Don Young Taking Heat for Selling out Hunters and Fishermen

Alaska Tribal Representatives and Bristol Bay Commercial Fishermen Blast Congressman Don Young for Seeking to Cripple EPA Authority to Protect Commercial, Subsistence and Sport Hunting and Fishing

Tribes and Fishermen Seek Stepped Up EPA Role in Protecting Bristol Bay commercial, subsistence and sport fishing, and hunting.

DILLINGHAM, Alaska, Aug. 5, 2010 – Tribes and commercial fishing groups today condemned Congressman Don Young (R-AK) for seeking to repeal the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect fish and game habitat and commercial, subsistence and sport hunting and fishing.

On July 30, 2010, Representative Don Young (R-AK) introduced federal legislation, H.R. 5992. If enacted, Young’s bill would repeal Section 404(c) of the federal Clean Water Act. Section 404(c) enables EPA to use a public process to prohibit or restrict the discharge of mining wastes, waste rock, and other material into waters and wetlands whenever doing so would have an “unacceptable adverse effect” on municipal water supplies, fisheries, wildlife, or recreation. EPA has used 404(c) in other parts of the country to protect habitat, fisheries and hunting.

In introducing his bill, Young claimed that EPA had used 404(c) for “the denial of Conoco Phillips’ CD-5 Alpine Satellite Development permit.” This is incorrect. In fact, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit under Section 404(a) of the Clean Water Act, not EPA under Section 404(c).

Young introduced the bill two days after EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson visited Dillingham, where seven federally-recognized tribes in the Kvichak and Nushagak drainages and commercial fishers discussed with her their request that EPA commence a public process under 404(c.) Their goal is to protect habitat and commercial, subsistence and sport fishing and hunting from metallic sulfide mining in those drainages, such as Pebble mine. The discussions with Jackson followed a formal request submitted in May by Nondalton Tribal Council, Koliganik Village Council, New Stuyahok Traditional Council, Ekwok Village Council, Curyung Tribal Council, and Levelock Village Council. The tribes were later joined by the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association and the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, commercial fishing organizations which represent thousands of Bristol Bay commercial permit holders, Clarks Point Village Council also recently signed on to the request..

These tribal and commercial fishing organizations oppose Young’s bill because it would undermine EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act, and it would also mean that state and federal officials would consider permitting mines such as Pebble under the State of Alaska’s 2005 Bristol Bay Area Plan ( BBAP) without the authority of EPA under 404(c). The 2005 BBAP (1) uses primarily marine criteria, such as whether land is a walrus haulout or eel grass bed, to determine whether inland uplands a hundred miles from the coast at Pebble qualify as habitat, and excludes moose, caribou, and salmon in non-navigable water from that determination; (2) has a land classification category for land used for sport hunting and fishing but not for subsistence hunting and fishing, and (3) then defines “recreation” as not including sport fishing and hunting.

“The BBAP is illegal in our view and is the subject of a lawsuit. Don Young’s bill is even more inappropriate in light of that case and he will have to defend that as he tries to push this misguided bill through Congress,” said Tom Tilden, president of Curyung Tribal Council of Dillingham, the largest tribe in Bristol Bay.

“We live and make our living from where the Pebble mine would be built. We want our country’s top environmental experts look into whether the Kvichak and Nushagak drainages are the right place for large-scale metallic sulfide mining that could permanently harm the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon fishery,” said Lindsey Bloom, Board Member of the Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association. “Some 80 percent of the region opposes Pebble, as does the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, the City of Dillingham and most local villages and tribes that would be most affected,” Bloom said.