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On January 25, 2015, the Obama Administration made a major announcement that it is proposing additional wilderness designations for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its Coastal Plain as part of the newly released Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Refuge. Click here to see the official White House message.
A federal judge ruled on November 24, 2014 to temporarily halt any U.S. EPA decisions regarding whether or not to protect Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine until a recent lawsuit brought against them by the Pebble Ltd. Partnership is resolved. This will likely delay the EPA’s final decision, which was expected by February 4, 2015. Read the Alaska Dispatch article here.
Fortunately, the judge’s ruling doesn’t negate the science the EPA is using to demonstrate the impact this mine would have on the watershed, or take away from the public process the EPA utilized to engage those who would be most impacted by it. ACF and our partners remain cautiously optimistic the EPA will succeed in overcoming this latest hurdle and exercise its authority under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay. We will continue to keep you updated on any major developments.
The public comment period on The EPA’s proposed determination for the Bristol Bay watershed closed on September 19, during which time Alaskans submitted an estimated 20,000 public comments asking for Clean Water Act protection for Bristol Bay. Read more here.
Whats Next? The EPA has announced they’ll have a decision no later than Feb. 4, 2015 on either withdrawing the Proposed Determination or preparing a Recommended Determination. Click here for a visual idea of where the process is. The Feb. 4 date immediately above refers to Step 3 in the flow chart.
What can you do? There have been bills introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives seeking to stop this work by The EPA by altering the Clean Water Act itself. Please contact your members of Congress to ask them to protect the Clean Water Act so The EPA may finish the job of protecting Bristol Bay.
On September 18th, over 100 guests gathered for ACF’s 2014 Conservation Achievement Awards Ceremony to honor this year’s recipients for their remarkable contributions to Alaska conservation. Event festivities featured live music and great food but as always the highlight of the evening was the amazing recipient speeches that followed, including those from Bob Childers (Lifetime Achievement Award) and Shanelle Afcan (Wilcher Award for Young Environmental Activists). Shanelle was unable to attend the ceremony but put together a truly inspirational video to share with guests. Click here to hear why she is inspired to protect Alaska and what this award means to her.
To learn more about this year’s event, please click here.
In yet another step towards Bristol Bay protection, on July 18, 2014, the EPA issued a “proposed determination,” defining strict standards the proposed Pebble Mine would need to achieve before securing permits under the Clean Water Act. This means that any developer wishing to mine the Pebble deposit must prove that its operations will not have an unacceptable adverse effect on Bristol Bay’s water resources. Read more here.
The 60-day comment period is still open, but hurry, the comment period closes on September 19th, 2014. This will be the last chance to submit comments under the Clean Water Act process. Submit them here today.
British-Australian mining goliath Rio Tinto Group announced it was pulling out of the proposed Pebble open-pit mining project located at the headwaters of Bristol Bay’s salmon spawning grounds. The stunning move follows at the heels of global mining giant Anglo American’s withdrawal last year from Pebble, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to begin the process of restricting and possibly prohibiting the development of a mine in Bristol Bay’s watershed.
Rio Tinto had been reviewing its association with the proposed Pebble mine for the past year, and concluded that its reputation was at risk as a result of its investment in the project.
Read more here.
The U.S. EPA announced on February 28th it would begin a process for taking action to protect Bristol Bay, and the world’s most productive wild salmon fishery, from the proposed Pebble Mine. This is welcome news to ACF, our many partners, and the over 850,000 citizens – from Bristol Bay, Alaska, and around the country – who asked EPA to protect this unparalleled ecosystem from certain destruction. Read EPA’s press release and critical next steps here.
Entering its third year, Alaska Conservation Foundation’s Alaska Native Fund distributed $173,484 to Alaska Native organizations and individuals supporting indigenous projects protecting lands, waters and ways of life. In 2014, the Alaska Native Fund is providing grants to 13 Alaska Native organizations and three Alaska Native individuals.
After nearly three years of scientific studies, two rounds of public comment and independent peer review, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally released the conclusive version of its watershed assessment detailing the impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine on Bristol Bay. The damage is certain, and the science convincingly established.
The facts from the EPA study confirmed that Pebble would destroy more than 90 miles of streams and eliminate more than 5,000 acres of wetlands. The EPA also concluded that mitigation strategies were unlikely to prevent impacts to fish and aquatic life as a result of acidic and metals-laden waters produced by mining. Read the Executive Summary to the assessment here.
Governor Sean Parnell continues to aggressively seek the passage of House Bill 77, which would remove people from the public comment process on many resource extraction permitting decisions. It would also limit tribes and citizens from obtaining water reservations needed to ensure the passage of wild salmon, which most Alaskans rely upon, to reach their natal streams.
In December, ACF deployed a Rapid Response grant to ensure Alaskans were heard loud and clear. Business, tribal and conservation advocates held open public forums on the bill in Homer, Soldotna and Anchorage in response to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ failure to convene similar meetings. More than 500 people attended the forums with more than 100 Alaska Native tribal leaders, lodge owners, commercial and sport fishermen testifying to oppose the bill. Only one person, a paid lobbyist, spoke in favor. The legislature will consider the bill when the legislative session reconvenes in January 2014. ACF is committed to ensuring that Alaskans have a voice in the constitutional democratic process. Read more here.
Riversdale Alaska, an Australian-owned mining company with interests in southcentral Alaska’s Matanuska Valley reported that their proposed coal project at Chickaloon will now be on hold indefinitely. They will maintain their leases from the Alaska Mental Health Land Trust, but do not plan to do any more exploration at this time. They have closed their Alaska-based offices giving reasons that they intend to focus on projects in Alberta that are closer to development. This is great news for residents of the area and others, who are concerned about the impacts of developing Alaska’s coal, and its effects on global climate, as well as on the people, land, and waters of Alaska. With support from ACF, Chickaloon Village Traditional Council, Castle Mountain Coalition, Alaska Center for the Environment and Trustees for Alaska have led this important campaign. Read more here.
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