Ever heard of the Bristol Bay National Monument in Alaska? You know, the one that protects the world's largest sockeye salmon run, provides $1.5 billion in sustainable wild salmon every year, supports a rural economy that includes commercial fishing, sport fishing, and tourism, all while ensuring that the bay and it surrounding lands are protected? No? That's because it doesn't exist--but it should.
This week the president, with a legally questionable stroke of the pen, reduced two existing national monuments to shadows of their former selves: Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, both in Utah.
National monuments along with other lands that are set aside for conservation of the American landscape and our heritage provide sportsmen and women unparalleled opportunities to access and enjoy the lands that belong to them.
The waters and lands that surround Bristol Bay clearly check many of the boxes necessary for adding conservation protections to our public lands. But pristine, unbroken lands and waters and a booming rural economy are no longer enough to be afforded protections in the current environment. And Bristol Bay is at double jeopardy-- a foreign owned mining company wants to build North America's largest open pit mine in its headwaters, requiring the worlds largest earthen dam to hold the toxic waste generated from the mine. A reckless proposal anywhere, but especially in an earthquake-prone headwater region of one of America's most intact and productive ecosystems.
Photo from US EPA Bristol Bay Website- www.epa.gov/bristolbay
Bristol Bay National Monument doesn't exist today, but it could-- to the benefit of all Americans. Conservation combines science and principle, producing actions that benefit generations far beyond our own--this is why we need to protect and enact national monuments, not reduce and remove them from the American landscape.
Until next time,
Founder, Sage Creek Press
Author- Wyoming Mountains & Home-waters: Family, Fly Fishing, and Conservation