June 8, 2021

Alaska Native Corporation Reaches Agreement To Permanently Protect Over 44,000 Acres Of Globally Important Salmon Habitat

PEDRO BAY, Alaska — By an overwhelming majority of 90%, shareholders of the Pedro Bay Corporation voted to protect their land for subsistence and cultural use, as well as to benefit fish and wildlife. The vote approves an agreement for The Conservation Fund to purchase three conservation easements on more than 44,000 acres of surface estate land from the Pedro Bay Corporation for $18.3 million. These lands support critical salmon habitat on Iliamna Lake that is essential to the health, vitality and protection of Bristol Bay—the largest wild salmon fishery in the world.

“This transaction supports the values of our community members by protecting their land, their subsistence, and their traditional way of life,” said Pedro Bay Corporation CEO Matt McDaniel. “This is an opportunity that will provide our community benefits and economic value in perpetuity. After years of consideration, the shareholders have now made an informed decision on how to manage and protect their privately held ancestral lands.”

The agreement includes three areas around Knutson Creek, Iliamna River, and Pile River and will help to protect the most productive and intact spawning and rearing habitats for sockeye salmon within the Iliamna Lake watersheds. The shareholder approval vote places The Conservation Fund under contract to raise the funds necessary to finance the agreement and will provide an additional $500,000 to the nonprofit Pedro Bay Benefits Corporation (PBBC) for shareholder education and cultural benefits as well scientific research.

“Protecting this magnificent, vital landscape with our Alaska Native partners will not only conserve over 44,000 acres of the world’s most critical salmon habitat, it also will honor the Indigenous guardianship and sustainable subsistence practiced by the people of Pedro Bay for generations. Getting this project across the goal line will require a strong, collective commitment from people across the United States,” said Larry Selzer, President and CEO of The Conservation Fund.

The conservation easements cover a portion of the proposed northern transportation route for the proposed Pebble Mine. The terms of the agreement will prohibit execution of any right-of-way agreements with the mine project due to the conservation easements’ restrictions on development.

The Conservation Fund has launched a fundraising campaign to enable its purchase of the conservation easements by the end of 2022. When the agreement is complete, the Corporation will retain ownership of the land subject to the terms of the conservation easements to be held by the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust (BBHLT). In coordination with the Corporation, BBHLT will be responsible for administering and enforcing the terms of the conservation easements in perpetuity.

“The Board of Directors of the Land Trust is excited and proud to be part of this continuing cooperative effort to assure the future of salmon in Bristol Bay, and the future of the subsistence, recreational and commercial fisheries that depend upon those salmon,” said Tim Troll, Executive Director, Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust.

This project will expand upon previous salmon habitat conservation work completed by the partners in southwest Alaska. In 2016, BBHLT, The Conservation Fund and the Pedro Bay Corporation began discussing a partnership to preserve critical salmon habitat on lands owned by the Corporation on Iliamna Lake. Those discussions led to a conservation easement that protects over 12,600 acres across an estimated 143 islands that support a unique genetic group of island beach spawning sockeye and haul-outs for one of only five populations of freshwater seals in the world.

The existing conservation easement on the Iliamna Lake islands and this new project, once complete, will collectively protect over 56,000 acres of Pedro Bay Corporation land—increasing landscape connectivity of protected lands across the Iliamna Lake region, securing a wide diversity of fisheries and habitats, and supporting traditional and subsistence activities. These conservation easements are designed to balance the Pedro Bay Corporation’s goals of land protection and responsible development on its lands.

“The Pedro Bay Corporation Board of Directors and management supported the agreement, but wanted to ensure our shareholder voices were heard,” said Board Chair Thomas Hedlund. “We are very pleased with the outcome and excited for this opportunity to protect our land forever.”

About the Pedro Bay Corporation
The Pedro Bay Corporation (PBC) is the Alaska Native village corporation for Pedro Bay, Alaska, with lands located on the eastern shores of Iliamna Lake, in the Bristol Bay region. PBC was among 200 village corporations formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971, and it currently owns and manages over 92,000 acres on Iliamna Lake. PBC has more than 200 shareholders of Dena’ ina descent, and it manages its portfolio of business inside and outside the Bristol Bay region for the benefit of its shareholders.  www.pedrobaycorp.com

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8.5 million acres of land, including nearly 340,000 acres of lands and waters across Alaska.

About the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust
The Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust (BBHLT) was organized in 2000 by local tribal leaders, commercial fishermen, sport fishing lodges and an Alaska Native village corporation based in Dillingham. In pursuit of its mission to protect the salmon habitat of Bristol Bay BBHLT has fostered the conservation of 36,400 acres, and financed scientific research that resulted in additional protection under Alaska law by the addition 1300 miles of Bristol Bay streams to Alaska’s Anadromous Waters Catalog and water level reservations for fish on 430 stream miles. http://bristolbaylandtrust.org/

Matt McDaniel | Pedro Bay Corporation | 907-277-1500 | info@pedrobaycorp.com
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org
Tim Troll | Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust | 907-842-2832 | nmwtlandtrust@hotmail.com