Robert Heyano: Alaska tribes battle mine to protect way of life

Native youth in the Bristol Bay, Alaska, area participate in a protest against the Pebble Mine. Photo from Facebook

Robert Heyano, the president of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, explains why Alaska Natives are fighting the Pebble Mine:
As Bristol Bay has prepared for the new fishing season, the cloud of uncertainty continues to loom over us as the battle to protect our fish and way of life from large-scale mines like Pebble drags on into its second decade. In the past few weeks, we have seen Sen. Lisa Murkowski endorse legislative efforts to change the Clean Water Act to restrict the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to address pollution before it happens. We have seen our state government join the Pebble Partnership in federal litigation to forcibly end the Section 404(c) process happening now in Bristol Bay. Finally, we have seen Pebble hire a new Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist as their new CEO who is presently engaged in a national campaign to disparage and discount the people who call Bristol Bay home.

Throughout these events, our communities have stood steadfast in the effort to protect Bristol Bay. One would hope that our region's position is as clear as our waters: This type of development isn't welcome here. Yet in spite of the science and the will of the people, our elected officials continue to favor foreign mining companies and destructive development projects.

It was our tribes that contacted the EPA, requesting that the agency do something to address mining projects that the state had fast-tracked for our region. The agency answered our call and conducted the Bristol Bay watershed assessment to evaluate the potential impacts of mining in our watershed. After four years of study, two peer reviews, and two public comment periods, EPA came out with the most authoritative review of the Bristol Bay watershed to date: a 1,400-page report confirming the devastating impacts on salmon, water, and the Native people who depend on those sustainable resources for their culture, food and way of life.

Get the Story:
Robert Heyano: Bristol Bay tribes stand ground against Pebble (The Anchorage Daily News 6/26)

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New EPA leader visits controversial Pebble Mine site in Alaska (08/28)
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Opinion: Pebble Mine brings development to Native villages (07/22)
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