Trout Unlimited sues Trump administration over Pebble Mine

Group poses legal challenge to the EPA's attempt to strip Bristol Bay of mining protections
sockeye salmon kvichak river tributary alaska
Sockeye salmon make their way up a tributary to the Kvichak River in Alaska, near the location of the proposed Pebble Mine (photo: Pat Clayton / Fish Eye Guy Photography).

Trout Unlimited is taking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to court over the removal of protections granted to the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska from the impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, alleges the EPA ignored science and the potential impacts of developing the mine when it withdrew the Bristol Bay Proposed Determination, and in doing so violated the Administrative Procedures Act and Clean Water Act. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot issue a permit to Pebble if the EPA’s decision on the Bristol Bay Proposed Determination is overturned.

The mine, proposed by the Pebble Partnership, a foreign mining conglomerate, would likely become the largest open-pit mine on the planet. The Pebble Partnership has never constructed a mine of this scale before, and TU alleges its proposed methods would put in harm’s way the world-class fishery of Bristol Bay. In all, about half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon harvest comes from the waters of Bristol Bay, and the overall salmon fishery provides about 14,000 American jobs.

“Billions of dollars have been spent in an attempt to restore salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest. Meanwhile, Bristol Bay sets records for its salmon returns year after year. All we need to do is have the humility and common-sense to leave this landscape alone,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “Sacrificing a place as such as Bristol Bay for some gold is a short-sighted fools-errand. We are not a litigious organization, but we and millions of other sportsmen and women will not allow greed to compromise the most important salmon fishery on the planet.”

Not only does the region support the globe’s most important sockeye salmon run, it’s also home to Alaska’s best run of king salmon, and perhaps the world’s best native rainbow trout fishery. In all, the fishery provides about $1.5 billion to the regional economy every single year. It also nurtures a unique subsistence lifestyle of some 30 native Alaskan tribes.

“Look at what’s at stake and the maddening progress Pebble is making here at our expense,” said Nanci Morris Lyon, local resident and owner of Bear Trail Lodge, one of dozens of destination angling lodges in the region. “Contrary to science, the will of the people, and common sense, Pebble is advancing toward their key permit, thanks in part to agencies giving them handouts. This lawsuit calls that out. We can’t afford Pebble in Bristol Bay, and that means we need science, oversight, integrity and persistence.”