Mining, Oil and Gas Extraction Puts Alaska Rivers on List of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2018

April 10, 2018

Rivers of Bristol Bay and Colville River Among Nation’s Top Ten Rivers Facing Threats


David Moryc, American Rivers, 503-307-1137

Lindsay Layland, United Tribes of Bristol Bay, 907-842-1687

David Krause, The Wilderness Society, 907-272-9453 x102

Katherine Carscallen, Sustaining Bristol Bay Fisheries, 907-843-2006

Washington, D.C. – American Rivers today named multiple Alaska rivers among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2018, citing mining and oil and gas extraction that threatens pristine waters, fisheries, wildlife and indigenous cultures.

The Rivers of Bristol Bay, including the Nushagak and Kvichak rivers, are at risk from the massive Pebble Mine that could devastate Alaska’s most important salmon fishery and threatens the traditional way of life in the region. The Colville River is threatened by oil and gas development that would impact wildlife habitat and native culture along one of country’s last remaining wild rivers.

“America’s Most Endangered Rivers is a call to action to save these national treasures,” said David Moryc with American Rivers. “The Trump administration is going too far with its reckless push to exploit our public lands and waters. The American people must decide: will we sacrifice these rivers so industries can make a quick profit, or will we protect them so that we can benefit from their clean water and natural riches for generations to come?”

The Nushagak and Kvichak rivers of Bristol Bay support the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon, the traditional way of life for dozens of Alaska Native tribes who depend on clean water for hunting and fishing, and a sustainable multi-billion dollar commercial fishing industry. Unfortunately, this priceless resource is once again threatened by the Pebble Mine after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) launched a fast-tracked 30-day public scoping process on March 30, 2018, to kick off the federal permitting process and environmental review of the project. American Rivers and its partners are calling on the USACE to give more time for Bristol Bay Tribes and residents to weigh in on the project, and conduct a more rigorous review than the fast-tracked process that is currently underway.

“The pristine waters of Bristol Bay have sustained the traditional way of life in Southwest Alaska for thousands of years and the most impressive wild sockeye salmon run on the planet. Our livelihoods, our clean lands and waters, and our fishing economy depend on these river systems. Now is the time for everyone who recognizes the importance of this region to take action to protect Bristol Bay,” said Alannah Hurley, Executive Director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay.

The Colville River is at risk from the administration’s renewed push for oil and gas development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. While the name may conjure up images of roads, pipelines and drilling platforms, the Reserve is a largely undisturbed place vital to polar bears, wolves, moose, caribou, grizzly bears and musk oxen. For residents of the region, the Colville River is extremely important for subsistence resources and practices. The river is a source of food and sustenance, and the waterway serves as an important transportation route to traditional use areas and culturally important sites. American Rivers and its partners are calling on Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to maintain protections that safeguard the Colville’s ecological and cultural values.

“The Colville is one of America’s great Arctic rivers with incredible ecological and cultural significance. It flows through some of the last great wilderness left on the planet and must be protected from the unavoidable and irreversible impacts of oil and gas development,” said David Krause, Arctic Lands Conservation Specialist at The Wilderness Society.

“The western arctic is home to millions of migratory birds and numerous species of land mammals who all depend on the clean water of the Reserve’s lakes and rivers. The Colville River is one of the most productive rivers in northern Alaska,” said Lisa Baraff, program director at the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. “Industrial intrusion and development threaten a way of life that has existed for generations. The harvest of traditional foods and cultural practices should be prioritized and protected. The Colville should be free to flow and sustain life.”

The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

Other rivers in the region listed as most endangered in recent years include the Chuitna River (2015) and Bristol Bay Rivers (2011).

America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2018

  • Big Sunflower River, MS
    • Threat – Army Corps pumping project
    • At Risk – Critical wetlands and wildlife habitat
  • Rivers of Bristol Bay, AK
    • Threat – Mining
    • At risk – Clean water, salmon runs, indigenous culture
  • Boundary Waters, MN
    • Threat – Mining
    • At risk – Clean water, recreation economy
  • Lower Rio Grande, TX
    • Threat – Border wall
    • At risk – River access, public safety, wildlife habitat
  • South Fork Salmon River, ID
    • Threat – Mining
    • At risk – Clean water, salmon habitat
  • Mississippi River Gorge, MN
    • Threat – Dams
    • At risk – Habitat, recreation opportunities
  • Smith River, MT
    • Threat – Mining
    • At risk – Clean water, recreation
  • Colville River, AK
    • Threat – Oil and gas development
    • At risk – Clean water, wildlife
  • Middle Fork Vermilion River, IL
    • Threat – Coal ash pollution
    • At risk – Clean water, Wild and Scenic River values
  • Kinnickinnic River, WI
    • Threat – Dams
    • At risk – Blue-ribbon trout stream

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 275,000 members, supporters and volunteers.

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