Hunters and anglers working together to preserve fish and game habitats and hunting and fishing opportunities on our public lands in Alaska.

In response to EPA’s final watershed assessment release

1,000+ sporting groups and businesses call on agency to follow the science and protect Bristol Bay’s fish and wildlife resourcesSAA

Scott Hed - Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska
(605)-351-1646 and

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 16, 2014

In response to EPA’s final watershed assessment release,
1,000+ sporting groups and businesses call on agency to follow the science and protect Bristol Bay’s fish and wildlife resources

Anchorage, AK – Yesterday’s release by the Environmental Protection Agency of the final Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment brought praise from a vast coalition of 1,048 sporting groups and businesses opposed to mining operations in the southwest Alaska region. The groups sent a letter (below) to the EPA today calling on the agency to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to finally protect this international fishing and hunting mecca and ensure it isn’t turned into a waste storage site for proposed massive mining operations.

Scott Hed, director of the Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska, emphasized the broad support for the conservation of the Bristol Bay region, stating, “Sportsmen and women from across the country have joined forces and worked for years to defend one of the planet’s finest sporting destinations. The EPA’s watershed assessment identifies the threats posed by massive mining proposals in the region, and hunters and anglers believe it is better to address these very serious concerns up front rather than wait until it may be too late.”

One of the largest and most diverse mobilizations of the sporting community in history, coalition members include a range of sporting conservation groups and trade associations including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Dallas Safari Club, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Trout Unlimited, Pope & Young Club, Federation of Fly Fishers, Conservation Force, American Sportfishing Association, and more. Many of the most recognizable brands in hunting and fishing products have expressed their wishes to protect Bristol Bay as well, including Sturm, Ruger & Co., Buck Knives, Filson, Orvis, Sage, Simms, Patagonia, and more than 150 others.

“Bristol Bay provides unmatched opportunities to fish and hunt because of its unique fisheries and wildlife habitat, and the related jobs and economy are sustainable and irreplaceable,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Development decisions that would impact them must be supported by the best available science. Now, the scientific community has weighed in on Bristol Bay and the impacts of a mine such as the proposed Pebble Mine via the watershed assessment, and its findings are clear: the EPA must protect Bristol Bay from large-scale mining operations and conserve these world-class natural resources.”

Dallas Safari Club Executive Director Ben Carter added, “The Dallas Safari Club has long supported wildlife and habitat conservation and hunting and fishing access in southwest Alaska. Mining plans put at risk the very habitat and opportunities we have fought to conserve. Without habitat there is no fish and game…it is that simple. We oppose any development in the Bristol Bay region that would jeopardize this critical ecosystem and urge the EPA to move from studying Bristol Bay to protecting it.”

“Like many of our partners in this effort, AFFTA and many of our member companies have been engaged for many years,” said Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “While we appreciate the opportunity to have participated in the watershed assessment process, we believe that the time for action is now. The science is in, and we strongly encourage EPA to act on this opportunity to protect one of the planet’s most productive fisheries as well as all of the jobs and businesses in Alaska and far beyond that depend on it.”

“This issue unites the complete spectrum of the sporting community,” Hed concluded. “When catch and release anglers and makers of fly rods and reels work in concert with big game hunters and firearm manufacturers, that’s a powerful set of interests – all in agreement that large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed is simply the wrong idea in the wrong place. The Obama administration has the rare opportunity to protect jobs, preserve vital hunting and fishing habitats, and secure its conservation legacy by permanently protecting Bristol Bay under the Clean Water Act. The science is clear; the time to act is now.”


For more information on the Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska visit:

For more information on today’s EPA announcement see the EPA's official Bristol Bay site.

