Treadwell backs citizen initiative to protect bay
Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell certified the Bristol Bay Forever citizens initiative this week.
The initiative aims to protect wild salmon from any new, large-scale mineral mining in the Bristol Bay Region. It asks the state to restrict such projects that would have a potential effect on the salmon fishery.
This applies to the proposed Pebble Mine project, a majorly contested issue statewide.
The history of this initiative goes back four decades. Senator Jay Hammond spearheaded a bill that created the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve in 1972. It was intended to protect the region's salmon fisheries from oil and gas development. It asked that any proposed development within the established reserve acquire a legislative finding guaranteeing that the development would not pose a threat to fisheries.
The Bristol Bay Forever initiative extends this requirement beyond oil and gas and into the types of large-scale mineral exploration proposed by Pebble Mine supporters. Any mining project that is more than 640 acres qualifies under the initiative.
Proponents of the citizens initiative believe the historical groundwork behind the reserve makes including mining exploration into the restricted practices a natural progression. They cite the long-standing recognition of Bristol Bay as a place of economic and cultural importance, one that provides food and employment for people throughout the region and across Alaska.
Bristol Bay sockeye also account for one third of the global wild sockeye salmon population. The citizens initiative aims to prioritize those established resources above potential mining projects.