Bristol Bay's Rivers
For years, controversy has reigned in jewelry stores in the lower 48 as environmentalists have waged a public relations battle over the fate of a gold mine in the far-reaches of Alaska, in territory so remote it hosts some of the nation's least-visited national parks. Why? The Pebble Mine is leading a modern-day gold rush in the salmon-rich headwaters of Bristol Bay.
Gold mining is highly destructive, producing not only a heavily scarred landscape, but often toxic mercury pollution downstream. Native American organizations, like the Nunamta Aulukestai and the Ekwok Tribal Council, have the most to lose, as generations of subsistence and commercial fishermen eye the world's largest salmon run and wonder if the fish can survive a gold mine for a neighbor. They've joined with environmentalists like the Alaska Conservation Foundation and the National Parks Conservation Association to pressure the Environmental Protection Agency to deny permits for the mine. American Rivers is urging people to support the opposition.
The Pebble Mine and other mining claims in the region landed nearby Lake Clark National Park on The Daily Green's 2010 list of 10 Endangered Vacations.