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On Friday, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Native Association, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, and Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay jointly moved to intervene in a challenge by Northern Dynasty Minerals and Pebble Limited Partnership to the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to protect our nation’s clean waters from the mining of the Pebble ore deposit.

After decades of study, the EPA determined that the mine would have unacceptable adverse effects on Bristol Bay’s resources, fishing industry, and communities.  Northern Dynasty’s challenge to EPA’s decision was filed in federal court in Alaska, and the Bristol Bay organizations moved to intervene in the case to ensure that the interests of the region, its Native communities, resources, environment, and economy remain protected and secure.

Below are statements from the organizations that filed the motion to intervene:

“With today’s filing, the people of Bristol Bay are standing up for our region and our way of life.  For decades, Bristol Bay Tribes, a majority of Alaskans, along with people across the country, have voiced their opposition to Northern Dynasty and its plans to develop the Pebble Mine,” said Shelley Cotton, Chief Strategy Director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act Final Determination is the result of years of effort by our people to protect the place we call home.  We have made our voices heard throughout the world.  And now we are taking our voice to the courts.”

“Pebble mine would jeopardize the world’s most pristine wild sockeye salmon habitat, tens of thousands of fishing-related jobs, and a salmon-based Alaska Native culture that dates back millennia. EPA relied on sound science, a thorough process, and the voices of tens of thousands of Alaskans to issue its Clean Water Act Section 404(c) Final Determination,” said Russell Nelson, BBNC Board Chair. “While we are confident these basic facts will prevail in court, Congress can and should also put this matter to rest by providing additional protections for Bristol Bay. Rep. Peltola’s Bristol Bay Protection Act is a good starting point, and we look forward to working with the entire Alaska delegation to ensure Bristol Bay’s future remains free of Pebble mine.”

“As we head into another fishing season, it is frustrating and disappointing to have to be fighting Pebble Limited Partnership again. The men and women who fish in Bristol Bay each summer and feed people from coast to coast deserve better than to worry about destructive mining projects like the Pebble Mine polluting the watershed and taking away their jobs,” said Nels Ure, Communications Director for CFBB. “This intervention is a testament to our unwavering commitment to protecting this invaluable region that sustains Tribes, communities, fishermen, and wildlife. Although we are confident that the Court will uphold the EPA’s Clean Water Act protections, the people of Alaska and all those who rely on this watershed deserve lasting certainty that Bristol Bay will be protected from the Pebble Mine and all other destructive mining projects. It’s critical that our elected officials pass legislation to protect all of Bristol Bay forever,”

“As businesses that rely on Bristol Bay and its salmon fisheries, we know just how important the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act protections are. Bristol Bay is critical for providing high-quality, sustainable seafood to consumers around the world,” said Liliani Dunn, Executive Director of the Bristol Bay Seafood Development Association. “Unfortunately, Pebble Limited Partnership has not given up on fighting for their destructive mining project – despite the science showing this project would inevitably damage Bristol Bay’s watershed and the public standing in firm opposition to it – making it critical that we file this motion to intervene. We are committed to working alongside the Tribes, fishermen, and local communities to ensure that Bristol Bay is protected for our future generations.”

“Culturally and spiritually, Bristol Bay’s salmon fisheries are the lifeblood of our tribal communities. It is deeply disappointing that Pebble Limited Partnership and the State of Alaska seek to put the profits of a foreign mining company over our critical resources that have sustained our customary and traditional way of life for generations and a resource that feeds people from all around the world, said Anthony Gregorio, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Bristol Bay Native Association. “We intervened in Pebble Limited Partnership’s case to show the widespread support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act determination in this specific case for this specific project – protections grounded in research, science, and the law. The Court must uphold the EPA’s Final Determination and reject Pebble’s case.

“Preserving Bristol Bay and its pristine watershed is not just an environmental issue, it’s also an economic issue. The commercial fishing industry in the region supports thousands of jobs and generates over $2 billion in revenue each year. This economic driver was threatened until the Environmental Protection Agency stepped in and stopped Pebble Limited Partnership from developing its toxic mining project,” said Michael Link, President/CEO, Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. “Unsurprisingly, Pebble refuses to take no for an answer and is back in Court grasping at straws, trying to challenge the EPA’s Clean Water Act Final Determination. We found it critical to intervene in this case to protect Bristol Bay and all that it supports from destruction. While we are confident that the Court will dismiss this frivolous case, it shows yet again how urgent it is for our elected officials to pass legislation to protect Bristol Bay forever.”

The EPA’s Clean Water Act protections for Bristol Bay span two decades of research, scientific studies, and public engagement processes, making the Pebble Mine proposal the most studied mining proposal in American history. This decision also reflects the will of the overwhelming majority of Bristol Bay residents and Alaskans.

Bristol Bay and its salmon sustain the cultural and spiritual identity of the Tribes and people of the region, provide more than 50 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon, support an economy valued at over $2.2 billion, and employ tens of thousands of people in commercial fishing, hunting and sportfishing, outdoor recreation, and tourism.

The State of Alaska filed a challenge to EPA’s Final Determination after Pebble was filed, and that case is now before the same court as the Pebble challenge. The Bristol Bay groups are currently assessing the best way forward to help defend the Final Determination from that challenge as well.

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