Stepping up for Salmon
The critical role that wild Alaskan salmon play in Washington's culture and economy is clear. Salmon are a staple of the regional cuisine and the source of thousands of jobs. But these benefits reach far beyond Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska is home to the world’s largest remaining runs of sockeye salmon—sustaining a diverse array of wildlife and a thriving commercial fishery, and attracting sport anglers from all over the world.
That’s why it's encouraging to see U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (WA) recognize the importance of Bristol Bay and shed some light on the serious risks from the proposed Pebble Mine—making her one of the first politicians from outside Alaska to take a stance on the project.
Pebble Mine would be the largest open pit gold and copper mine in North America, and the billions of tons of toxic waste produced could devastate salmon and other wildlife and the thousands of jobs they sustain. Native communities, sport and commercial anglers, and conservation groups have serious concerns about these impacts, and now Senator Cantwell is adding her voice.
In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson, Senator Cantwell states: “Should scientists determine that pollution from a large-scale development in the Bristol Bay watershed could have unacceptable adverse impacts on water quality and the fish stocks that depend on it, I would support efforts to prohibit or appropriately restrict such activities, including the utilization of Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act (CWA).”
Section 404(c), to which Sen. Cantwell refers, gives the U.S. EPA the power to veto permits required to develop the mine if it is determined that the impacts would be too damaging to fisheries, wildlife or recreation. While this is one approach that may be effective in halting this dangerous project, there's another action the U.S. EPA should take that could stop many other destructive mines across the country from dumping their toxic waste into our nation’s waters.
Currently, there are two loopholes in the CWA that allow hard rock mines to dump their toxic waste into our lakes, streams and other waters. By closing these loopholes, the U.S. EPA can affect not only the Pebble Mine in Alaska, but the Polymet Mine in Minnesota, Mt. Emmons Mine in Colorado and many other proposed mines that will likely rely on these loopholes to cut costs and justify extensive environmental damage. These mines—many of which are owned by foreign companies—could have harmful long-lasting effects on local communities, fish and wildlife populations.
Because the mining industry is currently developing in places at a scale almost unimaginable a decade ago, action must be taken now to protect our nation’s waters and wildlife from the toxic pollution of hard rock mines. I hope more politicians take Sen. Cantwell’s lead in shining the spotlight on dangerous projects such as Pebble Mine and make it a priority to protect our nation’s precious resources and the wildlife that depend on them.
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At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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