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January 15, 2014

The Honorable Gina McCarthy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Mail Code 4101M
Washington, DC 20460

Cc:          President Barack Obama
                Sally Jewell, Secretary, Department of Interior
                Penny Pritzker, Secretary, Department of Commerce
                Nancy Sutley, Chair, Council on Environmental Quality
                Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Acting Administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
                Neil Kornze, Principal Deputy Director, Bureau of Land Management
                Jonathan Jarvis, Director, National Park Service
                Daniel Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
                Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works
                Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator from Alaska
                Mark Begich, U.S. Senator from Alaska

Dear Administrator McCarthy,

We, the undersigned hunting and angling organizations and businesses representing millions of sportsmen, outdoor recreation groups and related businesses, thank you and the EPA for finalizing the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. We are grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the public and transparent process to move this science-based study through its earlier drafts. The final Watershed Assessment and the science it is based on makes it abundantly clear that the proposed Pebble Mine is a risk that we simply cannot afford. We request immediate action from the EPA to protect the fish and wildlife resources of Bristol Bay.

Our 1,048 sporting conservation groups, businesses and trade associations are grateful for your personal visit to the Bristol Bay region in August 2013 and for your agency’s many visits leading up to and during the watershed assessment process. EPA’s effort to meet with the region’s local residents is greatly appreciated; as the world’s greatest wild sockeye salmon fishery is facing unprecedented threats from proposed development of a massive mining district. We write today to ask you to use all the tools at your disposal to protect a sport fishing and hunting destination that is unrivaled in America and perhaps the world, for this and future generations of sportsmen and women.

The proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay poses numerous significant and potentially long-lasting threats to one of the world’s foremost sport fishing and hunting regions. Specifically, fish habitat (including spawning and breeding grounds), wildlife habitat and recreational areas are all threatened by several hard rock mining proposals - most notably, the Pebble Mine. The potential impact from this type of activity could be severe. It is estimated that the Pebble Mine would produce between 2.5 and 10 billion tons of waste containing elements, such as copper and other heavy metals, that would threaten several fishery areas including spawning and breeding grounds for world-renowned populations of salmon.

If this project moves forward, these toxins would have to be contained and potentially treated in perpetuity - in an area of high seismic activity, which increases the risks tremendously. Because the Pebble property straddles the Kvichak and Nushagak river drainages – two of the most productive salmon systems on the planet - any release of this waste into the surface or groundwater has the potential to severely harm Bristol Bay’s salmon and the livelihoods of the sport fishing and hunting business owners, all of whom depend on them for their economic support.

Sport fishing in Bristol Bay generates $60 million annually; anglers looking for “once in a lifetime” experiences on rivers such as the Nushagak, Mulchatna, Koktuli and Kvichak support more than 800 full- and part-time jobs. Mining activity and increased development associated with mining will detrimentally impact these areas by direct impacts to fish and habitat. Development will also negatively impact opportunities for sport fishing and hunting operations in the area by diminishing the quality of the experience. Despite the remote nature of the region and the costs associated with traveling to it, on a yearly basis up to 65,000 visitors come to Bristol Bay for recreational opportunities to fish, hunt, and view wildlife. 

Former Interior Secretary Salazar and the Obama administration recognized that oil and gas development in this area is simply not worth the risk, and the same is true for mining operations in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. The fish and wildlife values in the region, its size and setting, and the national significance of its resources are, in the words of Secretary Salazar and President Obama, “a national treasure that we must protect." The risk to this national treasure is too great and the resource too unique and irreplaceable to allow the Pebble Project to continue forward.

While we thank you for completing an assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed to better understand how future large-scale development projects may affect Bristol Bay, it’s not enough. The science is in, and it’s irrefutable. Large-scale mining is simply incompatible with the renewable resource values found in Bristol Bay. The EPA has the authority under the Clean Water Act to invoke Section 404(c), which would give Bristol Bay the protection it needs from mining and other large-scale developments.

The undersigned organizations and businesses urge EPA to use its authority under Clean Water Act Section 404(c) to ensure that the waters and wetlands in the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed are not turned into waste disposal sites for mining operations. The EPA has an opportunity now to guarantee a future for Bristol Bay that will generate economic opportunities while also conserving sporting traditions for generations to come.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this process. We’ve been engaged in this effort for many years, and will not rest until Bristol Bay is protected. To that end, we look forward to working with the EPA and all federal agencies with an interest and role in the future of Bristol Bay’s tremendously productive lands and waters.


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