Archive for the ‘Bristol Bay’ Category

Agony and Slapstick in Kukak

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015
Agony and Slapstick in Kukak

As our group was gathering at the main lodge to head out for the morning, we heard the call come in from a radio in the kitchen: there was a sow and spring cubs out on a rocky point near where our boats waited for us to board. I recognized the voice of Perry, the manager and our host here at the Katmai Wilderness Lodge in Kukak Bay of Katmai National Park and Preserve.

Soon, I was following my fellow guests down the “Short Trail” to two boats waiting to take us out for a morning of wildlife viewing. There was a group of four friends from the United Kingdom, a couple from Israel, and Alaskan writer Nick Jans, there to get fresh experiences to write about for Alaska magazine and for my book, Where Water is Gold. As we walked, we overheard more updates on the radio that Angela, Perry’s wife, was carrying with her. It turns out there was not a sow, but a pair of potentially orphaned spring cubs. While we all continued in the same pace down to the beach, it was clear that the mood of some of us had changed.

As we arrived at the beach, we could see the cubs on the rocks down the shore. I climbed onboard the boat with Nick and the Brits, Perry cast us off and we headed over to view and photograph the cubs. At first, they appeared to be merely sunning on the rocks, cuddling together as cubs often do. After a while, they came to notice us and stirred a little bit, shifting their positions. We hovered off shore for a while, but no sow came to ensure that her cubs were safe, that we posed no threat. The discussion increasingly turned to the likelihood that they had been abandoned. The closer we got, the more they looked lethargic to me, somewhat thin, with seemingly sunken eyes. Perry assured me that their physical appearance was typical for young cubs. And while they perhaps may still be physically healthy, I could not help but see a sadness in them, a resignation that all they had was themselves.

Had these cubs been found almost anywhere else in Alaska, a call would have been placed to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. For safety reasons, it would be inadvisable to attempt to gather the cubs. But it would also be illegal under Alaska law to be in possession of wildlife without the appropriate permits. Then, the Department would likely have delivered the cubs to the Alaska Zoo, where they would have a temporary home until placed with some zoo or game reserve somewhere in the Lower 48.

But unfortunately for the cubs, they were found on lands managed by the National Park Service. The park service’s usual management practice is to manage for natural biological diversity and have a “hands off” approach to nature that precludes intervention. As we talked about the cubs’ predicament, I became increasingly saddened by what I was seeing before me. Adorable and vulnerable, isolated and alone, they continued to huddle together, shifting positions, seeking solace in each other. I wondered whether they would possibly be adopted by another sow, which has happened on rare occasions, even in this park. As we increasingly became convinced that we were watching the beginning of a slow death for these cubs, we decided to turn away and head out into the bay for the morning.

Later into the morning, further into the bay, we came across a three-year bear, who apparently was on his own for the first time. Soon, we came to realize that he had a companion; a young red fox. Over the next hour or so, we watched as the two played a bit of banter on the beach. The bear would settle in to chew on or play with some bit of trash on the beach – a tarp, a storage container – and the fox would linger nearby. When the bear wasn’t looking, the fox would get closer. The bear would pause and look at the fox, and they would both take a moment. The bear would move slowly, in a non-threatening way, toward the fox, and the fox would hold his position until the bear got really close, and then dart off. Later, the fox found an old shoe on the shore and chewed on it for a while until the bear came by and chased off the fox, only to take the shoe and chew on it for its own pleasure. Back and forth they went, like a comedy team playing out some sort of skit. At one point, while I was shooting video, I heard Nick say, “This beats the shit out of watching baby bear cubs starve to death.” I couldn’t agree more. For a full accounting of these two, read Nick’s piece in the September 2015 issue of Alaska Magazine.

After the two disappeared behind a hill, we continued along the shore, only to find a sow with two yearling cubs. They were scouring the beach, eating blue mussels and grasses. After some time, the sow moved down to the shore, checked the waters and slid in. For a swim. She headed straight out across the water, toward a shore maybe a mile away. She did not even look back to see if her cubs would follow. And she did not have to, because soon, they reluctantly headed out into the water after their mother. The sow seemed to have a steady lead on the cubs, but eventually they started to gain ground, catching her around halfway across.

She initially tried to shrug them off – they were getting a little big to catch piggy-back rides on mom these days. But the cubs were insistent; they were not going to let go. So mom kept them on and kept going. After a while, she began to tire. She tried to shrug them off again; this time, much more insistently. She threw them off, violently, growling and snapping at them. One of the cubs was shoved under the water, disappearing for a few seconds. It came back up, rejoining the struggle for life, with a mother fighting to stay alive even at the risk of killing her own children (who were in the process of killing her). But her desire to stay alive could not overcome her protective instinct; eventually, she relented, allowing the cubs to climb back on her back, shoving her down into the water, with her mouth barely above the waterline. It was time to turn back.

From our vantage point on the boat, the decision made no sense. It looked like the sow and cubs were already past the halfway mark – all she had to do was keep going to the other side and it would have been a shorter swim. There is no way to know what was going on inside her head, but she made up her mind and started the long, slow paddle back to the shore where they started. Her progress seemed imperceptible for a long time, as if she were paddling in place. Even at our distance of several hundred yards away, we could hear her grunting, hear the sound of water gurgling in her throat, hear the sounds of spitting as she struggled to keep the water out of her lungs. Either she or the cubs gave out periodic, loud huffs.

She kept a steady pace for some time, and it was clear she was making progress. But at some point, she must have realized that she could no longer bear the load. She made one last effort to expel the cubs from her back, force them off so she could survive to see land again. She succeeded in getting one of the cubs to get off and stay off – it swam ahead of its mother toward the shore. It made shore several minutes before its mother did, with sibling cub still clinging. Grunting, huffing, and struggling, the sow eventually made it to shore and all were reunited. From beginning to end, the ordeal lasted 45 minutes.

In the same day, we would encounter harbor seals with pups, including one pup who, when calling out to its mother, sounded just like it was saying “Mom!” All-in-all, a heart-wrenching, exciting, fun day of wildlife viewing; just the sort of thing that makes wildlife photography challenging and rewarding.

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Court Delivers Double-Whammy Over Pebble

Friday, May 29th, 2015
Court Delivers Double-Whammy Over Pebble

Today, the Alaska Supreme Court issued two decisions that will have far-reaching impacts about how the Department of Natural Resources conducts business in hard rock mineral exploration, and the ability of the State and others to chill opposition. While the two cases involved the Pebble Prospect exploration, neither will impact the development of that mine.


