EPA RELEASES FINAL ASSESSMENT OF POTENTIAL IMPACTS OF MINING ON BRISTOL BAY
After years of study, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a report that emphasizes the negative impacts that large-scale gold and copper mining, specifically the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, could have on the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and Alaska Native cultures.
“Over three years, EPA compiled the best, most current science on the Bristol Bay watershed to understand how large-scale mining could impact salmon and water in this unique area of unparalleled natural resources,” Dennis McLerran, regional administrator for EPA Region 10, said in a press release. “Our report concludes that large-scale mining poses risks to salmon and the tribal communities that have depended on them for thousands of years.”
The proposed Pebble Mine would tap into the world’s largest known undeveloped copper ore deposit, which is located in the headwaters of two of the eight major rivers that feed Bristol Bay.
The EPA assessed potential environmental impacts using mining scenarios based on preliminary plans submitted by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. Depending on the size of the mine, the agency estimates that up to 94 miles of salmon supporting streams and as much as 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes would be destroyed.
The report provides no policy recommendations or regulatory decisions and is meant to act as a guide for the EPA’s response to tribes and others who petitioned the agency in 2010 to protect Bristol Bay under the Clean Water Act.
— Caitlin Rockett
NSF STUDY SAYS BIOFUEL PRODUCTION IS ABOUT MORE THAN JUST YIELD
While corn leads the pack when it comes to biomass yield for biofuel production, recent research shows that other crops can provide important environmental benefits in the long term.
Researchers from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center and the National Science Foundation’s Kellogg Biological Station Long-Term Ecological Research site compared corn, switchgrass and mixes of native prairie grasses and flowering plants. They presented the results of their research in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Biomass yield is obviously a key goal, but it appears to come at the expense of many other environmental benefits that society may desire from rural landscapes,” Doug Landis, a biologist at Michigan State University (MSU) and one of the paper’s lead authors, said in a press release.
Of the three crop types studied, methane consumption, pest suppression, pollination and bird populations were greater in perennial grasslands.
Research showed increased biodiversity and pest suppression when fields were located near other perennial grass habitats, suggesting that coordinated land use should be key to agricultural policy and planning.
However, Landis said rising corn prices are attractive to farmers and discourage production of other biomass-producing crops.
— Caitlin Rockett