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July 12, 2012

Join the Shout to Save Bristol Bay

By Hal Herring

In 2008, I made a trip to the Mulchatna River to fish with friends and see some of the country that would be forever changed by the Pebble Mine Project. I’ve never been back--although I’d give most anything to fish those waters again--but the place is always with me. The strange, snow-etched Jackrabbit Hills, with the weird calligraphy of a million caribou trails crossing them and fanning out on the flat tundra like poetry written in a language that only hunters remember.

Potholes aswarm with nesting waterfowl, and the deep prints of a grizzly way too close to the fish cleaning table. It’s all there in my mind, that land and the fish themselves, blood-red sockeye in cold green water, silvery kings thrashing in the shoals, the perfect dots on the side of an arctic char that look so much like tiny planets glowing in a twilight sky that it surely makes you wonder, really, how this world of ours came to be like this, and what it might mean, that a creature could be so beautiful. I carry those memories. I would never see the world quite the same way if I knew that place was gone, even if I never see it again myself.

If you are a Field & Stream reader, you know what is at stake here, north of Bristol Bay, in the heart of the burgeoning wilds, in the headwaters of our souls. The Environmental Protection Agency will be taking public comments on the Pebble Mine Project until July 23. Now is the time for those of us who know what is there, and for those of us who would one day like to see it as it is, in the perfection of its creation, to be heard. Even if you never plan to go there, every fisherman and hunter is tied to this place. Whatever string you tug, whatever fish you take in whatever river, the whitetail in your woodlot or local swamp or marsh, it is all part of the net that includes the mighty Mulchatna, the Koktuli River, the wind and tide and fury and life of Bristol Bay. We live in a democratic republic and the whole process depends on responsible citizens who are willing to speak out and participate. Be heard.

Comments (14)

Top Rated
All Comments
from rock rat wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

When Ben Long posted a similar article I commented about how beautiful the Nam Fa and Nam Long rivers are with all of their intact forests with trees that were growing before our revolution and some of the last remaining tigers as well as clouded leopards, sambar, muntjac, pig, barking deer, five kinds of civet, too many species to list and it is all set to be polluted by at least one copper mine in operation now and they've started the road for another.

Yet all the people living there don't use copper, they shoot black powder, very rarely a prized centerfire cartridge fot the SKS each village shares. No computers, no electricity, they are not only off the grid but way off the road. Per capita they use copper at probably a hundred thousandth the rate we do.

Yet the foreign companies come to mine copper to feed the Chinese industries that supply the gaping hole that is the American Consumer Society.

Do you shoot rimfire? Recycle the brass? Shouldn't we pay part of the price for all of our toys and lifestyle?

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Nail on the head, Rock.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from sa4ak wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Thanks Hal. Beautifully written piece about an incredible place. This is a line in the sand issue for all who love to fish and hunt. If something like Pebble can be allowed in a place like Bristol Bay, most folks feel everything is on the table. Nothing will be off limits. Over 660 hunting and angling groups and businesses are on board with this effort. From catch & release anglers and fly rod makers to bear hunting guides and firearms manufacturers - they're all standing together to say Pebble is simply the wrong project being proposed in the wrong place. This is one of the signature conservation battles of our lifetime.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Rock Rat: No one could have said it better! If the EPA approves the ruination of Bristol Bay, we may as well all give up hope. Many of us seem to spend our lives in a rage against the system these days as it races to get what's left and eats up the world. One of the latest ongoing atrocities is the Monto Bello dam on the Xingu river in Brazil, another magical place that I have been privileged to see.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

