Alaska’s mineral-rich land and vibrant aquatic ecosystems hold some of the world’s most coveted natural resources. As a result, the state showcases the extreme effects of industrial activities on the natural landscape, including open-pit mining, logging and overfishing. The Alaska Conservation Foundation (ACF) and Bristol Bay United (BBU) are two of the leaders in ecological preservation in Alaska, dedicated to protecting the state’s natural habitats and ecosystems. ACF focuses on research and conservation science to support decision-making grounded in sound science; BBU specializes in advocacy and awareness around the potential environmental threats and long-term impacts of the the Pebble Mine, which has been a contentious political and environmental issue that sparked our interest in Bristol Bay.
With support from our strategic partner, Amplifier Strategies, Fondation Erol travelled to Alaska to better understand the debate regarding the proposed construction of Pebble Mine. After exploring the intersection of human activity, the environment and sustainable food systems, we realized that Bristol Bay is one of the most ecologically important regions for conservation efforts and is highly endangered by the plans for Pebble Mine. Recognizing the importance of objective science and political advocacy, we turned to ACF and BBU for support in opposing the destruction of the Alaskan ecosystem.
With our grant, ACF compiled rigorous and objective scientific research to inform the EPA as it finished its final report on the Pebble Mine project in January 2014. The report ultimately detailed the negative impacts of the proposed mine on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries. The emerging scientific studies pointed to billions of tons of waste runoff and irreversible damage to salmon populations, water quality and ecosystem health.
Armed with that information, and with support from our initial grant, Bristol Bay United engaged in months of grassroots organizing with commercial and sport fishermen, indigenous groups and local businesses to raise awareness and advocate for change. This advocacy work brought local opinions and concerns to the forefront of a public policy debate. As a result of BBU's efforts, public officials in Alaska have spoken out against the mine, and the EPA put in place key measures to halt the mining project indefinitely.