Alaska Native corporations own almost 7 million acres in Bristol Bay. One of them, the Pedro Bay Corporation, has been fulfilling an ambitious vision to protect its lands and waters for future generations, while still generating revenue for its shareholders. In 2016, the Corporation, in partnership with The Conservation Fund and the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, began discussing a solution to secure conservation easements and preserve critical salmon habitat on its lands within the Iliamna Lake watersheds and since then had conserved more than 12,600 acres of wild and intact shoreline and wetland habitat on Iliamna Lake.



In 2022, the partners expanded these efforts by completing the Pedro Bay Rivers project, which placed three conservation easements on over 44,000 acres of critical spawning and rearing habitats for sockeye salmon across three watersheds on Iliamna Lake. These easements provide revenue to the Corporation and prevent any harmful development threats, like from the proposed Pebble Mine, and were designed to balance the Corporation and its Alaska Native shareholders’ goals of habitat protection and economic priorities on its lands. The land remains owned by the Pedro Bay Corporation, but the easements will ensure the watersheds of the Pile River, Iliamna River and Knutson Creek remain conserved to maintain cultural and subsistence activities and the extraordinary returns of sockeye salmon year after year.

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Knutson Bay, AK. Credit: Jason Ching

Pedro Bay Rivers Project
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Iliamna Lake AK map Pedro Bay Corporation Conservation Easements Proposed Along Knutson Creek, Pile River, and Iliamna River. Northeast Iliamna Lake, Bristol Bay, Alaska. Click here to view a larger version of the map.



A LOCAL VISION WITH BENEFITS FOR THE BRISTOL BAY REGION

Located in the heart of Bristol Bay in the northeastern end of Iliamna Lake, the 44,000-acre conservation easements protect critical habitat for millions of wild salmon and maintain subsistence and recreational uses, traditional activities and cultural resources important to the Pedro Bay Corporation and its Alaska Native shareholders. By selling the conservation easements and generating revenue for the Corporation, the project secured an opportunity for the Corporation to fulfill the goals of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to provide long-term financial stability and reliable shareholder benefits.

Bristol Bay is the world’s largest wild salmon fishery. In 2022, the fishery run was the largest on record at 79 million fish. This is a major economic driver in southwest Alaska, accounting for 57% of global sockeye salmon harvests.

The scope of these conservation easements will not only protect the important salmon habitat, but to also prevent an industrial-scale road that the Pebble Mine project desires to build on the Corporation’s land to connect the proposed mine site to Cook Inlet on the Pacific Ocean. The conservation easements prohibit development and execution of any right-of-way agreements needed by the mine to develop the road across Pedro Bay Corporation lands.

The Pedro Bay River project safeguards the most productive and intact spawning and rearing habitats for sockeye salmon within the Iliamna Lake watersheds and protects habitat for many other species, including moose, seal, brown bear and wolf.

“These conservation easements protect important salmon habitat, ensure shareholders have access to subsistence resources, and provide the corporation with new economic opportunities.”

— Jason Metrokin, President & Chief Executive Officer Bristol Bay Native Corporation

 

“The survival of wild salmon in Bristol Bay and our thriving commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries all depend upon intact salmon habitat. The willingness of federal, state and Alaska Native corporation landowners to restrain from activities on their lands that could significantly damage that habitat will ultimately determine the future of Bristol Bay salmon.”

— Tim Troll
, Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust Executive Director



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Iliamna River, AK. Photo credit: Fly Out Media


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Durant’s Cove, AK. Credit: Jason Ching


Our Role

The Pedro Bay Rivers project builds on previous conservation partnership efforts to protect over 58,000 acres of vital salmon and wildlife habitat in the Iliamna Lake region. The Conservation Fund, in partnership with the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, supported this effort by securing the $20 million of private funding needed to complete the project, including $500,000 to the nonprofit Pedro Bay Benefits Corporation for shareholder education, cultural benefits and scientific research. The Fund purchased the conservation easements from Pedro Bay Corporation in December 2022.

This collaborative conservation solution ensures the health and vitality of the globally important Bristol Bay region provides environmental and economic benefits for people and wildlife and minimizes the risk of habitat destruction on Pedro Bay Corporation lands.

OVERWHELMING SUPPORT

This significant land protection effort was made possible with generous support from many, including Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, The Wyss Foundation, Patagonia’s Holdfast Collective, Alaska Venture Fund, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The Conservation Fund, Richard King Mellon Foundation, NorthLight Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart’s Acres for America Program, The Bunting Family Foundation Fund B, MeLampy-Lawrence Charitable Trust, Mark Dexter and Deb Cowley, Richard and Martha Wagner, Robert Shaw, OBI Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, Orvis, Wildtype, Trout Unlimited, numerous foundations and hundreds of individual donors, as well as through collaborative fundraising efforts with The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund, which includes support from the Brotman Family, Susan Burchill and Anne Pattee. See a full list of project donors here.

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