By Chris Wood
I just returned from fishing in Bristol Bay. One of the rivers I fished (and where I caught 30-inch native rainbow trout), Upper Talarik Creek, would be inundated and ruined by the proposed Pebble Mine.
On the heels of that experience, it was disappointing to see the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal cover the release of a report by former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, which was paid for by the Pebble Limited Partnership, the mine’s proponents.
Cohen’s report claims that EPA treated the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) unfairly. Unfair? What’s unfair is the 10-year chill inflicted by the proposed mine on businesses such as the Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge where I stayed and fished for trophy trout and char, or the $1.5 billion commercial fishing industry that employs 14,000 Americans every single year.
The Wall Street Journal specifically called out Trout Unlimited’s efforts to protect Bristol Bay saying: “Over 10 years, EPA met with Pebble only about 30 times. In four years Trout Unlimited communicated or met with the agency 200 times to oppose Pebble.”
You bet we met with EPA—as often as we could—to encourage the agency to exercise its authority to stop the mine (notably, the Cohen report acknowledges that EPA has such authority). And we’re proud of the fact that we exercised our First Amendment right to express our strong opposition to a proposed massive mine in the heart of the most commercially valuable salmon-producing river system in the world. It also is one of the best sport-fishing destinations on the planet, as I can personally attest.
On the other hand, if I were a shareholder in the PLP, I would be more concerned about the company only meeting with the EPA 30 times over a decade and still failing to develop a mine plan. More than two years ago, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) called on Pebble to release their mine plan. They refuse to do so, and instead have resorted to lawsuits and PR stunts such as buying advocacy analysis from former Cabinet members.
Sometimes, protecting extraordinary resources requires extraordinary action and vigorous assertion of rights guaranteed by our Constitution.
Chris Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited.