Conservation easements on Pedro Bay Corporation land safeguard cultural, ecological and subsistence resources and block construction of Pebble Mine transportation route
PEDRO BAY — Last week The Conservation Fund and Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust announced the permanent protection of over 44,000 acres of vital land and water habitat on Iliamna Lake that is essential to the health and vitality of Alaska’s Bristol Bay region — the largest wild salmon fishery in the world.
A successful $20 million, 18-month fundraising effort — with half of the funding provided by The Wyss Foundation, Patagonia’s Holdfast Collective and Alaska Venture Fund — enabled The Conservation Fund’s purchase of three conservation easements on land owned by the Pedro Bay Corporation. Located in the heart of Bristol Bay in the northeastern end of Iliamna Lake, the easements protect critical habitat for millions of wild salmon and maintain subsistence uses, traditional activities and cultural resources important to the Pedro Bay Corporation and its Alaska Native shareholders.
The conservation easements cover three areas around Knutson Creek, Iliamna River, and Pile River and safeguard the most productive and intact spawning and rearing habitats for sockeye salmon within the Iliamna Lake watersheds. In 2022, Bristol Bay’s fishery run was the largest on record at 79 million fish. The easements will help to secure the future of Bristol Bay salmon and ensure a vibrant and sustainable commercial fishing economy.
These new land and water protections cover a portion of the designated northern transportation route vital for access to the proposed Pebble Mine. The conservation easements now prohibit development and execution of any right-of-way agreements needed to develop an industrial road across Pedro Bay Corporation lands.
“We are honored to work with the people of Pedro Bay to help them realize their vision of sustainable guardianship, economic stability and subsistence use,” said President and CEO of The Conservation Fund Larry Selzer. “These locally-driven conservation easements build upon more than 300,000 acres of critical salmon and wildlife habitat in Alaska that The Conservation Fund has protected with Alaska Native village corporations and are a powerful and durable step toward advancing a broader strategy to establish equitable and lasting protections for the Bristol Bay region.”
The Pedro Bay Corporation will retain ownership of the 44,000 acres. The Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust (BBHLT), the local land trust that serves this region, holds the conservation easements and is responsible for administering and enforcing the terms of the easements in coordination with the Corporation.
Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust Executive Director Tim Troll remarked: “The survival of wild salmon in Bristol Bay and our thriving commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries all depend upon intact salmon habitat. The willingness of federal, state and Alaska Native corporation landowners to restrain from activities on their lands that could significantly damage that habitat will ultimately determine the future of Bristol Bay salmon. By virtue of the conservation easements just executed between the Alaska Native shareholders of Pedro Bay Corporation and the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, we have entered into a binding partnership to preserve forever over 44,000 critical acres in the most productive wild salmon nursery in the world.”
This significant land protection effort was made possible with generous support from many, including Bristol Bay Native Corporation, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, The Wyss Foundation, Patagonia’s Holdfast Collective, Alaska Venture Fund, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The Conservation Fund, Richard King Mellon Foundation, NorthLight Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart’s Acres for America Program, The Bunting Family Foundation Fund B, MeLampy-Lawrence Charitable Trust, Mark Dexter and Deb Cowley, Richard and Martha Wagner, Robert Shaw, OBI Seafoods, Trident Seafoods, Orvis, Wildtype, Trout Unlimited, numerous foundations and hundreds of individual donors, as well as through collaborative fundraising efforts with The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund, which includes support from the Brotman Family, Susan Burchill and Anne Pattee.
“Over a million people have expressed their opposition to the Pebble Mine project and declared that Bristol Bay deserves permanent protections to preserve the subsistence way of life, sport fishing, and the most valuable and sustainable commercial salmon fishery on the planet,” said Michael Jackson, Board Chair for Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. “We are proud to be a part of this collective effort and are excited to see so many companies, foundations, individual donors and local associations step up to contribute the $20 million needed to achieve the Pedro Bay Rivers easements. We continue to urge the EPA to enact strong, durable protections for critical salmon habitat in Bristol Bay, and express our gratitude for everyone who made these on-the-ground protections possible.”
“This is a historic day for Pedro Bay Corporation and its shareholders,” observed Jason Metrokin, President & Chief Executive Officer Bristol Bay Native Corporation. “The closing of these conservation easements will protect important salmon habitat, ensure shareholders have access to subsistence resources and provide the corporation with new economic opportunities. Bristol Bay Native Corporation is proud to be a partner in this effort and we congratulate all the people and organizations that helped make it happen.”
This project will expand upon previous salmon habitat conservation work completed by BBHLT, The Conservation Fund and the Pedro Bay Corporation on Iliamna Lake. To date, the partners have collectively protected over 56,000 acres of Pedro Bay Corporation land with conservation easements — increasing connectivity of conserved land across the Iliamna Lake region, securing a wide diversity of fisheries and habitats, and supporting Alaska Native land ownership and traditional and subsistence activities. The new conservation easements are designed to help the Pedro Bay Corporation balance its goals of habitat protection and sustainable economic development on its lands.
The Pedro Bay Corporation (PBC) is the Alaska Native village corporation for Pedro Bay, Alaska, with lands located on the eastern shores of Iliamna Lake, in the Bristol Bay region. PBC was among 200 village corporations formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971, and it currently owns and manages over 92,000 acres on Iliamna Lake. PBC has more than 200 shareholders of Dena’ina descent, and it manages its portfolio of business inside and outside the Bristol Bay region for the benefit of its shareholders. www.pedrobaycorp.com
The Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust (BBHLT) was organized in 2000 by local tribal leaders, commercial fishermen, sport fishing lodges and an Alaska Native village corporation based in Dillingham. In pursuit of its mission to protect the salmon habitat of Bristol Bay BBHLT has fostered the conservation of 36,400 acres, and financed scientific research that resulted in additional protection under Alaska law by the addition 1300 miles of Bristol Bay streams to Alaska’s Anadromous Waters Catalog and water level reservations for fish on 430 stream miles. http://bristolbaylandtrust.org/
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8.5 million acres, including 385,000 acres of lands and waters across Alaska. www.conservationfund.org
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