Tuesday, January 31st–The Environmental Protection Agency just announced its final rejection of key permits for Pebble Mine–an end-all outcome for this widely-opposed copper mine in the headwaters of Alaska’s famed Bristol Bay. The announcement effectively kills the Pebble Mine project and future mining projects in the region through Clean Water Act authorities. Finally, after so many years, so many emails and action alerts from all of our conservation partners, and so much back and forth, Pebble is dead once and for all. This is an incredible victory for the fishing communities and Tribes of Bristol Bay, all the fish and wildlife that depend on these healthy ecosystems, and the entire outdoor recreation community that stood up and banded together to say “NO Pebble Mine.” It was a long, winding road, but Bristol Bay is finally protected from Pebble Mine.
“What a day for wild salmon! This is a victory for a whole ecosystem and one of the most important salmon strongholds left on the planet,” says Wild Salmon Center President & CEO Guido Rahr. “It’s a victory for clean water, for the tens of millions of salmon that return to Bristol Bay’s watersheds every year, for the thousands of people in communities built around these fish, and for the 137 species that depend on that returning salmon, including orcas, grizzly bears, caddis flies and everything in between.”
Bristol Bay’s healthy rivers, steams, and other habitats support some of the most prolific salmon runs in the world today–Pebble Mine threatened that and all the communities depending on the healthy Bristol Bay watershed.
“EPA and the Biden Administration deserve a huge thank you for listening to Alaska Native Tribes, residents, and fishermen, and stepping up to protect this American treasure,” Rahr says. “If we had lost Bristol Bay—and this mine was a very real threat—wild salmon would have taken a definitive turn for the worse. But now we can take this momentum and build a more hopeful future for wild salmon everywhere, along with the communities who cherish them and the life-sustaining rivers we all call home.”
The EPA is relying on its authorities under the Clean Water Act to regulate industrial discharges in rejecting the Pebble Mine permit. According to EPA’s decision, the Agency based its decision on the fact that the Pebble Mine discharges would have “unacceptable adverse effects” the Bristol Bay watershed and its fisheries.
“Clean Water Act 404(c) protections have always been a common-sense safeguard for Bristol Bay. Today, the people and businesses in Alaska and across the country who stood up for Bristol Bay should take a bow, because their efforts have protected the world’s most important wild salmon runs and the communities that depend on them,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “It’s long past time for Pebble to recognize that it will never have community or legal standing to develop this mine. Now, it’s time for us to work for lasting protections for the entire Bristol Bay watershed that match the scope of the threat to this special place.”
Good on all of you that participated in this long, grassroots-driven fight to affirm a sustainable future for Bristol Bay and protect the regions remarkable and abundant fisheries and wildlife.