The proposed Pebble Mine places Alaska Peninsula Corporation in a unique and challenging position. Some shareholders oppose it, yet many support the economic benefits to community and personal well-being. Somehow through it all, we must strike balance. At the end of the day we agree to disagree and remain friends or family.
Recently, our corporation held its annual meeting in Anchorage. People attended from far and wide. They talked about jobs and expressed gratitude for the ability to provide for their families through jobs created from contract work with the Pebble Project. Shareholders spoke of their desire for year-round income and opportunities beyond seasonal commercial fishing.
Everyone was extended the opportunity to present concerns. None expressed opposition or negativity. Above all, shareholders let everyone know that APC was doing the right thing by ensuring the corporation’s place at the table with Pebble. The message was heard loud and clear.
There are some who choose not to consider the good that comes from this relationship with Pebble. Somehow they don’t want to consider the greater good. In this case, it is the preservation of our people in places where a healthy economy matters most, in villages on the brink of abandonment.
There’s a common belief that resource development will kill the fishery. Unless one takes time to understand Alaska’s permitting process and proposed development at Pebble, one may likely continue to believe what certain environmental groups frequently publicize — worst case scenarios resulting from antiquated development standards of the past.
At APC, our leadership doesn’t have the luxury of making emotional decisions. Every aspect must be considered before the corporation forms a position on Pebble. As a for-profit Alaska Native corporation, we base our business on strategy, not public opinion polls.
At present, we’re immersed in opinionated, emotional hype. People have the right to make their own personal determinations, regardless of disagreement, and we are the first to defend this right. This ideology is the basis of APC’s position on the Pebble Project. It empowers us to determine for ourselves whether Pebble can be developed safely.
The thought of losing the power to exercise self-determination is an insult and contradiction to the forefathers who devoted their lifetimes fighting for Alaska Native rights. The bitter irony is that some of those working to prevent our self-determination happen to be our own Alaska Native friends, neighbors or even family.
APC honors and respects the many shareholders and year-round residents who continue to participate in the Bristol Bay fishery. There is no denying the value of fish to people who depend on this resource as a means to earn a living.
There is also no denying the fact the Bristol Bay commercial and sports fishery is a massive economic contributor to those who live away from the region and outside of Alaska. Its departure creates an economic imbalance between those places where resources are taken and the places where nonresidents go to spend their seasonal bounty of wealth.
There are many unknowns about Pebble. What we know for certain is that we are in a race against the clock to prevent abandonment of some of our region’s most historic villages. When communities die, cultures die. People need jobs and communities need healthy sustainable economies to survive. These are desperate times for many people.
As unpopular as it is, the leadership at APC is mandated to protect and preserve the interest of those places we hold sacred to our foundation’s creation, the places we come from and continue to live.
• Brad Angasan is senior vice president of Alaska Peninsula Corporation. He is a lifelong Bristol Bay commercial fisherman, an APC and Bristol Bay Native Corporation shareholder, and has lived in South Naknek, Levelock, Dillingham and Anchorage.