All posts by Chris Cocoles

More on Pebble Mine news

Here is a statement and a press release from Director Tim Bristol of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program regarding today’s breaking news on the Pebble Mine project. One of the mining partners on the project, Anglo American, has decided to back off its partnership with Northern Dynasty Minerals on the controversial plan to mine the Bristol Bay area, home to the largest salmon fishery in the United States.

For those interested in adding to the discussion, log onto this Facebook page.

This is Bristol’s statement on the company’s decision to leave the project:

  “I can’t think of a development project in the state’s history that has faced such wide and deep opposition from the citizens of Alaska, and so it’s no surprise that Anglo American announced its withdrawal from the Pebble project after 84% of Alaskans who commented to the EPA supported action to protect Bristol Bay. Bristol Bay is one of the greatest sport and commercial fishing habitats on the planet, and the EPA should act now to protect it and the more than 14,000 jobs it supports.”

And here is Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program press release, which includes the above statement:

Final Comment Numbers on the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment Show Clear Support for Protecting Bristol Bay

Over 650,000 people support the EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment; Demand protections for world-class fishery

CONTACT: Tim Bristol, Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program Director; 907-321-3291 

ANCHORAGE, AK – Numbers released today show that nearly three in four Americans who commented on the EPA’s draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment supported protecting Bristol Bay, Alaska from harmful mining development in the form of the Pebble Mine. Approximately 654,000 of the over 895,000 total comments supported the EPA’s efforts to protect Bristol Bay, with numbers even higher among comments made by individuals (not mass mailed) and those coming from Alaska. The Bristol Bay region is a destination for sportsmen and anglers across the world and is known for its trophy rainbow trout, king salmon, and many other fish species.

“The American people have spoken: they simply do not want the Pebble Mine built on top of one of the world’s great sport and commercial fisheries,” said Tim Bristol, Director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program. “The EPA should quickly finalize its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment and use its Clean Water Act authority to ensure the long term protection of Bristol Bay and its fishery. The science supports it, Alaskans support it, and hunters and anglers across the lower 48 support the EPA as well.”

The comments coming specifically from Alaska were even more impressive, with nearly 5,000 people – or 84% of total comments – supportive of the EPA’s efforts to protect Bristol Bay. Those numbers were even higher in Bristol Bay, where 98% of over 1,200 comments are in favor of lasting protections for Bristol Bay. Among national individual comments, over 90% supported the EPA.

The EPA began its Watershed Assessment after 9-federally recognized tribes, commercial and sport fishermen, and others in Bristol Bay requested Clean Water Act protections from the proposed Pebble Mine. After two drafts, two rounds of public comments, and outside peer review, the EPA is preparing to finalize the Watershed Assessment later this year. In the draft assessment, the EPA determined that even without incident, a mine on the scale of Pebble could destroy up to 90 miles of salmon streams and 4,800 acres of wetland salmon spawning habitat.

For more information and breakdown on the comments, please click here.


Trout Unlimited | 419 Sixth Street, Suite 200 | Juneau, AK 99801


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Mining giant pulls out of Pebble Mine Project

Big news out of London. Anglo American mining company has backed out of its agreement with the Pebble Mine project.  The British company agreed to pay a $300 million “impairment charge” with its partner in the project, North American mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals. The joint operation was supposed to share the costs for the controversial plan that detractors say will threaten America’s largest salmon fishery at Bristol Bay.

Here’s the the statement by Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani, per the Fox News report:

“Despite our belief that Pebble is a deposit of rare magnitude and quality, we have taken the decision to withdraw following a thorough assessment of Anglo American’s extensive pipeline of long-dated project options.

“Our focus has been to prioritise capital to projects with the highest value and lowest risks within our portfolio, and reduce the capital required to sustain such projects during the pre-approval phases of development as part of a more effective, value-driven capital allocation model.”

Another bear mauling in Alaska

You never know when a wild animal will appear in the wilderness.  But it’s a risk hunters are willing to take. During a bear hunt at Beaver Mountain in the western Alaskan interior, 46-year-old Charlestown, R.I. resident John O. Matson, Jr. was injured by a bear he and his hunting party had shot it 90 minutes earlier. He was listed in fair condition.

From the Associated Press:

“He’s got a hell of a headache,” said his father, John O. Matson Sr. of Hopkinton, R. I., adding that his 46-year-old son was recuperating after head surgery. “His spirits are great.”

The younger Matson was attacked by the bear Monday during a guided bear hunt near Beaver Mountain, about 40 miles southwest of the interior town of McGrath. Bad weather prevented rescuers from quickly reaching Matson’s party of three. Matson was finally rescued from the remote spot on Tuesday.

Matson’s father credits the two other hunters, also from Rhode Island, with saving his son. The guide, Steve Persson of Charlestown, and another man the father wouldn’t identify were packing to leave the hunting camp. They planned to visit their wounded friend later at Providence Alaska Medical Center.

“He’s very grateful to his friends,” the elder Matson said.

His son, a construction contractor, does not want to speak with reporters about his ordeal, but he does want people to know he’s OK, the father said.


Sept. 11 always a surreal anniversary

By Chris Cocoles on Sept. 11

It’s strange how days like today sneak up on you until you remember what we should think about.  I would imagine my parents’ generation eventually started to remember but not always deeply reflect on Dec. 7, and how in 1941 how everything changed in Hawaii, let alone America. Sept. 11 will also live in infamy, and during a time when attacks on Syria appear to be imminent, it’s difficult to fathom where we are 12 years later following such a dark chapter in history.

