Tuesday, June 4News That Matters

Is the Pulse of Alaska’s Rivers Weakening? A Perspective


The decline of salmon in Alaska’s arctic, the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers is not just an ecological problem, but a direct threat to the cultural and traditional sustenance of Alaska Native communities. This issue was the focus of a recent United States Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing, where the impact of various factors such as ocean trawling, bycatch, and climate change on the region’s rivers was discussed.

One specific concern brought up during the hearing was the proposed Donlin Gold mine, which is seen as a significant threat to the region. In response to these concerns, Sophie Swope, the executive director of the Mother Kuskokwim Tribal Coalition and a Council member of the Orutsararmiut Traditional Native Council, hand-delivered a heartfelt letter to Sen. Lisa Murkowski. The letter expressed the collective worry of the communities for human safety and the fear of irreversible impacts on the river ecosystems posed by the development of the mine.

Swope emphasized that Sen. Murkowski has been a vocal advocate for the integrity of Alaska’s rivers, but more needs to be done to protect these vital waterways. She highlighted the inadequacy of the scientific analysis and the lack of legal tribal consultation in the permitting process for the Donlin Gold mine.

According to Swope, the risks posed by the mine go beyond typical economic concerns and include threats to the entire region’s food and water supply, an increase in barge traffic leading to erosion, and potential issues related to transient workers and man camps. In response, Swope called for a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to comprehensively assess the potential damages of the Donlin Gold mine as a necessary step to protect the region.

The article also stresses the importance of honoring and preserving the ways of life that have sustained the land for generations. It calls for decisive actions to protect the heart of Alaska, its rivers, its people, and its future.

The piece ends with a disclaimer that the views expressed by the writer are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. It also provides information for submitting pieces for consideration by the publication.