Bristol Bay  

Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed–lifeblood of the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon runs–is threatened by plans for a gigantic open-pit gold mine

Alaska’s Bristol Bay can be defined by one thing: SALMON. Over a half-million square miles of rivers and streams sustain the largest remaining wild salmon populations and habitat on Earth. Millions of sockeye, Chinook, chum, coho and pink salmon return from the sea to their spawning grounds in the pristine waters of Bristol Bay each year.


Spawning Sockeye at Katmai National Park ©Ben Knight

In return, these salmon nourish a wild, largely unspoiled ecosystem and support a sustainable economy worth $1.5 billion a year and more than 14,000 American jobs. Each summer, commercial fishing boats jostle for the best position to set their nets, while anglers travel from around the world for a chance to catch salmon and trout at remote lodges. The region’s Native peoples, still living their traditional ways, fill their freezers and smokehouses with fish for the coming year.

Bristol Bay teems with wildlife. Huge brown bears prowl the streams eager to fuel their bodies on salmon. And on land the Mulchatna Caribou Herd—one of the largest in Alaska at 120,000 animals—roams across the tundra. Moose, wolves, black bears, waterfowl, raptors and other migratory birds create a rich diversity.

This is a region where humans have treaded lightly and live in balance with nature. But, life in Bristol Bay may be altered forever as plans to develop a massive open-pit gold and copper mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay are underway. 

The Threat: Pebble Mine

Exploration Continues in Bristol Bay ©Erin McKittrick

The Pebble Mine threatens Alaska wild salmon and the health of the entire ecosystem that depends on them. If developed, it will be the largest open-pit mine in North America!

To extract billions of tons of raw ore from the mine, an enormous hole would be gorged in the ground—more than 2 miles across and 2,000 feet deep. The billions of tons of mine waste would be dumped into man-made lakes, created by flooding 10 square miles of land behind earthen dams more than 600 feet high. Sulfur and other chemicals would be impounded in these lakes—located in an active earthquake zone. And to keep things running smoothly 35 billion gallons of water would be drawn from local streams and rivers each year.

Sustaining a Healthy Bristol Bay–a Diverse Coalition Fights Back

For nearly a decade, Alaska Conservation Foundation (ACF) has been at the center of the fight, funding and strategically supporting a diverse coalition of tribes, commercial fisherman, sportsmen and women, local businesses and environmental groups working to prevent permitting of the mine by state and federal agencies and secure the permanent protection of Bristol Bay.

Today, ACF is focusing on more aggressive grantmaking for advocacy and legal defense to support these efforts. Grants such as rapid response awards, awards supporting the salaries of lead campaigners and organizers, awards for legal defense and travel and awards to support Alaska Native efforts will be directed to address the renewed and growing threats to the region.

You Can Help!

By donating to ACF, you help support these efforts to protect Bristol Bay from the certain ruin that would be inflicted by the Pebble Mine. 

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