalmonState statement:

“The astronomical number of comments against withdrawal of proposed protections for Bristol Bay’s wild salmon resource should serve as crystal clear message that opposition to Pebble is stronger than ever,” said SalmonState executive director Tim Bristol. “People are not falling for Pebble’s fake starter mine plan and are outraged by the backroom deal between the new head of EPA and a foreign mining company. There is only one Bristol Bay and we will never quit our efforts to protect it.”

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The United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB) is a tribal consortium representing 14 Bristol Bay tribes working to protect the Yup’ik, Denai’na, and Alutiq way of life in Bristol Bay.

Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. There are four chapters and thousands of members and supporters in Alaska. Follow Trout Unlimited on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at www.savebristolbay.org.

Sustaining Bristol Bay Fisheries (SBBF) is a community-based commercial fishermen’s organization committed to protecting and advocating for fishermen and a sustainable future for Bristol Bay's fisheries.

SalmonState works to protect salmon habitat and promote policies that will guarantee Alaska remains the Salmon State: home of the world's largest, healthiest and most abundant wild salmon resource, which provides culture, food, income, employment and recreation to Alaskans, Americans and the rest of the world.

Nunamta Aulukestai is a coalition of Alaska Native Village Corporations and tribes in the Bristol Bay region dedicated to protecting the Bristol Bay watershed from unsustainable development.

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