Welcome to the latest installment of the Wednesday Wake-Up Call, a weekly roundup of the most pressing conservation issues important to anglers. 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. Pebble Mine Updates
●Poll finds that a Majority of Alaskans Oppose the Mine
An op-ed in the Anchorage Daily News argues that only one-third of Alaskans are in favor of Pebble Mine, while a convincing majority oppose it:
Alaskans’ opposition to Pebble has remained solid since at least 2012, when Bristol Bay Native Corporation first began conducting annual statewide polls. In this year’s polling, 54% of Alaskans oppose Pebble, while only 35% support it. These are numbers that have remained remarkably consistent: The opposition to Pebble has never dropped below 50%; support for the project has never reached 40%. A copy of the polling data is available to the public on BBNC’s website.
Author Everette Anderson further argues that Alaskans aren’t fooled by the claims of the mining company, believing that a smaller mine will eventually be expanded.
●Senator Murkowski Calls for an Extension of Comment Period
Ever since the US Army Corps of Engineers announced that the comment on its Draft Environmental Impact Statement would be just 90 days, many have argued that this “streamlined” process was actually an attempt to limit opposition. Now one of Alaska’s Republican senators is asking for the comment period to be extended:
Murkowski wrote that the extension is needed “given the length and complexity” of the corps’ environmental impact statement for the mine proposal.
“I make this request for this proposed project as an exception to my general view about the appropriate length of comment periods for EISs under the National Environmental Policy Act,” Murkowski wrote.
She also asked the agency to “redouble” its efforts “to engage in meaningful consultation” with Alaska Natives in the Bristol Bay region.
●Mining Company May Have Misled Its Investors
Northern Dynasty, the company behind the proposed Pebble Mine, is under suspicion for having presented misleading and incomplete information to lure investors, according to an article on Bloomberg.com.
Earthworks said Northern Dynasty has used overly promotional language to hype Pebble’s potential. In the company’s project overview, which cites the larger resource figures of 11 billion tons, Northern Dynasty calls Pebble “one of the greatest stores of mineral wealth ever discovered, and the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold resource.” In a presentation this month, it described it as a “world class” resource that’s “Tier 1 by every measure” and presents a “generational opportunity” to investors.
The Canadian government has been cracking down on overblown estimates offered by mining companies, which makes an investigation perhaps more likely.
2. Mine Runoff Pours into Colorado’s Blue River
In scenes eerily reminiscent of the spill on the Animas River in 2016, the Blue turned decidedly orange last Saturday, striking fear into sportsmen and public-health advocates around Breckenridge. Officials quickly determined that the cause was a known runoff site, triggered by heavy rains. Mine waste and mud from a collapsed beaver dam was the culprit. Local environmental officials determined that there was no risk to human health but asked folks to stay out of the water.
With a huge snowpack in the mountains, there will probably be more incidents like this one during runoff. Happily, by Tuesday, the Blue was running clear again. However, the situation highlights the potential dangers of mine runoff near rivers.
3. Florida Governor Establishes Blue-Green Algae Task Force
Blue-green algae, fueled by water releases from Lake Okeechobee, has plagues both coasts of South Florida in recent years. Gov. Ron DeSantis has established a task force to study the problem and find solutions.
Newly named blue-green algae task force member Mike Parsons, a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, said “this has been going on for decades, and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. Nutrient reduction policies are a good idea but there are still legacy nutrients in the system and they are likely going to be there for decades.” It seems evident to most that are studying the issue that stopping the discharges to the estuaries is key to stopping the coastal toxic blooms.
3. Mystery Toxin Kills Fish in Pennsylvania’s Donegal Creek
The sight of hundreds of dead fish in Donegal Creek, in Lancaster County, has anglers and biologists mystified. The region has a long history of farm runoff causing problems with water quality, but the culprit has yet to be identified in this situation:
Donegal Creek runs through farmland. Conservationists have worked with farmers for decades to prevent runoff and restore the creek.
“We know that the work that we do is fragile, and it’s always disappointing when something like this occurs,” said Derek Eberly, of the Donegal Fish Conservation Association.