In 1988, Teck Cominco drilled the first exploration wells in what would become the 360 square-mile Pebble Prospect. By 2010, ownership of the Pebble claims would change hands from Teck Cominco to Northern Dynasty Minerals to the Pebble Limited Partnership. Collectively, those entities would drill some 1,269 core holes, some as deep as 7,000 feet, and deposit countless amounts of waste materials in unlined sump pits in this porous, water-rich area at the headwaters of the Talarik Creek/Kvichak River and Koktuli/Multchatna/Nushagak River systems in the Bristol Bay region. And all of this was conducted without a public process.

By 2009, Nunamta Aulukestai, an association of ten village corporations and ten tribal governments, and four plaintiffs – Rick Delkittie, Violet Willson, Bella Hammond, and Vic Fischer – had had enough. They filed suit against the State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources, claiming that the land use permits issued to Pebble for exploration were disposals of interests in land that required a public process according to article VIII, section 10 of the Alaska Constitution. Unlike oil and gas operations, which require a public interest determination by statute before any serious exploration begins, hard rock mineral exploration is exempt from such scrutiny.

After a two-week trial in December 2010, the plaintiffs in the case were delivered a devastating loss. The trial judge ruled that they had not shown that the exploration actions to date had caused environmental damage, and therefore they had not made their case. Under Alaska law, if a party files a suit based solely on constitutional grounds, they are exempt from paying the winning party’s attorneys fees and costs, unless the winning party can show that the plaintiffs had a “significant economic incentive.” In this case, both Pebble and the State sought to recover nearly $1 million in costs and attorneys fees from the plaintiffs, arguing that Nunamta and the other plaintiffs were merely proxies for the commercial fishing industry and thus had an economic interest. And in the process of trying to prove this economic interest, Pebble and the State went after both the non-profit law firm that represented the plaintiffs pro bono (Trustees for Alaska) as well as one of the private non-profit foundations that provided funding support to Trustees’ work.

DNR’s Practice of Allowing Unfettered Use of Land Without a Public Process

“This case is about process.”

The first of today’s decisions, Nunamta Aulukestai v. State of Alaska, addressed the merits of what the December 2010 trial addressed – whether the State was required to engage the public when authorizing permits that authorized immense disturbances to State lands. While the trial judge required the plaintiffs to enter a lengthy trial to provide evidence to prove that the lands and waters involved in the Pebble exploration had been damaged, the Alaska Supreme Court disagreed with that approach, noting that the issues presented were “primarily ones of law” and adding that, in the future, such issues should resolved without a full trial.

And what was that key legal issue? Whether or not the types of permits issues (called Miscellaneous Land Use Permits) were disposals of an interest in land requiring a public process under the Alaska Constitution. The State had argued that since the permits themselves indicated they could be revoked “at will,” they were not disposals. In considering that argument, the Court examined both the Alaska Land Act and the Public Notice Clause of the Alaska Constitution, and prior case law. The Court noted several facts of relevance. Evidence was presented that showed that Pebble had invested nearly $400 million at that point in the project. The State and Pebble had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding, whereby Pebble would reimburse the State for its expenses associated with issuing the permits. Additionally, Nunamta had presented evidence that Pebble feared damage to its return on investment. Finally, there was the perceived public importance of the exploration – how many jobs were at stake – and how that would deter DNR from ever revoking the permits. The Court concluded that, given this evidence “a state land manager could feel tremendous pressure not to revoke or refuse to renew” the permits in question, making it unlikely that DNR would revoke the permit.

The second issue the Court examined was whether, if a permit was revoked, the permittee could vacate the land without damaging or destroying the property. The Court recounted evidence of substantial waste product stored on the land,  and abandoned and core holes plugged with concrete and steel, which the Court determined would be structures that could not be removed. The Court added that the buried waste sumps were “lasting alterations of the land,” and that there was “potential for environmental damage primarily through pollution of groundwater by the toxic waste that has been disposed of on the land and by acid rock drainage.” In the end, these two factors – the unlikelihood that the State would revoke the permits and the longlasting impacts to the land – showed that the permits were functionally irrevocable and thus disposals of interest in land that required a public process.

And the plaintiffs should not have been required to prove that the land had already been damaged. Rather, it was up to the State to look prospectively. The Court noted the central question of the case was whether the State had a constitutional duty to give notice and consider the potential consequences of the permitted activity. The court noted that these questions were “not answered by an after-the-fact inquiry in which a private party is tasked with the burden of proving that substantial environmental damage has occurred.” Rather, the Court noted, “The State must know how it should act before it acts.” And if the State needs to assess potential environmental impacts, “the assessment must be made prospectively based on known and possibly known consequences.” That means, for example, if you know that acid rock drainage can occur as a result of hard rock mineral exploration, it must be considered. And if there is a duty to give notice and consider those potential consequences, the duty is not discharged simply because the activity may seem harmless in foresight. “The duties asserted are intended to facilitate public involvement and informed decision making, and to minimize environmental harm and damage to conflicting users.”

Since the public process associated with the best interest findings required for oil and gas operations is statutory, it is difficult to predict how the State will react to this decision. Will DNR develop some interim rules to incorporate the Court’s ruling? Or will there be a push in the next legislative session to provide statutory guidance for upland hardrock mineral exploration like there is for oil and gas? It is too early to tell.

No Chilling Citizen Lawsuits

The second case, Alaska Conservation Foundation v. Pebble Limited Partnership, could have even broader implications than whether the State has to provide public notice when it plans to authorize long term, potentially damaging use of public lands.

Under Alaska’s Civil Rule 82, the losing party typically has to pay costs and attorneys fees to the winning party in a civil lawsuit. But in its 1974 Gilbert v. State decision, the Alaska Supreme Court recognized a “public interest exception” to protect litigants who raise issues that are of public importance. But, the Alaska Legislature gutted that exception in 2003 by enacting what is now AS 09.60.010, which limited the protection to only claimants who raised constitutional claims. And that protection against paying costs and fees would go away if the losing party had a “sufficient economic incentive.”

