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WWF works to sustain the natural world for the benefit of people and wildlife, collaborating with partners from local to global levels in nearly 100 countries.
2022 ends on a high point for conservation, sustainable development, and Indigenous rights in Alaska.
With our partners at The Conservation Fund and other members of the Bristol Bay Victory Challenge (BBVC), we're proud to announce the successful establishment of a 44,000-acre conservation easement protecting four of the world's most important rivers for salmon habitat. These easements will permanently protect land owned by the Pedro Bay Corporation, an Alaska Native corporation, and will bisect the route that Pebble Mine developers proposed for a road that would lead from the mine to a shipping port on Cook Inlet. The persistent threat of Pebble Mine drove the creation of the BBVC, a five-year, $50 million, Indigenous-led fundraising campaign to conserve this pristine watershed and its wildlife, while investing in the future of its local communities.
It's not an overstatement to say the Bristol Bay region runs on salmon: it underpins both the local economy — valued at over $2 billion and employing more than 15,000 people — as well as the cultural and subsistence needs of local communities. These needs are both immediate and long term. As such, our conservation approach is centered on building relationships with the people who live where we work. If we can support their right to self-determination by helping them protect the lands they want protected — their own lands — we are well-positioned to collaborate on the development of a more sustainable economy while also protecting the iconic species that mean so much to so many.
Native communities in the area have practiced subsistence living for countless generations, resulting in an unparalleled understanding of the land and its species, and how best to steward and conserve them in perpetuity. WWF's work in the region is focused on collaborating with them to build long-term sustainable economies, because if we're going to work to remove the areas of the mining district, there has to be an alternative. The best thing that we can do is work with those communities to find what that alternative is. WWF will continue to work with the people of Bristol Bay to help them secure a sustainable future around the spectacular salmon runs that bring life to the region.
Steve MacLean is WWF's Managing Director of the US Arctic Program