Written by Jen Finn
As a 43-year resident of the Bristol Bay area, with extensive experience in the biological resources of the area, I am compelled to comment on the revised Bristol Bay Area Plan. I helped with the development of the original 1984 plan that was based on numerous public drafting meetings in Bristol Bay area villages and elsewhere in the state.
This record was submitted and accepted as our management plan until an arbitrary decision was made by DNR administrators, without Bristol Bay residents' involvement to scrap the plan in favor of something more favorable to the mining industry. The result of that decision is extremely objectionable to those of us who reside in the Bristol Bay area. My recommendation is to return to the original plan we devised and submitted in 1984. We specified fish and wildlife habitat to be the prime function of most of the state land units in the Bristol Bay area.
It's hard to envision fish and wildlife of any kind carrying out complete life cycles around open-pit mines, waste-rock dumps, detoxification settling-ponds, and the types of land uses associated with mines. It's also hard to envision how local residents could subsist within the "security zones" that would be imposed around such developments. These types of activities should be restricted to an absolute minimum in the Bristol Bay area known as the world's largest remaining producer of wild sockeye salmon and one of the most favored areas for recreational angling of large native salmonids that include world-class native rainbow trout and salmon species
There is ample evidence in the Bristol Bay area of the time necessary for watersheds to recover from major environmental disruptions. The eruptions of Aniakchak volcano on the Alaska Peninsula about 3,000 years ago, Mount Katmai/Novarupta volcano in Katmai National Park in 1912, and acid discharge from Chiginagak volcano in the King Salmon River drainage near Ugashik Bay in June 2005 have given us direct examples of the recovery/recolonization time-lines that even natural ground and water contamination can present.
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