And while Nunamta Aulukestai and the other plaintiffs pursued only constitutional claims in their key case, Pebble and the State claimed that no, their interest was not constitutional, but economic, and therefore they had to pay Pebble’s and the State’s costs and fees. Pebble and the State claimed that other parties who had economic interests were merely hiding behind the plaintiffs, pulling the strings. And they argued that protecting subsistence hunting and fishing was an economic interest. In an attempt to prove this, Pebble and the State pursued relentless post-trial discovery, going after Nunamta to disclose its members and sources of funding, looking for ties between its shareholders and commercial fishing and recreation industries, and going after individuals’ personal assets. These inquiries even went after Nunamta’s attorneys, Trustees for Alaska, and one of Trustees’ funding sources, the Alaska Conservation Foundation. And Pebble openly admitted that it was going after ACF because ACF had funded other organizations and efforts that sought to protect Bristol Bay.  And among the people that Pebble and the State pursued were Bella Hammond, former First Lady of Alaska, and Victor Fischer, one of the two surviving delegates of Alaska’s Constitutional Convention. In other words, Pebble and the State sought to silence plaintiffs who would challenge highly-financed activities like hard rock mineral exploration, as well as any attorneys that might dare to represent them and any one else who would provide funding support. Needless to say, such an assault, if successful, would have a substantial chilling effect on anyone who would want to challenge State actions in the future.

And yet, somehow, the trial court accepted Pebble’s arguments and ordered the discovery. Fortunately for future public interest litigants, the Alaska Supreme Court did not.

The Court noted that the “sufficient economic incentive” test can only be met when the case is brought “primarily to advance the litigant’s direct economic interest, regardless of the nature of the claim.” The Court noted that the trial court erred by reaching beyond the parties and the actual claims in the case to find there was an economic interest by Nunamta and the other plaintiffs. It was clear that the primary objective of the case was to raise constitutional claims about DNR’s permitting process. The Court stressed that party’s had to have a direct economic interest, and that even if there were a third party “pulling the strings,” even that party would have to have a direct economic interest. And even if commercial fishing interests were funding the litigation or other efforts to stop the Pebble development, the outcome of whether the Pebble permits were unconstitutional would not have any direct impact on commercial fishing.

And allowing a successful litigant to go after the funding for constitutional litigation “can lead easily to the wrong result.” The Court added that “there rarely, if ever, should be a situation where the economic interests of lawyers representing a constitutional claimant are relevant to AS 09.60.010.” Simply earning an attorney’s fee award cannot meet this standard, nor can the publicity or fundraising that such a case could generate.

Finally, the Court addressed the issue of whether the desire to protect the Bristol Bay area for subsistence hunting and fishing was a “sufficient economic incentive.” But Nunamta’s desires in the case focused on the public process and notice it desired for issuing the permits, not direct economic compensation; and the Court noted that protecting subsistence uses “is not sufficient economic incentive to bring a lawsuit.”

Thus, the end result of the two cases left the Alaska Supreme Court sending the case back to the trial court and ordering it to render judgment in favor of Nunamta Aulukestai and the other plaintiffs, and thus, also ordering the trial court to prepare to issue an order of attorney’s fees in favor of the plaintiffs. The case was filed in 2009, taking nearly six years to resolve. Unfortunately, two of the plaintiffs would not live to see this day. Violet Willson, the matriarch of a four-generation family of commercial fisherman (and herself a commercial fisherman for over 50 years), passed away on January 15. Bobby Andrew, who was a spokesperson for Nunamta Aulukestai and one of the elders who routinely made trips to London to speak out at Anglo-American shareholder meetings, passed away on May 12. But their legacy in this effort will live on to ensure that the State will act more responsibly in the future, and that if it doesn’t, the citizens of Alaska will still be protected when they fight to make sure the State lives up to its constitutional obligations.





Court Sees Value in Protecting Bristol Bay

Friday, January 30th, 2015
Court Sees Value in Protecting Bristol Bay

Before the Bristol Bay Forever Initiative was ever printed on statewide ballots, it had to defend a legal challenge from an individual named Richard Hughes, the Alaska Miner’s Association, and the Council of Alaska Producers. The Alaska Supreme Court issued an oral decision allowing that initiative to go to the ballot. Today, the Court issued a written order justifying its decision, Hughes v. Treadwell, Slip Op. No. 6981 (Alaska Supreme Court, Jan. 30, 2015).

In order for a citizen ballot initiative to be valid in Alaska, it must avoid certain prohibited topics.  Under Article XI, section 7, it may not engage in an appropriation or enact local or special legislation.  The Court spent most of the time in its written opinion explaining why the initiative does not violate the anti-appropriation requirement (13 pages of the opinion).  It’s all very interesting constitutional law, separation-of-powers stuff that I will spare sharing with you.

What I find most intriguing is the second part of the opinion, where the Court examines whether it is a prohibited local or special legislation. Under this part, the Court has designed a two-part test to determine if the initiative is local or special legislation: (1) consider “whether the proposed legislation is of general, statewide applicability,” and (2) if the initiative is not generally applicable, the Court considers whether the initiative nevertheless “bears a fair and substantial relationship to legitimate purposes.” In this case, the Court readily agreed that the proposed initiative was not of statewide applicability – by its very nature, it was limited to the scope of the 1972 legislation establishing the Bristol Bay Fishery Reserve. Thus, the question for the Court ultimately was whether the initiative had a relationship to a “legitimate purpose.” The Court handily concluded that indeed it did.

As with such opinions, the Court spent time reviewing Mr. Hughes’ arguments before the Superior Court, the Superior Court’s decision, and applicable precedent. There are several key aspects of this discussion worth noting. First, the Court noted: “The record in this case also indisputably establishes that the Bristol Bay watershed has unique ecological, geographic, and economic characteristics; that the fishery has significant statewide importance; and that metallic sulfide mining poses potential water quality risks.” Referring to Mr. Hughes’ own economics expert, the Court observed that several factors “distinguish Bristol Bay from the state’s other salmon producing regions and also show its significance to the state as a whole.” The Court also referred to a University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research study showing that the Bristol Bay sockeye fishery “is the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery, and typically supplies almost half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon.”

In conclusion, the Court noted that  “Bristol Bay’s unique and significant biological and economic characteristics are of great interest not just to the Bristol Bay region but to the state as a whole” and that the purpose of the Bristol Bay Forever Initiative — “to protect ‘Bristol Bay wild salmon and waters’ — is legitimate.”

