I’m tired. It’s not that good kind of tired you feel as a gillnetter at the end of salmon season, when your hands are swollen, your back aches, and your face is tight from wind and salt. It’s a different kind of tired, an exhaustion that sets in when you’ve been fighting tooth and nail, and now you’re broken and bleeding. When your legs are about to give out from standing your ground against corporate giants wearing fine suits and clutching fistfuls of money. When your voice is hoarse from screaming at cowering politicians who sit in fear and silence. It’s a different kind of tired.
A little over a year ago, the Pebble Limited Partnership slithered through the door opened by the federal government, dropped an incomplete permit application on (then-EPA administrator) Scott Pruitt’s desk, and then pumped an obscene amount of money into their D.C. lobbyists’ greasy hands.
The prospect of a massive gold and copper mine at the headwaters of the world’s last great wild salmon run instantly rose from the dead. Pebble CEO Tom Collier, who stands to make off with a $12.5 million bonus if the permit is issued quickly, assumed the role of puppeteer, pulling the strings he had fastened to the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that now holds the fate of Bristol Bay in its inept hands.
We blinked and suddenly found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a fleeting public comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. In hearings around Alaska, the Army Corps pretends to listen. But the DEIS is an affront to every commercial fisherman. It refuses to recognize the unacceptable risks the Pebble Mine poses to our livelihoods and our culture. The message from the Army Corps rings loud and clear: You commercial fishermen are unimportant compared to the Pebble Mine.
The way of life that is commercial fishing defines those who are a part of it. We not only make our living on the water, it is where we learn who and what we are. We have and always will stand together, willing to do whatever it takes to protect this heritage created by those before us. Now we must stand with our brothers and sisters in Bristol Bay, because their war is our war.
I told myself when this battle against Pebble surfaced again that no matter what the outcome I would give every last piece of me to fight it. I will not sit in front of my grandchildren someday, a feeble old woman, and tell them I could have done more to save Bristol Bay. Sorry little ones, your grandmother could have done more for you. No, I will not cry those tears.
So I fight. I will never give up, as long as blood flows through me — the blood of a fisherman’s daughter. And as tired as I am, I am still standing. I am standing with each and every one of those fishermen in Bristol Bay. And I would rather die than watch the future of commercial salmon fishing fall to the hands of a greedy foreign mining company.
So to my commercial fishing brethren — to those drenched in salt and virtue — fight.
Visit www.savebristolbay.org to learn how to comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and contact your legislators to help put an end to this process.