A rookie musher from Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula who fishes commercially with her partner, a veteran of the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, says she is dedicating her run to Nome to protecting wild salmon habitat in Bristol Bay. Monica Zappa, with partner Tim Osmar, have already participated in several “Mushing for Bristol Bay” races in the Midwest and Canada to raise awareness about their concerns that a proposed large-scale copper and gold mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed would adversely affect critical salmon habitat.
Zappa, who grew up in Wisconsin, came to Alaska four years ago to try her hand at dog mushing. Two years later, she and Osmar kicked off their campaign to stop development of the Pebble Mine, with help from Trout Unlimited.
They have also teamed up with Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay for some fundraising efforts to help cover the big cost of participation in the Iditarod race.
Zappa said she has sent information packets to all the villages along the Iditarod Trail where she will be passing through en route to Nome. Her sled, gear and dogs will be decked out with “No Pebble” stickers, and she plans to speak out about their campaign to protect Bristol Bay to spectators, villagers and media covering the race as often as she can, Zappa said.
The Pebble Limited Partnership, in Anchorage, which has spent millions of dollars on exploration in Southwest Alaska, has yet to file applications for the many state and federal permits they would need to build the mine. The PLP maintains that the mine and the world famous Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run can co-exist in harmony.
The final report assessing effects of large scale mining on the Bristol Bay watershed, issued in January by the US Environmental Protection Agency, concludes that there would be a number of adverse effects from the footprint of such a mine, including substantial loss of salmon-supporting streams and wetlands, and altered stream flows that would likely affect ecosystem structure and function.