Let us hope that this consideration of the value of the Bristol Bay fishery will translate well into the Court’s next unique issue to address in Bristol Bay, a case that has been going now for almost six years – Nunamta Aulukestai et al. v. State of Alaska. In that case, Nunamta Aulukestai, a coalition of Bristol Bay Tribes, along with some key individuals like Rick Delkitte of Nondalton, Violet Willson of Naknek and Vic Fischer (one of two surviving members of the Alaska Constitutional Convention delegation), filed suit against the State of Alaska for allowing over 20 years (now 26 years) of exploration of the Pebble Prospect with little or no public process. Their case argued that there should be a “public interest determination,” like there is with the oil and gas industry, before massive mineral exploration projects like Pebble can commence. The case lost in Superior Court following a lengthy trial in December 2010. The parties argued their case before the Alaska Supreme Court in December 2013, and expect a decision any day now.


A Loss for Bristol Bay

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
A Loss for Bristol Bay

My very first trip to Bristol Bay to do fieldwork for my “Where Water is Gold” project started in Naknek. From there, I had to catch a ride on an Ocean Beauty tender to meet up with Everett Thompson and the F/V Chulyen down in the Ugashik District to photograph commercial sockeye salmon fishing in action. While in Naknek, I stayed at A Little House Bed and Breakfast. It was there that I first met Violet Willson, who I soon came to consider my Alaskan grandma. I learned today that she passed away on January 15.

My paternal grandmother was Edna Johnson, a full-blooded German who married a Norweigian from a farm family in North Dakota. When you went to visit grandma, there was nothing she would not do for you. She reveled in the joy of cooking and telling stories, frequently insisting that even though you may have been full, there was still more food to eat. And then there were the card games. As a kid, my favorite was “Go Fish.” I eventually outgrew the simplicity of the game, but still insisted on playing it with grandma. It was part of being with her.

Being with Violet was very much the same. Calling her place a bed and breakfast was far too underwhelming for what the place really was. It was home. Once inside its walls, you were family. She told me of her family history, her early years working as a Winter Watchman at the old Bumble Bee Cannery across the river in South Naknek, raising her five children – mostly after the death of her first husband, Guy Groat. Whenever I was in the house, I was welcome at the table for every meal. If a card game was in the offering, I was invited to the table. Most often the game was Rummy, which I had not played since I was in the Navy. I’d sit with her and watch the evening news, she’d tell me about the family represented in the wall of photos behind her chair in the living room. And those photos were just scratching the surface; her family and living history were represented in countless photo albums. The last time I visited her, I brought a stack of prints I made out of photos I had taken of her family fishing their set net sites or out on drift boats – four generations of fishermen – and photos of Naknek.

In addition to being my Alaskan grandma, she was also a fighter. She appeared in several video specials or documentaries regarding Bristol Bay and the fight to defeat development of the Pebble Mine. She was also a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against the State of Alaska over its permitting Pebble exploration for over 20 years without a public process. The case, called Nunamta Aulukestai v. State of Alaska, went to trial in December 2010. The plaintiffs lost, and pressed on with an appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court. Even though oral arguments were heard on that case in December 2013, the decision has not yet been released. It is expected any day.

I am so saddened for the people of Naknek and the Bristol Bay community for losing such an advocate for subsistence, a matriarch in the commercial fishing world, a part of history, and a revered elder. I cannot think of anyone I know who has spent any time in Naknek who does not know Violet. But I am also saddened that I will never see her again, that any future visits to Naknek will simply not be the same.

2014: A Review in Pictures

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
2014: A Review in Pictures

I always enjoy a mixture of the new and the familiar in a year of exploring the natural world with my camera. The year 2014 did not disappoint in that regard.

After a robust 2013 of doing fieldwork for my Bristol Bay project, “Where Water is Gold,” I really ramped down my fieldwork in 2014. The funding for my fieldwork was pretty much spent, and I had accomplished most of what I needed to capture this incredibly resource-rich and culturally vibrant region. I passed over 1,500 images off to the book publisher, Braided River, and proceeded to work hard with them on production fundraising. I managed to help secure some $20,000 in funding, nearly half of our production budget. So, I only did one dedicated trip for this project in 2014 – a winter visit to the village of Igiugig, at the headwaters of the Kvichak River on Lake Iliamna. But, there was one moment of happenstance  while strolling Pike Place Market in Seattle in early August – sighting an Ocean Beauty Seafood truck making a fresh delivery of Alaskan wild sockeye salmon to the market. All I had was my iPhone 5, and I managed to capture a shot that completes the story that started with catching the salmon on an Ocean Beauty-affiliated drift boat (the F/V Chulyen) in the summer of 2011. And you bet that even though it is a phone shot, it is going in the book! I also added a little Bristol Bay fieldwork right here in Anchorage by photographing Monica Zappa, the Iditarod rookie musher who set out as part of her ongoing efforts, Mushing to Save Bristol Bay!

It was also another good year for chasing the aurora borealis. While there was no single display that truly matched the awe-inspiring craziness of the St. Patrick’s Day display in 2013, there were many shows that provided exceptional photo opportunities. But I also captured the aurora in more diverse locations than in previous years: Wiseman, Chandlar Shelf, Dalton Highway, Parks Highway, Denali Highway, Kiana, Kotzebue, Denali National Park & Preserve, Hatcher Pass, Turnagain Arm and Portage Valley. Some of those are some of my standard spots, but others were new.

Related to that, I spent some time scouting locations to conduct future aurora borealis tours and workshops. One location I checked was the vicinity of Glennallen, at the junction of the Glenn and Richardson Highways. Another was the vicinity of Wiseman and to the north along the Dalton Highway. From those trips, I have scheduled my first aurora borealis tour, with more to come in 2016. I also scouted the Tutka Bay Lodge for a future summer macro and landscape photo workshop.

Michelle and I also made our biennial trek to the Hawaiian Islands, stopping first on the Island of Hawaii to visit CJ Kale and Nick Selway, and see their new Lava Light Galleries location at the Queen’s Shops at Waikaloa. CJ and Nick were gracious hosts as we explored surf, sunsets and Pele on the Big Island. We also brought them a case of Midnight Sun Brewery flavors, recalling their love for that brewery when they came to visit the previous year. After spending a few days with the Lava Boys, we headed over for a ten-day visit to the Island of Kauai, our new favorite of the islands. We split up our time between the north and south shores, taking in a visit to the Koloa Rummery, doing some aerial tours, snorkeling, hiking, and testing various Mai Tai recipes. (CJ later helped us to make the perfect Mai Tai when he came to visit Alaska later in the year.) An attempt to delve into serious underwater photography was foiled when I dropped my Nikon D800E on its back on the first day of shooting on the Big Island, forcing me to use the camera without the benefit of the LCD.

