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Pebble can't dismiss sport fishing: Bristol Bay lodges and guides are important for our lifestyle, economy

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Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 11:52 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

Community perspective

Earlier this month, experts gathered to review Pebble Partnership’s baseline studies in the Pebble Keystone Dialogues. On Oct. 11, experts critiqued Pebble for downplaying the importance of sport fishing and recreation to the Bristol Bay economy.

Moreover, John Shively, Pebble Limited Partnership’s CEO, brushed off a question about assessing the larger recreational experience anglers are seeking by essentially saying that the experience of sportsmen in Bristol Bay is not worth considering because these are trips taken by rich corporate people to use as a tax write off. 

As a Bristol Bay recreation business owner, Alaskan and sportsman, I have to say that I respectfully disagree with Mr. Shively.

While certainly some trips to Bristol Bay are business trips, he fails to recognize that many people save their whole life for this kind of experience — they come as a family, or with their fishing buddies. And regardless of how the trip is funded, Shively is discounting the value of the experience for the Bristol Bay angler.

Those of us who hunt and fish know that a trip is about much more than the cost of the trip, the number of fish you catch or the size of the trophy. It’s about being with family and friends, it’s about getting away from the craziness of your daily schedule, it’s about being able to take advantage of the bountiful resources and fantastic landscape our great state offers, or teaching a son, daughter or grandkid about the great outdoors.

Pebble, thus far, has failed to take into account the recreational experience anglers to Bristol Bay are seeking when evaluating the mine’s impact on the region.

Additionally, the sport-fishing industry in Bristol Bay directly generates more than $60 million dollars each year — and that doesn’t include the more ancillary expenditures. Although there haven’t been in-depth studies to figure out where this money is spent, I can personally attest that 60 percent to 80 percent of my yearly business expenditures are spent either locally (fuel, air transport, etc.) or elsewhere in Alaska (food, supplies). With more than 70 lodges and guiding operations in Bristol Bay, that adds up.

Shively’s statement and Pebble’s flawed recreation baseline data make it more even more clear that the Environmental Protection Agency’s review of the region and Pebble’s potential impacts is essential to making sure this important Alaska resource is protected. The EPA was invited by tribes and Alaska commercial fishermen and sportsmen to be involved; we commend them for their thorough scientific assessment and urge them to move forward to protect the recreational values of Bristol Bay and its contributions to the state’s economy.

Chuck Ash moved to Alaska in 1972 as young Vietnam War veteran. He has guided Bristol Bay fishing since 1979, including countless trips in the Nushagak and Mulchatna drainages, into which water from the proposed Pebble project site would flow.

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