tom warner- I worked and traveled in the amazon in 1983 (got there for a plane ticket that cost $293!!). Did not make it to the Xingu, but was on the Topajos, the Madeira, lots of lesser and greater streams. It was a lifechanging experience. Sometimes I wonder if anybody will know what we traded away.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Horseapples wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Hal, I like Rock's comments as a follow up to your compelling post. As long as we continue to feed our unsatiable hunger for cheaper goods and convenience, we give relevance to the proposed ore mines. Lest we curb our appetites, I'm afraid many of these places are doomed. Thanks for your appeal, let's hope it takes root in the hearts of all sports folks and reason prevails. Legislators need to read Dr. Seusse's "The Lorax" as a prerequisit to their swearing in and annually thereafter.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Hal: Thanks for your eloquent post. I have taken 12 or more jungle river fishing trips to the Orinoco and Amazon basins since the 80's. I believe that I enjoyed the Ventuari in Venezuela and the Xingu in Brazil the most; both gorgeous clear water rivers with a huge variety of species. My fishing buddy has been on both the rivers that you mention. Yes, life changing describes it exactly; I always felt as though I traveled to another planet entirely. Few of us get the chance to see the world as it fully once was. How I loved it! If circumstances had permitted I would have stayed and never returned. Folks who are conscious of the wreckage we have caused, and there are many of us, are doomed to spend part of each day in a sort of agony.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Erik Jensen wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Great piece, got me to make sure my comments to the EPA were in. Things look hopeful.

What I like about Rock Rat's point is there are some pretty mundane things we can do that would help a lot to save the profound places. My gun club and a lot of the others in town don't have good systems for recycling brass, only a few with avid re-loaders do.

We really need to push initiatives to take it further and come up with $ for bullet traps and such for saving lead and copper. Lead is cheap, but it is poison. But most rifles shoot copper and lead the same, people can use lead at gun ranges and copper in the field. Bullets traps would stop lead from leaking into ground water.

I think the gun and ammo companies should be taxed to pay for this, with $ going into dedicated funds for shooting sports promotion, similar to how Pittman-Roberts works.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Ben's idea, and I thought it a good one, was that we should dig ore in places carefully choosing less scenic or delicate areas. He didn't like a couple of proposed mines in Montana and Arizona as I remember. The two problems are who decides. I'd suspect no one wants a mine in their backyard unless they need a job.

About Bristol Bay though I'm not real optimistic. As I remember hearing it's the largest chunk of copper known to exist, and it's on federal land and what not. It could become a symbol like ANWR and get saved that way but I doubt it. Too far from population centers and too big a nugget.

I spent over a hundred days walking along the western border of ANWR the winter spring of 89/90 and I remember thinking how it's basically out of reach of the US population, no one can afford to go there. Bristol Bay might suffer a similar inaccessibility.

Another thing Ben mentioned is that we in the US should lead the way in mining in a way that does the least environmental damage possible. The most stringent environmental standards. It's a poor alternative but it might be the only option in Bristol Bay given the current political power of our extractive industries.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Moose1980 wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

My problem with the Pebble Mine is it will be set right on one of the most productive habitats in the world. The copper in the proposed mine is a finite resource, one day, it will all be mined out. However, the natural resources of Bristol Bay and by extension the Bering Sea are in theory infinite. The fisheries alone in salmon, crab, cod, etc are some of the most valuable on the planet. If they are well managed, they should be productive long after the Pebble Mine would be shut down.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Horseapples wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Moose is right. We throw away almost 20 billion dollars worth of precious metals each year in obsolete cell phones, computers and other e-waste items. We recycle less than 15% of it. If only we were more diligent about paying a little bit to recover the materials, we wouldn't need mines at Pebble for a very long time!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from sa4ak wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Responding to a few things in Rock Rat's post.

* The Pebble deposit lies on state lands, not federal lands. That said, the federal hook here is that EPA will be involved in the permitting decision for what would be massive earthen dams to hold back up to 10.8 billion tons of mine waste. Clean Water Act is the tool.

* It's not nearly as inaccessible as ANWR. Alaska Airlines flies jet service into both Dillingham and King Salmon, the jumping off points for Bristol Bay fishing and hunting trips. Over 36,000 fishing trips are taken to the Bristol Bay region annually. That's WAY more than visit ANWR, and it's not even counting the bear viewing and other visitor to places like Katmai National Park.

* Totally agree with the point about needing to be better at recycling, given today's throwaway attitude toward electronic equipment.

* If drilling in ANWR can be staved off for decades as the environmental movement has been able to do, don't you think that America's sportsmen can work to protect Bristol Bay? Nearly 700 hunting and angling groups and businesses have joined in support - a number that grows daily.

