I hope that spring has arrived in your area. The Sportman’s Alliance for Alaska (SAA) has spent much of 2008 on the road, exhibiting at and attending various sport shows in Colorado, Texas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California, Washington, North Carolina, Nevada, Minnesota, and Florida. Thanks to the thousands of people that stopped by the booth to learn more about Alaska’s fantastic hunting and angling opportunities and conservation issues in Alaska. I hope those of you heading north this summer have the trip of a lifetime, and I hope the rest of you make plans to get up to the Last Frontier in coming years. I know it’s cliché, but Alaska really is a sportsperson’s paradise. On to the news, which is fairly dominated by our first issue…
You’re probably aware of what’s shaping up to be the biggest conservation battle in decades – the fight to preserve the world’s greatest wild salmon runs and the best trophy wild rainbow trout fishing on the planet. We can’t forget that this area also supports fantastic hunting opportunities for caribou, moose, and bear. In fact, hunting in the area is already being disrupted due to the helicopter traffic from all the mining exploration work. Mining companies continue to place the Bristol Bay region squarely in the crosshairs of development. The Pebble Mine, being proposed by Northern Dynasty and Anglo-American, is the one most people hear about. But just recently a company named Liberty Star announced plans to seek a major investment partner to help develop its claims which lie adjacent to the Pebble project. There are 1,000 square miles of state lands already staked with mining claims, and the federal Bureau of Land Management has proposed opening over one million acres of its lands to mining exploration and development in the region. One of the greatest sporting destinations on earth is at risk of being forever degraded. Fortunately, there are some positive developments to report:
- In mid-January, the opponents to development plans for Bristol Bay submitted over 30,000 signatures from registered Alaska voters in support of two versions of what are called the Clean Water Initiatives. The Alaska Supreme Court is determining the constitutionality of these initiatives, and if one or both are deemed constitutional, then the voters in Alaska will have an opportunity to pass an initiative which would raise the standards for clean water protection in cases of new, large-scale mining projects. They wouldn’t absolutely stop Pebble or other mines in Bristol Bay, but many feel that the water quality standards would be set so high that it would be extremely difficult to advance these projects at this time. These initiatives are supported by sport fishermen, sport hunters, subsistence users, and commercial fishermen, as well as citizens from all across Alaska. If one or both of the initiatives make it to the ballot this fall, there will be an intense advertising campaign from both sides of the debate for the hearts and minds of Alaska voters. Read much more about the Clean Water Initiatives by visiting the Renewable Resources Coalition.
- Recent magazines which have covered the Bristol Bay situation include Sporting Classics, Wild on the Fly, American Angler, and Field & Stream. "Tony Dean Outdoors" also featured Bristol Bay in an episode of this television program which airs across the upper Midwest. The issue is moving from the realm of a concern to fly fishing to more of a general sportsperson issue, which is terrific news. We’ll keep working to get the word out. If you have an interest in covering this issue, just let me know. Several of the recent articles may be accessed by visiting the Latest News page on the SAA Web site.
- In February, a number of major jewelry retailers announced that they would not knowingly sell product which contained gold from the Pebble Mine. Tiffany & Co., Ben Bridge Jewelers, Helzberg Diamonds and others signed this pledge which received a lot of coverage in newspapers and business journals. The support for Bristol Bay and its renewable resources continues to add diversity and depth.
- The SAA has continued to add support for Bristol Bay conservation from the ranks of the sport fishing industry. The latest version of the Protect Bristol Bay advertisement is showing up in magazines. It features nearly 100 company logos and it can be viewed on the Latest News page on the SAA Web site. On a related note, after an initial trip to the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas in February, the interest in this issue from the sport hunting industry was strong. We are hoping to develop a similar project which will highlight the sport hunting resources of the region and include logos from major hunting product manufacturers. If your company wishes to be a part of these projects, please let me know. All I need is your logo and there is no charge to participate.
- For those of you with a soft spot for popcorn, there are a number of movies dealing with Bristol Bay available. Equilibrium by Castaway Films and River Poets by Fly on the Wall Travels were both official selections of the Fly Fishing Film Tour. Copies are available through the SAA (more news below) and they make a great tool for sharing the story of the Bristol Bay area with your family and friends. Also, the release of the lengthier documentary Red Gold by FeltSoul Media is nearing. This is one you won’t want to miss.
