The waters of the North Aleutian Basin and Bristol Bay provide 40 percent of the nation's wild seafood, host the largest runs of wild sockeye salmon in the world, support centuries-old Native subsistence traditions, and offer critical habitat for some of the world's highest concentrations of whales, seals, walrus, seabirds, salmon, crab and halibut.
In 2010, the administration prohibited drilling in the North Aleutian Basin and Bristol Bay through 2017. However, the push to drill will likely continue after 2017 unless more lasting action is taken.
Right now, the administration is accepting comments on the nation's five-year offshore oil and gas leasing plans. Tell Secretary Salazar that this region is too valuable to drill, and request that Bristol Bay be protected from oil and gas development permanently.
Dear Secretary Salazar,
Bristol Bay is among the most productive marine ecosystems in the world. It supports the largest wild sockeye salmon runs on the planet. It provides vital habitat for red king crab, several salmon species, Pacific halibut, marine mammals (some endangered), and tens of millions of waterfowl and seabirds. The continued health of Bristol Bay's fisheries and ecological wealth supports centuries-old Native subsistence traditions, provides abundant seafood to the nation and world, and drives a sustainable regional economy that supports thousands of fishermen, fishing families, and businesses across Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
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For decades, oil companies have wanted to develop small hydrocarbon deposits beneath Bristol Bay. Yet these are projected to yield just $7.7 billion in revenue over the anticipated 40 year life of the project -- an amount that is dwarfed by the $4.1 to $5.4 billion generated annually by the area's commercial fisheries. To expose such valuable, job-creating fisheries to the risks of oil spills, seismic testing, and disruptive on- and offshore drilling infrastructure does not make sense.
Since the 1980s the region's waters have been leased for oil and gas development, those leases repurchased at great taxpayer expense, a moratorium imposed, and that moratorium withdrawn. I appreciate that in 2010 you wisely withdrew Bristol Bay from leasing plans, offering presidential protection through 2017. However, as evidenced by the region's history, in a few short years the push to drill may again make this ecologically valuable area available for drilling.
Now is the time for you to take the next step to ensure a healthy and sustainable future for the region and the wildlife, traditions and jobs it supports. Now is the time to ensure lasting protections for what is, in your own words, "a national treasure." Please take action this year to find a permanent solution for the North Aleutian Basin and Bristol Bay.