Written by Adrianne Madden
May 4, 2012
The next swipe at the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska may not survive the political shell game.
Bristol Bay fishermen are concerned about the future of their salmon run and fighting the prospect of a gold and copper mine that could sully pristine salmon-spawning waters. But Alaska's attorney general, Michael Geraghty, has taken another tack in this epic battle and is now fighting the EPA assessment that could declare an end to development of the watershed.
Geraghty notes that the area EPA is investigating (and could declare a protected watershed) is about the size of West Virginia — 15 million acres — and that the work is an overreach of the federal agency's powers. But the federal government did not step on Alaska soil waving a flag of national sovereignty. Thousands of stakeholders in Bristol Bay's future asked EPA to step in and put a stop to the drumbeat toward Pebble.
I'm not a proponent of dragging the federal government into every major state kerfuffle. But it seems to me that the people who fish in the state of Alaska (and have for generations) ought to be able to rely on the local government to ensure the longevity of the run wherever possible.
Instead, the state seems to favor risking the riches of the fishery in favor of the riches of the mine. It's like taking a hammer to the piggy bank, rather than popping its cork and shaking free the loose change.
Gold and silver mining would provide a sudden influx of money to the region, but the deposits are finite. The salmon fishery could last forever, if we have the foresight to protect it.
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