Judith O'Keefe took on Washington D.C. with the Save Bristol Bay crew. She is a supporter of the cause and so are we, we're proud of the efforts made by fellow sportsmen at The U.S. Capitol!
Did I hesitate when Trout Unlimited’s regional director of the Save Bristol Bay project called asking me to join thirty-nine fellow anglers and hunters from across the nation? Not for one second! We were being asked to join the Bristol Bay Sportsmen’s Summit, and descend on our nation’s capitol in an effort to prevail on the powers that be to support the EPA in it’s effort to utilize the Clean Water Act to save this pristine watershed from a proposed massive open-pit mine.
I’ve always had an interest in government. Working for candidates running for various state offices in the nineties introduced me to the world of politics . . . the good, bad and the ugly. The most surprising lesson was that an individual can, actually make a difference. Combined with my love of the natural environment, ecology, fish and Alaska, this project was tailor made to suit me. Yes, of course I was going. I was a little nervous about what was expected of me: Did I need to arm myself with the latest scientific data, the facts and figures relating to the economic impact the proposed Pebble Mine would have on Alaska, the Northwest and the world? Well, no matter, I would do what was necessary. This topic needed to be addressed in a big way, and as soon as possible.
The proposed Pebble Mine would generate up to 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste that would have to be treated in-perpetuity. Mine waste disposal in the Bristol Bay watershed is a direct threat to the tremendous wild salmon habitat that supports the Bristol Bay fishery and supplies the world with a healthy and sustainable source of wild salmon. The salmon fishery is the economic engine of the region, generating an estimated $450 million in revenue each year and providing some 12,000 jobs.
I was up at o-dark-thirty on April 14th, headed to Washington DC, as part of the sportsmen’s summit. Our group met that evening in a downtown hotel for introductions and a training session. To say I was awed and inspired by the individuals that made up this coalition would be a gross understatement; commercial fisherman, sportsmen and women, business owners, scientists and representatives from the Bristol Bay Native Corporation - an unlikely group of bed-fellows. Under typical circumstances, these folks would be on opposite sides of the fence. One of the unique aspects of the Save Bristol Bay project is that those who would usually support the “development of our natural resources” are staunchly opposed to the Pebble Mine. Also, I was relieved to hear that in my upcoming appointments on Capitol Hill, folks who had the facts, figures, and the day-to-day experience of living in Bristol Bay would accompany me.
My three days meeting with White House staff, the EPA, and the Oregon delegation on “The Hill” were interesting, exciting and most importantly, productive. It may be an anomaly, but in the saga of Bristol Bay v/s a multi-national mining corporation, I believe that the good guys have a fighting chance. After the events April’s Sportsmen’s Summit for Bristol Bay, our decision makers have been reminded again how important this issue is for the people of Bristol Bay and all who treasure it. To find out more about Bristol Bay and how you can make a difference, go to: www.sportsmansalliance4ak.org/about.html orwww.savebristolbay.org