The other big photo outing in 2014 involved eight days in Denali National Park & Preserve, operating on a Professional Photographer Special Permit to use my own vehicle on the road system. I was joined in the first half of the trip by CJ Kale, and by Nick Selway in the second half of the trip. We were able to see and photograph just about everything you would want to in the park, and more: all five of the “Big Five” animals – wolf, Dall sheep, brown bear, caribou and moose; Denali (Mt. McKinley) at sunrise and at night; marvelous fall colors and aurora borealis deep within the park. The creative freedom offered by being able to drive within the park, at all times of the day, led to some incredible results.

Mixed in there were various visits in locations around Southcentral Alaska and to Olympic National Park, Washington.

Coming up next year … more familiar and some new. I will take advantage of the incredible forecast for the sockeye salmon returns in Bristol Bay (at least 50% greater return than next year) to squeeze in a few more trips out to Bristol Bay for the book. I will return to Wiseman in the spring to scout locations for a future spring workshop, and go there in late August for my aurora borealis photo tour. And for the new – a summer trip to Iceland to start a multi-year project to photograph the circumpolar Arctic.

To see a selection of my top 2014 images, visit my 2014 Year in Review gallery. Here is a teaser of what you will find there.

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EPA Proposes Limiting Size, but not Stopping, Pebble Mine

Friday, July 18th, 2014
EPA Proposes Limiting Size, but not Stopping, Pebble Mine

The EPA has released a “Proposed Determination” as to how it plans to exercise its authority under the Clean Water Act, Section 404(c), regarding the development of the Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska. Le’t be clear – the EPA is not proposing that construction of the Pebble Mine be prohibited. It is merely proposing that it be limited in scope.

As with its prior documents, the newly-released Proposed Determination has a lot of background information that you have to wade through before you get to the meat of the document. As they say in the journalism business, the EPA seriously buries the lead. This background information details the geographic features of the region, the sockeye salmon habitat and population (as well as other salmon species), the source documents for the EPA assessment, the anticipated size of the Pebble Mine as proposed by Northern Dynasty Minerals, and the final watershed assessment. The EPA also details its legal authority under the Clean Water Act to take the proposed action, and the steps it has followed pursuant to that authority.

The EPA then notes that the “proposed geographic boundaries of the potential disposal site are the waters within the mine claims held by [Northern Dynasty Minerals] subsidiaries, including [Pebble Limited Partnership], that fall within the SFK, NFK, and UTC watersheds.” Those initials stand for South Fork Koktuli, North Fork Koktuli (both of which feed into the Koktuli River, which feeds into the Mulchatna River, which feeds into the Nushagak River and Bristol Bay), and Upper Talarik Creek (which feeds into Lake Iliamna, then the Kvichak River then Bristol Bay). In the executive summary, the EPA notes, “To protect important fishery areas in the SFK, NFK, and UTC watersheds from unacceptable adverse effects, EPA Region 10 recognizes that losses of streams, wetlands, lakes, and ponds and alterations of streamflow each provide a basis to issue this Section 404(c) proposed determination.”

But the scope of the proposed protection is very narrow in that it is only directed at the construction of the mine, not the operation of the mine. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act deals with wetlands and physical impacts to waterways, not with contamination to waterways. Contamination is governed by the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, or NPDES. The EPA has transferred NPDES permitting authority to the State of Alaska, which hasn’t met a large-scale mine it didn’t like. But it is the likelihood of contamination to the watershed that presents the greatest, most long-lasting threat to Bristol Bay as a result of developing the Pebble Mine. And such contamination would be controlled by the terms of a NPDES permit. Yet addressing that threat is not part of the EPA’s proposed action, and is left to state control.

As the EPA notes in the executive summary,

This evaluation does not include footprint impacts associated with all of the components necessary to construct and operate such a mine (e.g., a major transportation corridor, pipelines, a power-generating station, wastewater treatment plants, housing and support services for workers, administrative offices, and other infrastructure). It also does not rely upon impacts resulting from potential accidents and failures as a basis for its findings. There is a high likelihood that wastewater treatment plant failures would occur, given the long management horizon expected for the mine (i.e., decades). There is also real uncertainty as to whether severe accidents or failures, such as a complete wastewater treatment plant failure or a tailings dam failure, could be adequately prevented over a management horizon of centuries, or even in perpetuity, particularly in such a geographically remote area subject to climate extremes. If such events were to occur, they would have profound ecological ramifications. By not relying on potential accidents and failures, EPA Region 10 has employed a conservative analysis of adverse effects.

So, what does the EPA propose? A smaller Pebble Mine. Again, from the executive summary:

Accordingly, the Regional Administrator proposes that EPA restrict the discharge of dredged or fill
material related to mining the Pebble deposit into waters of the United States within the potential
disposal site that would, individually or collectively, result in any of the following.

1. Loss of streams
a. The loss of 5 or more linear miles of streams with documented anadromous fish5 occurrence; or
b. The loss of 19 or more linear miles of streams where anadromous fish are not currently
documented, but that are tributaries of streams with documented anadromous fish occurrence;
2. Loss of wetlands, lakes, and ponds. The loss of 1,100 or more acres of wetlands, lakes, and ponds
contiguous with either streams with documented anadromous fish occurrence or tributaries of
those streams; or
3. Streamflow alterations. Streamflow alterations greater than 20% of daily flow in 9 or more linear
miles of streams with documented anadromous fish occurrence.

Thus, the EPA proposes that it will not authorize Section 404 (wetlands discharge, dredge or fill) permits for a mine whose initial construction size and operation would cause damage greater than these restrictions. Can a Pebble Mine be built that can conform to these parameters? I am sure that the folks at the Pebble Limited Partnership will find a way to say that they can. If, as one person I spoke to suggested, the Pebble Mine did not use a tailings impoundment but instead shipped all waste out via the road corridor to waiting barges at a deep water port in Cook Inlet, then the Pebble Mine would be even less restricted in scope as it would not need a “disposal site” within the defined geographic area. It could also avoid the defined geographic area by constructing the tailings facility somewhere else nearby that was not within the SFK, NFK or UTC areas. Additionally, this determination affects primarily the proposed open pit, not the underground portion of the mine design. Pebble could start with a smaller open pit, mine it completely, remediate it, and then start another pit to continue mining in a scaled approach.

And that’s the real crux of the proposed action by the EPA. Unlike what so many people were hoping for, the EPA is not proposing scuttling the Pebble Mine development, just making it smaller or changing its design. It could still be built and ultimately contaminate the sensitive watershed that produces half of the world’s sockeye salmon supply.


A Tale of Two Senators

Thursday, June 12th, 2014
A Tale of Two Senators

In May 2011, I had the pleasure of traveling to Washington, D.C. with my wife Michelle in order to attend the opening reception for the 2010 Windland Smith Rice International Awards Photo Exhibition, on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. In advance of that trip, I made sure to schedule visits with both of my U.S. Senators – Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski. As part of the scheduling process, I explained to them why I was going to be in the District of Columbia – my winning image in the “Environmental Issues” category of a set of snow-impacted wolf prints on the frozen North Fork of the Koyukuk River in Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, a piece entitled “Wolf Tracks on Ice.” I did not tell them the story of why this image was submitted in the Environmental Issues category – that these wolf tracks were a metaphor for disappearing wolf populations as a result of aggressive predator control measures – because I thought it would be too political for either of their comfort.

As the timing turned out, my visits with both Senators were scheduled for the same day – the day of the reception. I met first with Senator Begich in the late morning. When I arrived, at least three of the staff engaged me and Michelle, asking questions about my award and talking about Alaska. They offered us some coffee and invited us to a tour of the Capitol building following the meeting with Senator Begich. And while we had to wait a little while  – the Senator was off voting on something – they made us feel welcome and continued to engage us. When the Senator arrived, we went into his conference room and sat down with another Alaskan and her family who were visiting. We all sat around the table and chatted a while about why each of us was in D.C. After a while, we each took turns taking photos with the Senator. Following the meeting, as promised, one of the staff took us on a tour of the Capitol building. He even gave us tickets so that we could sit in the galley of the Senate and watch the proceedings. Later, staff visited the Smithsonian to see my photo on display there and even posted it to the Senator’s Facebook page (and they were cognizant and considerate enough to ask my permission to post an image of my photo).

Our meeting with Senator Murkowski was later in the afternoon. We arrived at her office, I identified myself and that I had an appointment with the Senator, and then we sat down in the reception area. We looked at the art on the walls, we looked at what kind of books were on the shelves, what sort of magazines were on the table. Occasionally the receptionist looked up at us, then back to what she was doing. No one asked us questions. No one engaged us. No one offered us something to drink. No one explained to us why we were waiting well past the appointment time with the Senator. As it turned out, she was meeting with a gaggle of lobbyists. After waiting for a while, the door to the inner sanctum opened and out poured a group of five or six lobbyists in suits, chuckling and chatting away with Senator Murkowski as she emerged with them. Parting words and sentiments were shared and they were on their way. Michelle and I were then invited back to join the Senator, we had a brief chat (with little or no discussion of my photo), and took pictures – one set with just me and one with me and Michelle. They only took one shot of each – and the one with Michelle is no good because her eyes were closed. We were then sent on our way. The only follow up to the meeting was delivery of the prints of the photos.

These two experiences understandably left me with a very different perspective on the values, interests and concerns of these two Senators.

These personal interactions highlighting differences between the Senators have also been replicated in a key Alaskan policy issue that is important to me: the fate of the Bristol Bay region. Bristol Bay is an amazing watershed that provides 50% of the world’s sockeye salmon and has been a focus of mine for the last three years, where I have been doing fieldwork for my upcoming book Where Water is Gold: Life and Livelihood in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. When several regional Tribes petitioned the EPA to protect the area under the Clean Water Act, Section 404(c), the people of Alaska waited to see how its U.S. Senators would respond. People pushed Senator Begich to take a stand to protect the Bristol Bay watershed from the development of the Pebble Mine. He delayed, noting that he wanted to wait for the results of the EPA’s scientific watershed assessment (which began in 2011) before taking a position. But once that final watershed assessment was published in January 2014, he came out in opposition to the development of the mine. In contrast, when the final watershed assessment was released, Senator Lisa Murkowski issued a statement asserting that the EPA’s involvement was a “preemptive veto” that would set a “terrible precedent.”

To be clear, however you phrase it, a “preemptive veto” is precisely what the Clean Water Act, Section 404(c) authorizes. Here is Section 404(c) in full:

The Administrator is authorized to prohibit the specification (including the withdrawal of specification) of any defined area as a disposal site, and he is authorized to deny or restrict the use of any defined area for specification (including the withdrawal of specification) as a disposal site, whenever he determines, after notice and opportunity for public hearings, that the discharge of such materials into such area will have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas), wildlife, or recreational areas. Before making such determination, the Administrator shall consult with the Secretary. The Administrator shall set forth in writing and make public his findings and his reasons for making any determination under this subsection.

So, the key phrases to notice are “authorized to prohibit” and “deny or restrict” using an area as a disposal site … when the “discharge of such materials” would have an “unacceptable adverse effect on … fishery areas.” The law also requires notice and opportunity for public hearings. The EPA conducted numerous public hearings in 2012 and 2013, and has even given additional notice to the Pebble Limited Partnership of additional public hearings following the release of the final watershed assessment.

Sometime after Senator Murkowski complained that it would be improper for the EPA to issue a “preemptive veto” of the Pebble Mine, someone on her staff must have actually read Section 404(c) and realized that, yes, Congress did authorize the EPA to do such a thing. Well, if Congress has authorized an agency to do a specific thing, how do you stop the agency from doing what Congress has authorized? You get Congress to de-authorize it. Hence, Senator Murkowksi became a co-sponsor of the Orwellian “Regulatory Fairness Act of 2014.” The bill, if passed, would strip the EPA of the specific authority granted in Section 404(c). From 1980 to 2010, the EPA has invoked Section 404(c) only 13 times – 11 times during Republican administrations (Carter’s EPA invoked it once and Obama’s EPA invoked it in 2010). Given that no effort was made to strip the EPA of its Section 404(c) power in its prior uses, it’s clear that the purpose of the “Regulatory Fairness Act” is to ensure the development of the Pebble Mine.

But these are just my own observations, based on personal experience and reflecting on a specific policy choice where I have invested time and energy. Don’t just take my opinion that these two Senators have vastly different world views, take it also from the League of Conservation Voters. On their National Environmental Scorecard, the LCV viewed votes on 13 different bills in the Senate and gave the two Senators very divergent scores. For Senator Begich, both his 2013 score and his lifetime score are 77% – that’s consistency. But for Senator Murkowski, her most recent score was 38%, a dramatic improvement from her lifetime 21% score. In either case, it’s still a failing grade and her votes went against several issues that impact Alaskans – climate change, clean water (no-show on the vote), the confirmation of the EPA Administrator, and subsidizing the oil industry.

And some people say that all Senators are alike.

Wilderness Forever Semi-Finalist Selections

Friday, January 17th, 2014
Wilderness Forever Semi-Finalist Selections

On September 3, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act into law. The law would establish the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) and create the highest classification of protection for Federal public lands – “wilderness.” It recognized wilderness as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” It further defined wilderness – for purposes of the NWPS – as an area “retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.”

Currently, there are 757 wilderness areas in the NWPS – over 109 million acres in 44 states, totaling only about 5% of the total land area of the United States.  The largest addition of acreage to the national wilderness system came in 1980, with the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Then, President Jimmy Carter added over 56 million acres in national park and national wildlife refuge lands to the NWPS. Today, Alaska’s share of wilderness constitutes some 56% of the total acreage of the NWPS.

So, when Nature’s Best Photography magazine announced that it was conducting a photo competition to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, I knew I would have an advantage given my own photography of wilderness areas in Alaska. My two chief photography projects in the last six years have involved two wilderness areas: Lake Clark Wilderness and Gates of the Arctic Wilderness. So, when the call came out for submissions to the “Wilderness Forever” competition, I looked to my images from those two areas. Why? Both included some of my most recent wilderness photography work, and they included areas that would not likely be included in submissions by other photographers.

I learned this week that five of my images – three from Lake Clark and two from Gates of the Arctic  – have been selected as semi-finalists in the Wilderness Forever competition. As an interesting side note, the three Lake Clark images were all taken during the same trip to the Twin Lakes region in June 2013, and all of the Gates of the Arctic images were from the same trip in early March 2010. Out of 5,500 submissions, they narrowed down the pool to 300 images in the semi-final round of judging. Winning images will be included in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.  Here’s hoping for a trip to D.C. for the exhibit opening in September!

Feature in National Parks Magazine

Friday, January 17th, 2014
Feature in National Parks Magazine

In December 1980, in the final days of his administration, President Jimmy Carter signed into law what is commonly known as the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). A work in progress for nearly a decade, since the 1971 passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, ANILCA is perhaps the most significant single piece of conservation legislation in the history of this country. In a post-ANILCA world, Alaska now possesses approximately 70% of all national park lands in the United States and some 85% of national wildlife refuge lands. In a related note, Alaska now possesses some 56% of all lands designated as wilderness in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Aside from creating several entirely new national parks and expanding the boundary of some existing parks, as well as creating several new national wildlife refuges, Title VIII of ANILCA also established a rural subsistence priority for the harvest of fish and wildlife on federal public lands in Alaska. What exactly does that mean? Let’s break that down into a few components.  First, the term “subsistence” refers to a traditional way of life where primary food sources are fished, caught, hunted or gathered – everything from the traditional gillnet harvest of salmon to collecting berries, eggs and edible plants, to the hunting of moose and caribou. Second, Congress indicated that the term “rural” would refer to those smaller communities and remote locations that were places other than the larger urban areas of Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and some other communities. Third, the “priority” would be in place in those times where there is a shortage of the resource and decisions need to be made as to who gets the first (or only) opportunity to harvest – commercial and sport users would have to give way to the subsistence harvest of rural residents. Finally, the “federal public lands” would include most of those new lands created in ANILCA (but exclude the core original parts of some of those existing parks that were expanded, like Denali and Katmai).

In its Winter 2014 issue of National Parks, the National Parks Conservation Association has published an article highlighting the impact of ANILCA on the subsistence way of life for rural Alaskans. I am pleased to note that three of my images, including the opening double-page spread, are included in the article.  All of the images were captured in or near Lake Clark National Park & Preserve and were captured as part of the fieldwork for my upcoming book, “Where Water is Gold: Life and Livelihood in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.”


Media coverage of EPA’s final Bristol Bay watershed assessment

Thursday, January 16th, 2014
Media coverage of EPA's final Bristol Bay watershed assessment

Normally, I would use this blog to engage in my own reflections on photography or tell stories about being out in the field.  But, with the release of the EPA’s Final Assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed assessment, I think I will just sit back and reflect on the extensive coverage being offered by other sources.

Before allowing you to examine the coverage yourself, I will add one point of criticism.  I am sick and tired of “He Said, She Said” reporting; that is, when a reporter merely regurgitates what one side says and what the other side says about an issue. This is particularly true regarding the release of this report, where you have an article saying the pro-Pebble side objects to the hypothetical mine scenario and the EPA says is relied on a Northern Dynasty preliminary mine design.  Why the heck don’t these reporters actually look at the Northern Dynasty report for themselves and conduct their own analysis? Grrrr.


Bristol Bay salmon: EPA warns of threat from mining

Christian Science Monitor 
A government report indicates a large-scale copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region could have devastating effects on the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and adversely affect Alaska Natives, whose culture is built around salmon.

EPA Says Northern Dynasty Pebble Project May Harm Alaska Salmon

Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. (NDM)’s proposed Pebble copper and gold mine in Alaska may threaten the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency final assessment. Depending on the project’s size and 

EPA sees damage to Bristol Bay if mining proceeds Hastings doc requests cost 

With help from Darius Dixon, Erica Martinson and Talia Buford. EPA SEES DAMAGE TO BRISTOL BAY IF MINING PROCEEDS: Mining activity in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region has the potential to destroy miles of salmon stream habitat, disrupt Alaska Native 

Mine threatens salmon, native cultures: agency

Oman Daily Observer
Large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses serious risks to salmon and native cultures in this pristine corner of southwest Alaska, the US Environmental Protection Agency said in a report released on Wednesday. The EPA said a mine could 

EPA: Huge Alaska mine ‘poses risks’ to Bristol Bay salmon

Seattle Post Intelligencer (blog) 
An enormous open-pit copper and gold mine, proposed near headwaters of two salmon-rich rivers, “poses risks” to Bristol Bay’s half-billion-dollar sockeye salmon fishery, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a final assessment of the proposed 

EPA report criticizes Alaska mine plan

Los Angeles Times 
SEATTLE — The largest open-pit mine in North America, proposed for Alaska’s wild and remote Bristol Bay region, would have a devastating effect on the world’s biggest sockeye salmon fishery and the Alaska Natives and fishermen who depend on it, 

Alaska mine threatens salmon, native cultures -US agency

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses serious risks to salmon and native cultures in this pristine corner of southwest Alaska, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a report released on Wednesday.

EPA Critical of Alaska Pebble Mine Project

Wall Street Journal 
WASHINGTON—The Environmental Protection Agency released its final report Wednesday on the potential effects of a proposed mining operation in Alaska’s Bristol Bay area, saying that the Pebble Mine could have “significant” adverse effects on salmon 

EPA: Mining would destroy fishery, villages, part of watershed in Alaska’s Bristol 

Washington Post
A large-scale mining operation in Alaska’s Bristol Bay would destroy a significant portion of the watershed, a pristine fishery that supports nearly half the world’s sockeye salmon and dozens of Native villages that have relied on fishing for thousands of years, 

Alaska’s Bristol Bay Region could be devastated by mining, EPA report finds

The Guardian 
Alaska mining A worker with the Pebble Mine project test drills in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska near the village of Iliamma, Alaska. Photograph: AL Grillo/AP. A large-scale gold and copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region would devastate the world’s 

Northern Dynasty Acknowledges Completion of EPA’s Flawed Bristol Bay 

Wall Street Journal
VANCOUVER, Jan. 15, 2014 /CNW/ – Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. (TSX: NDM; NYSE MKT: NAK) (“Northern Dynasty” or the “Company”) acknowledges that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released the final version of its Bristol Bay 

A big test for Obama on the environment

Washington Post
It’s now common knowledge that, with one party in the grip of climate denialism, the best chance for serious action on climate change during Obama’s second term will be using the federal bureaucracy via executive action. The EPA in particular is the key 

EPA: Large-scale mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region could harm salmon 

Washington Post
JUNEAU, Alaska — EPA: Large-scale mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region could harm salmon, Alaska Natives. Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. A worker 

1000+ sporting groups and businesses call on the EPA to follow the science and 

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Jan. 16, 2014 /NEWS.GNOM.ES/ – 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 

Grim Picture Painted by Final EPA Assessment of Mining in Bristol Bay

Hatch Magazine 
The long awaited final scientific assessment of the potential impacts from large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska was released earlier this week by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The pictured painted by the assessment is a 

EPA: “Alaska Gold” Mine a Threat to Salmon Fisheries

A large-scale copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed area would endanger the world’s largest sockeye salmon fisheries and the Alaska Native communities that depend on them, according to a final assessment released this week by the 

EPA Says Pebble Mine Could Devastate Bristol Bay Salmon Fishery

Earth Island Journal 
Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency released its final study of the impacts of large-scale mining, including the proposed Pebble Mine, on Alaska’s Bristol Bay. The science is clear. Mining the Pebble deposit will have severe and lasting 

Pebble mine poses risks to Bristol Bay salmon, EPA concludes

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its final Bristol Bay Assessment describing potential impacts to salmon and ecological resources from proposed large-scale copper and gold mining in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The report, titled An 

EPA: Pebble mine poses significant risk to salmon

Anchorage Daily News 
FILE- In this July 13, 2007 file photo, a worker with the Pebble Mine project test drills in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska near the village of Iliamma, Alaska. An EPA report indicates a large-scale copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region could have 

EPA: Mining Activity in Alaskan Watershed Harmful to Wildlife

National Journal 
An environmental assessment released Wednesday concludes that industrial-scale mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay Watershed would endanger native species.(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Getty Images). Clare Foran. By Clare Foran · Follow on Twitter.

US EPA publishes ‘final chapter in very sad story’ – Northern Dynasty

Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly
TORONTO ( – The proponent of one of the largest undeveloped minerals resources left in the world, on Thursday said US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final version of its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA) was “really 

EPA Critique Of Pebble Copper-Gold Mine Draws Praise, Blame From 

International Business Times
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has signed off on a key scientific report that says a potential giant Alaskan copper and gold mine poses serious environmental and ecological threats. Environmentalists hailed the EPA document while industry 

Agency concludes mining would hurt Alaskan salmon

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded that Alaskan salmon would suffer if a mine were to be dug in Bristol Bay. There is a large deposit of copper and gold in the Bristol Bay watershed, known as the Pebble Deposit. Northern Dynasty 

Climate Change Wakes the Dead, Big Blow to Alaska’s Pebble Mine, WV Water 

OnEarth Magazine 
Final assessment: The Environmental Protection Agency released its long-awaited assessment of the ecological impact of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay yesterday. Basically, the EPA says the massive pit mine would “erase” up to 94 miles 

EPA: Pebble Mine Means ‘Long-Term Risk To Salmon, Wildlife, And Native 

This June. 12, 2003 photo provided by the Bureau of Land Management shows a stream flowing through the Bristol Bay, Alaska watershed. CREDIT: AP Photo/Bureau of Land Management. On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency released what 

Large-Scale Copper and Gold Mining In Bristol Bay Poses Major Risks, EPA Finds

Bloomberg BNA
Jan. 15 — A large-scale copper and gold mine operation in Bristol Bay, Alaska, poses significant near- and long-term risks to the region, an Environmental Protection Agency assessment released Jan. 15 found. The assessment found large-scale mining 

Jewelers, Fisherman Urge EPA to Safeguard Bristol Bay

RAPAPORT… The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final report on Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, where the proposed Pebble gold and copper mine is located, and concluded that mineral extraction could have a devastating impact on 

Gold And Copper Mining Plan In Alaska Would Destroy The World’s Largest 

Business Insider 
Sockeye salmon are seen in Bristol Bay, Alaska, in an undated handout picture provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A large-scale gold and copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region would devastate the world’s largest salmon fisheries, 

EPA: Alaska mine threatens salmon, native cultures

The Malay Mail Online
Sockeye salmon are seen in Bristol Bay, Alaska in an undated handout picture provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed poses serious risks to salmon and native cultures in this pristine corner of 

Mining could devastate Bristol Bay region

Juneau Empire
In this July 13, 2007 file photo, a worker with the Pebble Mine project test drills in the Bristol Bay region near the village of Iliamma. An EPA report indicates a large-scale copper and gold mine in the Bristol Bay region could have devastating effects on the