Just a few more days to register your official comment with EPA. You can easily do so at www.SaveBristolBay.org

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I did follow the links and comment, and thanks for the links. The gist of my comment was that Bristol Bay is too valuable and we don't really need the ore out of the area that badly.

Thanks for the clarification sa4ak, I really know nothing about it, just heard an NPR story a couple weeks ago.

As part of my personal CO2 thing I try to do all my recreating within a half day of my home. I have places I really want to return to badly further away, maybe I'll save up some recycling karma and go.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Erik Jensen wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Rock rat: on your CO2 saving, sportsmen that live in urban or suburban areas 7 miles or less from their jobs (as I do), bike to work ! It'll save you money, CO2 and you can use your vehicles longer. It will get you in shape for hunting, fishing, and backpacking. If you live further away, you might still be able to bike, depending on your time constraints.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Horseapples wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Hal, I like Rock's comments as a follow up to your compelling post. As long as we continue to feed our unsatiable hunger for cheaper goods and convenience, we give relevance to the proposed ore mines. Lest we curb our appetites, I'm afraid many of these places are doomed. Thanks for your appeal, let's hope it takes root in the hearts of all sports folks and reason prevails. Legislators need to read Dr. Seusse's "The Lorax" as a prerequisit to their swearing in and annually thereafter.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from Moose1980 wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

My problem with the Pebble Mine is it will be set right on one of the most productive habitats in the world. The copper in the proposed mine is a finite resource, one day, it will all be mined out. However, the natural resources of Bristol Bay and by extension the Bering Sea are in theory infinite. The fisheries alone in salmon, crab, cod, etc are some of the most valuable on the planet. If they are well managed, they should be productive long after the Pebble Mine would be shut down.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

When Ben Long posted a similar article I commented about how beautiful the Nam Fa and Nam Long rivers are with all of their intact forests with trees that were growing before our revolution and some of the last remaining tigers as well as clouded leopards, sambar, muntjac, pig, barking deer, five kinds of civet, too many species to list and it is all set to be polluted by at least one copper mine in operation now and they've started the road for another.

Yet all the people living there don't use copper, they shoot black powder, very rarely a prized centerfire cartridge fot the SKS each village shares. No computers, no electricity, they are not only off the grid but way off the road. Per capita they use copper at probably a hundred thousandth the rate we do.

Yet the foreign companies come to mine copper to feed the Chinese industries that supply the gaping hole that is the American Consumer Society.

Do you shoot rimfire? Recycle the brass? Shouldn't we pay part of the price for all of our toys and lifestyle?

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Erik Jensen wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Great piece, got me to make sure my comments to the EPA were in. Things look hopeful.

What I like about Rock Rat's point is there are some pretty mundane things we can do that would help a lot to save the profound places. My gun club and a lot of the others in town don't have good systems for recycling brass, only a few with avid re-loaders do.

We really need to push initiatives to take it further and come up with $ for bullet traps and such for saving lead and copper. Lead is cheap, but it is poison. But most rifles shoot copper and lead the same, people can use lead at gun ranges and copper in the field. Bullets traps would stop lead from leaking into ground water.

I think the gun and ammo companies should be taxed to pay for this, with $ going into dedicated funds for shooting sports promotion, similar to how Pittman-Roberts works.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from sa4ak wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Thanks Hal. Beautifully written piece about an incredible place. This is a line in the sand issue for all who love to fish and hunt. If something like Pebble can be allowed in a place like Bristol Bay, most folks feel everything is on the table. Nothing will be off limits. Over 660 hunting and angling groups and businesses are on board with this effort. From catch & release anglers and fly rod makers to bear hunting guides and firearms manufacturers - they're all standing together to say Pebble is simply the wrong project being proposed in the wrong place. This is one of the signature conservation battles of our lifetime.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Rock Rat: No one could have said it better! If the EPA approves the ruination of Bristol Bay, we may as well all give up hope. Many of us seem to spend our lives in a rage against the system these days as it races to get what's left and eats up the world. One of the latest ongoing atrocities is the Monto Bello dam on the Xingu river in Brazil, another magical place that I have been privileged to see.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Hal: Thanks for your eloquent post. I have taken 12 or more jungle river fishing trips to the Orinoco and Amazon basins since the 80's. I believe that I enjoyed the Ventuari in Venezuela and the Xingu in Brazil the most; both gorgeous clear water rivers with a huge variety of species. My fishing buddy has been on both the rivers that you mention. Yes, life changing describes it exactly; I always felt as though I traveled to another planet entirely. Few of us get the chance to see the world as it fully once was. How I loved it! If circumstances had permitted I would have stayed and never returned. Folks who are conscious of the wreckage we have caused, and there are many of us, are doomed to spend part of each day in a sort of agony.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from sa4ak wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Responding to a few things in Rock Rat's post.

