A little op-ed piece I wrote for the Patagonia blog:
President Obama’s recent protection of Bristol Bay from oil and gas exploration may feel like a victory for fish and the environment, but I think it’s really about time and money. Which in this case, is just as good. Here’s why:
Oil and gas reserves, as we know, are limited by however much is already in the ground and our ability to extract it. Sure, advancing extraction technologies (fracking, etc) can extend the life of a deposit, but unless we’re waiting for more dinosaurs to die, nobody’s making any new oil or gas.
Salmon, on the other hand, if properly managed, are perhaps the ultimate renewable resource. By all accounts, the Bristol Bay salmon industry is one of the best managed fisheries in the world, producing a sustainable $2 billion annual fish economy…
Read the rest on The Cleanest Line.
The Pebble Mine, a proposed project for the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska, would be a disaster of epic proportions to the last great salmon watersheds on the planet. This is open pit mining at it’s worst, with enormous levels of habitat destruction, cyanide- and heavy-metal laden holding ponds, earthen dams and toxic tailings, all in an extremely active seismic region. The EPA recently released a study of the project, showing that Pebble would put fish, wildlife, indigenous peoples and their way of life at peril.
A victory for sure, but not a slam dunk. The project is still possible, and Washingtonians have a lot at risk. Beyond the stellar recreational opportunities (I worked as a fishing guide there for five summers), the Bristol Bay commercial fishing industry is valued at $1.5 billion, and of that, $500 million comes directly back to Washington (where a majority of the fishing fleet is based, along with numerous processors, distributors, etc). This money supports more than 5000 jobs in this state. The Pebble Mine puts all of that at serious risk.
So, our United States Senator, Maria Cantwell, is organizing a rally to stop Pebble and support Washington fishing jobs. It’s this Thursday, appropriately enough, at Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle, at 12:30pm. If you can make it, your presence will make a difference in the statement we’re trying to make: Washingtonians don’t want Pebble to go forward, and we’re serious about it.