I know that life goes on, but when I stop to think back about that day and really think, it’s just an eerie feeling. I flew on Sept. 10, 2011, from Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, where I visited a friend, to Memphis, and then back to my home (at the time) in Los Angeles. Then, you wake up the next day and hear of atrocities and tragedies you never imagined would be possible.

I woke up this morning, walked my dog quickly, and reached my Seattle office navigating congested traffic as I have for last month since starting this new job. Just another typical Wednesday, right? But there’s always a sense of loss on this day. That’s the way it needs to be.

Angler not about to release 231-pound halibut.

By Chris Cocoles on Sept. 10, 2013

Give Dirk Whitsitt credit for not losing track of his trophy. It was a struggle for the construction worker from Kansas to land a monster halibut, which weighed in at 231 pounds, during a trip to the Cook Inlet. When Whitsitt, with an assist from the guides he was aboard with, finally landed the massive fish, he was given the option of releasing his catch or getting another free trip. But he chose to take his trophy back to Kansas.
Being so far from home, it had to be tempting to opt for another day on the water in the Cook Inlet. Who knows? Maybe another monster fish would be on the end of his line.
And after all, how often does a Kansan get to fish for free in Alaska? Then again, 231 pounds worth of halibut might neve
r bite Whitsitt’s line again.


Our October issue of Alaska Sporting Journal also features some big halibut caught around the  Sitka area (shown above). To subscribe and get $10 off a full subscription -we’re going monthly in October- click here.

Miss Alaska: A preview

By Chris Cocoles on Sept. 9, 2013

Melissa McKinney, Miss Alaska, 2013, who went on to compete for Miss USA in Las Vegas in June, chatted with me for a Q&A session running in the October issue of Alaska Sporting Journal. To subscribe, click here:

Much of that interview focuses on the outdoors and how it has shaped Melissa’s life. But she also is proud of her humanitarian contributions.
When she was younger, McKinney spent about a year volunteering in Sudan, which has been ravaged by civil unrest and a genocide that claimed 400,000 lives in the early 2000s. Here is a little bit of my conversation with Melissa describing the horrors and uplifting scenes she witnessed while helping to co-found a school a and support center for local villagers:

“It was incredibly fulfilling that I was there during such a historical time. And I knew when I went there I might have a one-way ticket. We were kind of in the thick of what was going on with the genocide. We started a primary school, a cultural training center that really uplifted the young moms. It was enriching. We had no running water, no electricity. You’re in a very rural area that was populated. That was the irony of it. Just very third world. It was one of those things where you walk into it and know that you’re living history. When the opportunity came I really had to live out that ‘OK, this is one of those things where if I say no I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life. If I say yes, I hope I have the rest of my life’.”

I asked Melissa if she experienced both horrible scenes and conversely stirring positive moments:

“There were all kinds of atrocities. There were landmines, and a lot of the kids that we had were orphaned, losing parents due to the war or genocidal issues. You could walk down the street and just see the trauma in some of their faces. But I think the most rewarding and interesting part for me, was walking into a situation and seeing children that were not laughing or would even talk open up and just become kids again. I had a lot of the [United Nations] workers who would stop in and tell us ‘This is a happy place, and you can’t find a lot of happy here’. We created an environment where you can be allowed to be a real person. You could leave your pain behind and do something different.”

Did she shed a lot of tears while there?
“Yes. I’m definitely a strong woman, but I’m human. I buried children that died in my arms. There were a lot of things that go on that change a person for the better. But life is real. The thing that I could walk away from is I made a difference when others ran in the other direction.”

Inspring story for hunter who lived his Alaska dream

By Chris Cocoles on Sept. 6, 2013

As someone who has struggled with weight gain after losing pounds off and on, I can relate to this Minnesota hunter. Bob Ball of Albert Lea, Minn. was chronicled in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune after he got himself in better shape to prepare for the rigors of a big-game hunt in Alaska. Well done, Bob!

Here’s a link to his story, which included him getting what he really came back to Alaska for: a grizzly bear:



WalMart, Alaska salmon industry at odds

This is Chris Cocoles, working on my first issue as Alaska Sporting Journal editor. My plan is to be more active posting tidbits as I get more accustomed to my duties. But I found this interesting story out of Anchorage regarding WalMart’s possible pulling of Alaska salmon off the retail giant’s shelves. Protests are taking place at stores Alaska, and state officials plan to state their case at the company’s retail headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

Some of the key points in this Anchorage Daily News report:

“There’s tremendous demand for high quality, wild Alaska salmon,” said Tyson Fick, communications director for the state-supported seafood marketing institute. “We absolutely would like to get this behind us. I think we are on the path of getting there.”

Wal-Mart says it wants a solution.

“Let’s be honest. I don’t think Wal-Mart wants demonstrators in front of supercenters. I don’t think we want fisherman upset about what is going on or in the dark about what our policy is or how we’re going to move forward,” said Chris Schraeder, Wal-Mart senior manager for sustainability communications. “As much as it’s in Alaska’s interest to find a resolution to this quickly, it’s in Wal-Mart’s interest to find a resolution to this quickly.”

Wal-Mart won’t say how much Alaska salmon it sells, or how much of its seafood comes from Alaska. But it’s obviously an important line for the world’s biggest retailer. Seafood is the primary protein source for 3 billion people, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for food, Jack Sinclair, wrote on an Aug. 8 blog post addressing the Alaska controversy.

“Our sustainable seafood commitment seems to have made waves recently in Alaska, where the state is proposing an alternative standard for sustainable fisheries management,” his blog post began. “It’s generated a lively debate on how to best ensure sustainable seafood for our customers today and for generations to come.”



Needless to say, whenever locals get involved in a dispute with big corporations like WalMart, it can get pretty heated.

Read more here: