Welcome to the latest installment of the Wednesday Wake-Up Call, a weekly roundup of the most pressing conservation issues important to anglers. With both Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Wednesdays, it’s been a few weeks. Working with our friends at Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Everglades Foundation, Captains for Clean Water, Bullsugar.org, and Conservation Hawks (among others), we’ll make sure you’ve got the information you need to understand the issues and form solid opinions.
If you know of an important issue–whether it’s national or local–that anglers should be paying attention to, comment below, and we’ll check it out!
1. Alaska Governor Used Pebble Partnership Talking Points to Lobby President Trump and the EPA
Back in August, the Environmental Protection Agency made the shocking announcement that they were reversing course and scrapping their own Proposed Determination, which “would have safeguarded Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble mine and other large-scale industrial development by limiting the amount of mine waste that could be disposed of in Bristol Bay’s rivers and wetlands.” The agency told staff scientists it was no longer opposing a controversial Alaska mining project–which could devastate one of the world’s most valuable wild salmon fisheries–just one day after President Trump met with Alaska’s governor Mike Dunleavy aboard Air Force One. (See above.)
Last month, CNN discovered that Dunleavy had been working closely with the Pebble Partnership, going so far as having the mining company ghost-write emails and provide talking points to convince the President and the EPA to change course. This is clearly a case of the fox guarding the hen house, and it throws into question just how fair and impartial the permitting process really is.
2. Florida Governor Pledges More Money for Everglades Restoration
In 2019, the efforts of the Everglades community and the leadership of Gov. Ron Desantis resulted in unprecedented funding for the environment and the Everglades. He now seeks to fulfill the next step of his commitment to invest $2.5 billion over four years. He is asking the Florida Legislature to establish a recurring revenue stream for Everglades restoration, clean water, springs protection and other environmental needs of $625 million annually for each of the next three years ($322 million of which is for Eveglades restoration alone).
3. Pebble Mine Environmental Impact Statement Delayed 3 Months, BUT Corps Won’t Do More Fieldwork
When the Army Corps of Engineers announced last month that it was pushing back the publication date for its Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed Pebble Mine Project, it seemed like a win for those who feel that the Draft EIS suffered from serious errors and omissions. But then the Corps made clear that it wasn’t going to actually do any more investigation, but was simply taking more time to make sure that its conclusions are “thorough and well understood.”
This did not sit well with those who want to see this EIS done right. Lindsey Bloom of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay said, “That is exactly what I heard: ‘We’re going to take 90 days, to try to explain ourselves better, without doing any more work, collecting any more data, or being any more thorough.’” And Nelli Williams of TU-Alaska argued that “The Corps is reaching for Band-Aids when the patient needs a heart transplant.”
4. Montana Closes Bull-Trout Harvest on Lake Koocanusa
Although most stories about Montana bull trout are about their threatened status or catch-and-release fisheries, there are two places in Big Sky Country where you can actually keep a bull trout–until March, 1, that is, when that list is reduced to one. On Monday, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a state agency request to change regulations on Lake Koocanusa–a dammed section of the Kootenay River along the Canadian border–in an effort to stop population decline.
According to FWP spokesperson Dillon Tabish, contibuting factors include, “habitat loss, degradation from land and water management practices, connectivity issues from dams that isolate or fragment populations, and predation and hybridization with non-native fish species.”