Tongass National Forest
The U.S. Forest Service released the Tongass Land Management Plan adjustment in late January. (Click here for the full Forest Service information.) While it is similar in many ways to the 1997 plan in the eventual outcome, it does utilize an adaptive management approach which buys additional time to find a more balanced resolution between conservation of critical fish and game habitat and timber production. The plan defers new logging and road-building in some of the most valuable fish and wildlife watersheds on the Tongass. However, the plan does not give permanent protection to many of these important areas. SAA is working with other groups to seek balanced forest management that recognizes all of the important values the Tongass provides to the people of southeast Alaska and visitors to the Tongass, including subsistence use of resources, hunting and fishing, recreation, and economic sustainability of local communities. Restoration of previously logged areas and methods to assist the timber industry in a transition to a second-growth harvest model will also continue to be priorities to pursue. SAA hopes to continue working collaboratively with other organizations, forest managers, and local communities to develop a science-based conservation strategy that balances habitat protection with local community needs, and find a practical way forward that delivers results for everyone who depends on the Tongass.
We are still awaiting word from the BLM on their decision to keep this massive arctic lake and wetland complex off-limits to oil development. Late last year, the SAA rallied sportsperson support and Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, the Pacific Flyway Council, International Wild Waterfowl Association, the Washington Brant Foundation, Izaak Walton League of America, and scores of state outdoor groups and individual hunters contacted the Department of Interior, asking for the protections at Teshekpuk Lake to remain in place. To see a slideshow about this area, visit the Field & Stream Web site by clicking here.
“What Can I Do To Help?”
This is probably one of the most common questions I receive from interested people. There are several things you can do:
- Write a letter to the Governor of Alaska about why you value the opportunities to fish and hunt in Alaska
- Honorable Sarah Palin
State of Alaska
P.O. Box 110001
Juneau, AK 99811-0001
- You may email the Governor by clicking here.
- Honorable Sarah Palin
- Ever consider how your investment portfolio may affect the Pebble Mine project? If you hold certain investments, you are passively supporting development of the Pebble project. Click here to see a list of mutual funds that hold stock in Northern Dynasty, Anglo-American, and Rio Tinto. If you are so inclined, ask your investment advisor to find funds with similar (or better!) returns that don’t hold these companies.
- Make a financial contribution. Funds are needed for additional outreach and public education both in Alaska and across the country. There are many ways you can put your money to work:
- Follow the Bristol Bay Conservation Fundraising Auction on eBay and bid to help raise money for the Bristol Bay campaign. The SAA Web site will include a special auction update page with a schedule of items to be auctioned as well as a tally of funds raised. Manufacturers and lodges have really stepped up with donations, and a lot of great rods, reels, other fishing gear, artwork, and fishing trips to Alaska, Chile, Belize, Canada, and Mexico are up for bid – so bid often!
- Purchase one of the new Abel Super 5N “No Pebble Mine” reels. Visit Abel’s Web site to purchase one of this limited edition of 100 reels. You can also make a donation to the Bristol Bay campaign from the Abel Web site. Proceeds from this special reel will benefit the SAA. Thanks very much to Abel for this fantastic project!
- There are still a few of the limited edition rod/reel/line combos available from Sage, Redington, and Rio. Click here for more information, and the link to purchase your package is at the bottom of the page. Thanks again to Sage, Redington, and Rio for this great offer!
- Write a check to the SAA or donate online by clicking here. Any amount is helpful (and will get you a new SAA decal), but we’ve got special offers for the following:
- $100 = VIP purchase card from Smith Optics. This will get you up to two pair of Smith sunglasses at a 50% discount through a special Smith online program. A limited number of these VIP cards are available, and they are first-come, first-served.
- $150 = VIP purchase card from Smith Optics (if quantities still available), plus your choice of Equilibrium or River Poets, the short documentary films about Bristol Bay.
- $250 = VIP purchase card from Smith Optics (if quantities still available), plus both of the Bristol Bay short documentaries – Equilibrium and River Poets.
SAA on the Road
After doing so much traveling during January, February, and March, I’m getting itchy feet being in my office most of April and May. Ok, that might be a stretch, but the SAA will be attending the following events over the summer and fall months. Stop by to visit, and I look forward to seeing you at one of these gatherings.
- European Fishing Tackle Trade Exposition – Rome, Italy (June 13-15). We are making the Bristol Bay situation an issue of global significance – which it deserves. Special thanks to our friends at Hardy & Greys who have arranged for a presentation to the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association board of directors and secured exhibit space for the SAA at this event.
- Outdoor Writers Association of America convention – Bismarck, N.D. (June 21-24)
- American Sportfishing Association ICAST show – Las Vegas, Nev. (July 16-18)
- Federation of Fly Fishers conclave – Whitefish, Mont. (July 24-26)
- Fly Fishing Retailer – Denver, Colo. (Sept. 14-16)
That will do it for this edition of the SAA newsletter. Look for the next quarterly newsletter update sometime in July. Until then, enjoy your summer activities and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.
Thanks for your continued interest and involvement in conserving Alaska’s fabulous fish and game resources and the lands and waters which support them.
Director – Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska