Commercial and sport fish harvesters and other Bristol Bay residents dependent on the area’s salmon fisheries are voicing concern over a revised area management plan that could ease the way for a massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine.
The document in question is the court-mandated draft revision of the 2005 Bristol Bay area plan, for which the Alaska Department of Natural Resources is accepting public comment through April 4.
Following the 90-day public review period, which could result in changes to the document, the agency intends to adopt the proposed revisions to the 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan, which will serve as the basis for management of state lands and waters within the planning area for the next 20 years.
The mine in question is the Pebble mine, a project managed by the Pebble Limited Partnership, a joint venture of a Canadian mining venture, Northern Dynasty, and the London based international mining entity Anglo American plc. Mining advocates say they can develop and operate the mining in harmony with the world renowned Bristol Bay wild sockeye salmon run, which provides thousands of jobs and millions of dollars to commercial and sport fisheries entities. The fishery has also been critical to generations of subsistence fish harvesters, as well as wildlife.
In 2009 Bristol Bay tribes, commercial fishing groups and Trout Unlimited challenged the 2005 area plan- a revision of the original 1984 plan- in court, arguing that it did not strike a balance that protects subsistence and fish and wildlife resources.
The original 1984 plan co-classified almost all of the state-owned land in the region as fish and wildlife habitat-including the Pebble deposit area- because of the importance of fish and game to resource users. The proposed revised plan reclassifies the entire 12 million acres, reduces habitat protection by 94 percent and opens the door for mining on almost the entire 12 million acres.
Comments on the amended plan may be sent to:
Resource Assessment and Development Section
Alaska Department of Natural Resources
550 West 7th Avenue
Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3579
The deadline is April 4.