Readers of Vital Choices will be familiar with the fight to block a massive gold and copper mine slated for the midst of the watershed that feeds the world's largest sockeye salmon run.
For links to more information on this fight, see “The struggle to save Bristol Bay's wild sockeye”, below.
The struggle to save Bristol Bay's wild sockeye
Given the consistently tragic history of water pollution by hard-rock mines – and the records of the mining companies involved – any honest assessment will foresee huge risks to salmon runs and the entire salmon-fueled Bristol Bay ecology
There are Alaskans on both sides of the struggle, because the mine will bring unusually high-wage but certainly temporary jobs to thousands of locals … and alluring but equally temporary revenue to the state and its residents.
However, we believe that this short-term gain is far outweighed by the risk posed to salmon by hard-rock mining for gold, copper, and other minerals.
The ability of wild salmon to find their birth streams and rivers – hence, their ability to spawn – is easily thwarted by even slight changes to the mineral composition of these waterways.
And the millions of salmon that return to and decay in those streams provide nutrients – what some scientists call a biological “power cable” – essential to the area's ecosystem of plants, trees, animals, and insects.
Sadly, the outcome of this battle is far from a foregone conclusion. The lure of short-term profit could still win out … despite the very real threat to salmon and the fishing and recreation opportunities and long-term jobs these fish support, directly and indirectly.
So it remains essential that Alaskans and all Americans who value this truly irreplaceable resource – and the ecosystem it supports – keep up the pressure on Alaskan politicians and the U.S. Congress.