OPINION: Clark's Point council supports plan to restore Bristol Bay balance
As the April 4 comment deadline approaches for the State Department of Natural Resources' Bristol Bay Area Plan (BBAP) revision process, we at Clark's Point Tribal Council have passed a resolution to support a document called the Citizen's Alternative Bristol Bay Area Plan (CABBAP). The CABBAP was submitted to DNR by six of our Bristol Bay tribes and their allies as a clear statement as to what we want for the future of our region. The highly detailed plan "seeks to balance the protection of vital fish and wildlife habitat with responsible development." This document, if adopted, restores to the Bristol Bay Area Plan common sense measures to ensure that development in our region is compatible with the renewable resource based economy that we depend on and our rights to our subsistence way of life.
The 2005 BBAP was legally challenged because it provides no protection for our subsistence resources, and reduced habitat safeguards in the 12 million acre planning area by an incredible 94 percent - paving the way for projects like the Pebble Mine. DNR's court-ordered proposed changes to the plan fall far short; ignoring the concerns of our local communities and failing to protect our subsistence way of life and other public uses of fish and game. Our tribes, as well as sportsmen, and commercial fishermen have made every attempt to work with the State regarding our concerns. DNR provided no consultation with Bristol Bay residents, tribes, local governments, commercial fishing groups, or others, before drafting the proposed changes to the plan. DNR's insulated approach to decision-making is a real shame, because the people of our region have been doing comprehensive planning & visioning for the future of Bristol Bay for years - something DNR has repeatedly failed to do. It's quite clear DNR intends for Bristol Bay to be turned into a mining district and yet expects the world to believe otherwise.
The biggest insult to our local people is DNR's refusal to include a subsistence classification category in the Bristol Bay Area Plan - even though they include a classification for recreational hunting and fishing. This leaves many lands that are critical to subsistence unprotected. Our subsistence way of life is the heartbeat of our Yup'ik, Denaina, and Alutiq people. It's not just the core of our culture but also the food on our tables and yet DNR stubbornly refuses to analyze subsistence as a distinct criterion for land use planning. As a result, DNR's proposed revisions do little to protect our people against threats to our local economy and way of life by large-scale projects like Pebble Mine.
That's why we have worked hard to help create and support the CABBAP - it most accurately
reflects what our Bristol Bay people envision for ourselves for now and for future generations. Our people have lead and participated in extensive visioning and scoping for our region (Bristol Bay Visioning Project) - our people have been loud and clear that we want our lands managed by local people for local values that protect our natural resources. The CABBAP reflects our vision of balance. It calls for the protection of vital habitat with responsible development by increasing habitat protections for fish and wildlife, prohibiting metallic sulfide mining in the Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds, and incorporating new guidelines to protect subsistence in those same watersheds. The bottom line is, we want our lands and waters protected.
Our voices must be heard to ensure our vision for the future of our homeland is included in our own management plan. We've made our voice heard through letters and our tribal council passed a resolution in support of the CABBAP and we encourage you all to stand up and do the same.
Betty Gardiner is a lifelong Bristol Bay resident and the Clark's Point Tribal Council President.