* The Pebble deposit lies on state lands, not federal lands. That said, the federal hook here is that EPA will be involved in the permitting decision for what would be massive earthen dams to hold back up to 10.8 billion tons of mine waste. Clean Water Act is the tool.

* It's not nearly as inaccessible as ANWR. Alaska Airlines flies jet service into both Dillingham and King Salmon, the jumping off points for Bristol Bay fishing and hunting trips. Over 36,000 fishing trips are taken to the Bristol Bay region annually. That's WAY more than visit ANWR, and it's not even counting the bear viewing and other visitor to places like Katmai National Park.

* Totally agree with the point about needing to be better at recycling, given today's throwaway attitude toward electronic equipment.

* If drilling in ANWR can be staved off for decades as the environmental movement has been able to do, don't you think that America's sportsmen can work to protect Bristol Bay? Nearly 700 hunting and angling groups and businesses have joined in support - a number that grows daily.

Just a few more days to register your official comment with EPA. You can easily do so at www.SaveBristolBay.org

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I did follow the links and comment, and thanks for the links. The gist of my comment was that Bristol Bay is too valuable and we don't really need the ore out of the area that badly.

Thanks for the clarification sa4ak, I really know nothing about it, just heard an NPR story a couple weeks ago.

As part of my personal CO2 thing I try to do all my recreating within a half day of my home. I have places I really want to return to badly further away, maybe I'll save up some recycling karma and go.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Nail on the head, Rock.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

tom warner- I worked and traveled in the amazon in 1983 (got there for a plane ticket that cost $293!!). Did not make it to the Xingu, but was on the Topajos, the Madeira, lots of lesser and greater streams. It was a lifechanging experience. Sometimes I wonder if anybody will know what we traded away.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Horseapples wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Moose is right. We throw away almost 20 billion dollars worth of precious metals each year in obsolete cell phones, computers and other e-waste items. We recycle less than 15% of it. If only we were more diligent about paying a little bit to recover the materials, we wouldn't need mines at Pebble for a very long time!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Erik Jensen wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Rock rat: on your CO2 saving, sportsmen that live in urban or suburban areas 7 miles or less from their jobs (as I do), bike to work ! It'll save you money, CO2 and you can use your vehicles longer. It will get you in shape for hunting, fishing, and backpacking. If you live further away, you might still be able to bike, depending on your time constraints.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Ben's idea, and I thought it a good one, was that we should dig ore in places carefully choosing less scenic or delicate areas. He didn't like a couple of proposed mines in Montana and Arizona as I remember. The two problems are who decides. I'd suspect no one wants a mine in their backyard unless they need a job.

About Bristol Bay though I'm not real optimistic. As I remember hearing it's the largest chunk of copper known to exist, and it's on federal land and what not. It could become a symbol like ANWR and get saved that way but I doubt it. Too far from population centers and too big a nugget.

I spent over a hundred days walking along the western border of ANWR the winter spring of 89/90 and I remember thinking how it's basically out of reach of the US population, no one can afford to go there. Bristol Bay might suffer a similar inaccessibility.

Another thing Ben mentioned is that we in the US should lead the way in mining in a way that does the least environmental damage possible. The most stringent environmental standards. It's a poor alternative but it might be the only option in Bristol Bay given the current political power of our extractive industries.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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