September 10, 2021

Securing Long-Term Protection for Alaska’s Bristol Bay Region Requires Comprehensive Action

“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has signaled intent to block the Pebble Mine project in Alaska under the Clean Water Act—a promising first step in protecting the most critical salmon habitat in the world.

While federal action will be important to safeguard this unique ecological landscape from the threat of Pebble Mine, we also need to take action to ensure the rich environmental, economic and cultural heritage of the Bristol Bay region can last forever.

A durable, long-term and equitable solution will require a threefold approach—EPA action, federal legislation and the permanent, on-the-ground protection of the lands and waters essential to the health and vitality of the Bristol Bay region. A partnership among the Pedro Bay Corporation, the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust and The Conservation Fund is working to do the latter through conservation easements that will protect the land and its resources in perpetuity, while maintaining private ownership and indigenous guardianship.

The Conservation Fund aims to raise $20 million to place these easements on over 44,000 acres across three watersheds on the northeast end of Iliamna Lake. These lands are owned by the Pedro Bay Corporation, whose shareholders are Alaska Natives of Dena’ina Athabascan descent who are keenly aware of the value of their resources and have chosen this as the best opportunity for their people.

The easements will permanently protect the most productive and intact spawning habitats for sockeye salmon in the Bristol Bay region, maintain habitat for important subsistence resources that are vital to sustaining the rural way of life in the region, and provide long-term financial stability to the Pedro Bay Corporation.

The easements will also prevent the construction of an industrial transportation road around the northeast end of Iliamna Lake that is currently desired by Pebble Mine or that could service any future mining operation.

The EPA has signaled that now is the time. But only through a combination of actions can a perpetual and equitable solution be achieved for the people and wildlife of the world-renowned Iliamna Lake and Bristol Bay region.