News Release

United Tribes of Bristol Bay

Bristol Bay Tribes and communities celebrated September 9th’s announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency will resume work on permanent protections for the Bristol Bay watershed that could safeguard the region from mines like the Pebble project. 

In a court filing, the agency said it will reinstate the 2014 “proposed determination” under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, that if finalized, would have restricted mining in the region to protect the watershed. With September 9th’s decision, the Environmental Protection Agency is now resuming the process that is needed to finalize protections for the watershed.

"This announcement is a historic step forward in the long fight to protect Bristol Bay, our fishery, and our people,” said Robert Heyano, President of United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “The fifteen federally recognized Tribes of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay who call this region home, have worked for decades to protect our pristine watershed that sustains our sacred indigenous way of life. Today, we applaud Administrator Regan for reinstating the process to consider protections for Bristol Bay and for respecting tribal sovereignty. The people of Bristol Bay are counting on the Environmental Protection Agency to listen to the science and finish the job of protecting our lands and waters."

Bristol Bay Tribes first petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency for Clean Water Act protections in 2010, a request that quickly garnered bi-partisan support across the nation including from sport and commercial fishermen, environmentalists, jewelers, and others who support Bristol Bay, and ultimately received the support of millions of Americans. Through mid-September, more than 2.1 million comments had been submitted to EPA supporting Bristol Bay protections since the 2010 request was made. 

Today’s filing resulted from the lawsuit brought by Tribes, fishermen, conservation organizations and others over the Trump Administration’s political decision to rescind those protections.

“This news provides a welcome step toward certainty for our fishery and our communities,” said Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. CEO Norm Van Vactor. “We’re thankful to see the Environmental Protection Agency’s work to protect our waters back on track. Permanent protections will enable our region to focus on growing and diversifying sustainable economic opportunities and building a robust future – rather than defending our waters.”

In the filing, the Environmental Protection Agency also acknowledged that the withdrawal of the proposed determination did not meet the court’s standard for appropriately considering the devastation a mine like Pebble would cause in the Bristol Bay watershed.

“Bristol Bay’s Tribes have worked to protect our waters since time immemorial, and we are grateful that the Environmental Protection Agency has decided to reinstate the process for permanent protections for Bristol Bay,” said Bristol Bay Native Association President/CEO Ralph Andersen. “We hope the agency will work quickly to incorporate all the available science into the proposed determination and issue a final determination that provides durable protections for the headwaters of our fishery.”

Bristol Bay Native Association represents 31 Bristol Bay Tribes & is the regional nonprofit tribal consortium providing social, economic, and educational opportunities to tribal members.

Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation represents 17 CDQ communities & exists to promote economic growth and opportunities for Bristol Bay residents through sustainable use of the Bering Sea fisheries.

United Tribes of Bristol Bay is a Tribal consortium representing 15 Bristol Bay Tribal governments (that represent over 80 percent of the region’s total population) working to protect the Yup’ik, Dena'ina, and Alutiiq way of life in Bristol Bay.

Bristol Bay Leaders Release “Call to Protect Bristol Bay” - United Tribes of Bristol Bay - logo