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AMCC’s Executive Director on Bristol Bay Withdrawal

Dear friends and supporters,

Did you hear the AMAZING NEWS?! On December 16th, President Obama announced a landmark decision to permanently withdraw Bristol Bay and southeast Bering Sea waters (North Aleutian Basin) from the federal Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program! The decision represents a long and hard fought victory for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, an alliance of tribal, commercial fishing and conservation groups, and the people of Bristol Bay. For over 12 years, we have worked collaboratively to earn permanent protection from offshore drilling in Bristol Bay and the southeast Bering Sea, once and for all. Read more about the decision here.

AMCC and members like you have played an important role in the long effort to protect Bristol Bay – I know because that’s how I first got my start with the organization.

In 2003, we launched the “Friends of Bristol Bay” as news of the pending lifting of a congressional moratorium on drilling took hold. That moratorium was lifted, and we realized we were in for a long fight. I arrived in Alaska in 2005 to work as an AMCC intern supporting the Bristol Bay program as the momentum towards opening Bristol Bay to drilling again was quickly gaining speed and power. Since that time when Bristol Bay was on the chopping block, we have completely turned the tide. With support of members like you, we have shown the country and key decision makers that Bristol Bay indeed is a national treasure, far too valuable to our communities and fishing industry in Alaska to risk.

During my 5 years working on our Bristol Bay program, I plowed through environmental impact statements, walked the docks, was occasionally cursed at, read journal articles on seismic testing and the impacts of drilling, talked to fishing groups, worked on resolutions, lobbied Congress, and went head to head with Shell Oil and the corrupt Minerals Management Service. I also developed a fierce love for the region, its people, and a deep respect for the steadfast leaders like Robin Samuelsen, Kim Williams, Tom Tilden, Ralph Andersen, and Terry Hoefferle who were advocates for protecting Bristol Bay even before the Exxon Valdez spill happened. Many relationships with fishermen, local residents, and organizations from the region and across Alaska were built through this work that last to this day. The people that were part of this campaign are truly remarkable and formed a team that I am incredibly proud and thankful to have been a part of.

Working with a strong group of local, regional, and fishing partners who have been fighting offshore drilling in Bristol Bay since the 1980s, we dug our heals in and helped lay the groundwork for what would become a national campaign via the Fish Basket Coalition. In recent years, Dorothy Childers (pictured right) took over the Bristol Bay campaign for AMCC and played a critical role in helping bring this success home. With your support, we spread the word around the country and within the Obama administration that in Bristol Bay, “Fishing Means Business.”

AMCC has played an important role in protecting Bristol Bay from offshore drilling and for this I thank you, because this major victory could not have been achieved without your support. I invite you to join us in celebrating this momentous win for Bristol Bay’s important fisheries, subsistence resources, and ecological value, and the fishermen, residents, and communities who rely on them.

While we rejoice in this accomplishment, we know major threats to the region’s fisheries are looming. These include unacceptable levels of halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea that threaten local fisheries, continued diminished runs of Chinook salmon in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, the enormous and detrimental impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine, and the most acidic waters in the world recently recorded in the Bering Strait.

With your support, AMCC can continue to be a leader in advancing community-driven marine conservation solutions for Alaska’s future. I hope you will dig deep and continue to invest in the work of AMCC. Together, we can accomplish big, amazing things for the future of our fisheries and our ways of life that depend on them.

Thank you for helping make this historic moment possible!

Kelly Harrell Executive Director

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