The King (Salmon) is Dead. Long Live the Mine.
[Photo by Nick Hall]
Five million viewers (I’m choosing not to think of allof them as fans) tuned in to watch “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” on The Learning Channel this month. But as we know, there’s more to Alaska than harassing bears, and clubbing halibut between the eyes. Many, I’m sure, were taken with Alaska’s spectacular landscapes, pristine waters, and wide open spaces.
The real Alaska, in Bristol Bay, is something she hasn’t talked about yet. She’s planning to talk about it on November 28, but I don’t know if she’ll mention The Pebble Mine. I remember when Palin “took off her governor’s hat” to tell Alaskans she’d be voting against a ballot proposition that would have been a huge roadblock for this particular project. How can you be pro-fish and pro-Pebble? You can’t, and Palin decided which side she was on. Back then, people were listening to her, and the Clean Water Initiative failed.
What’s about to happen in Bristol Bay has nothing to do with the drama of unwanted neighbors, or boys sneaking upstairs, or licking cupcake batter and putting the spoon back in the bowl. This reality show is deadly serious for industry, for wildlife, for jobs, for the environment and for food.
You’ve all seen the “No Pebble” logo I use on the blog when I talk about the project. That logo can be seen on vehicles across the state whose owners understand that there is no compromise. Either the fish and the people win, or foreign mining companies win and we are left with a decimated fishery. But there’s a lot more to see and understand than the iconic No Pebble sticker conveys.
National Geographic’s December issue, which is now available online, delves into the brewing controversy surrounding a potential mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, and has sparked international concern over what might happen if one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines is developed in the home of North America’s leading king salmon populations.
“This mine could mean the devastation of a 40,000-square-mile wetland – about the same size as Kentucky - and put at risk the world’s largest sockeye run, as well as the thousands of jobs associated with this $450 million-a-year fishery,” said Tim Bristol, Director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. “We’re not against mining; there are appropriate places in Alaska for mineral development. But the size, type and location of Pebble Mine pose too high a risk to be allowed to proceed.”
Trout Unlimited is one of the organizations dedicated to promoting and conserving healthy fresh water habitats for fish and people, and to educating the public about the dangers of the Pebble Mine project. And yes, the Director of the Alaska program’s last name is Bristol. One wonders if this wasn’t somehow destiny. Kind of like if you name your son Jeeves and he ends up being a butler. But I digress…
Trout Unlimited spoke to photographer Michael Melford about his experience on this project. “Bristol Bay is truly wild; it’s a rare gem where fish, wildlife and Native culture go hand-in-hand.It’s difficult to believe this pristine wilderness might be compromised with an open-pit mine. The time I spent in Alaska was special and unforgettable, and I hope Bristol Bay, its fishery and habitat, continues to thrive for generations to come.” You can enjoy his breathtaking online slide show HERE.
The magazine’s feature article is, “Alaska’s Choice: Salmon or Gold,” and the title hits the nail on the head. It’s one or the other, and it’s a choice. Those that tell you that “the permitting process should go through” and try to tell you that if it’s a bad project, it just won’t happen, don’t tell you that there has never been a project that hasn’t survived the permitting process, and there’s never been a mine like this that hasn’t destroyed its surroundings with the toxic byproducts of the mine. The December issue of National Geographic arrives on newsstands November 30.