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Is This Bear A New Record?

Photo by Chris Stewart

Photo by Chris Stewart

 

Our correspondent Scott Haugen filed this report for Outdoor Life on what could be a record-setting brown bear.

Here’s Scott with more:

Friday the 13th. If you’re superstitious, you likely wouldn’t spend that day perched atop the tundra in Alaska, bowhunting brown bear.

But that’s exactly where Chris Stewart was on May 13, 2016. Stewart has always dreamed of taking a brown bear with his bow. This would be his second brown bear hunt, and he hired Bruce Hallingstad, owner of Becharof Lodge in Egegik, Alaska—a place known for big bears.

“It was day four of my 10-day hunt, and my guide Carl Adams and I sat overlooking miles of tundra,” Stewart recounts. “At 6:30 p.m., Adams spotted a wolf in the distance. It was raiding duck and gull nests, but moving our direction. Soon, the wolf closed from 800 to 350 yards. That’s when I let him have it with my 7mm Ultra Mag.” ….

 The bear’s hide squared over 10 feet, 6 inches, and the skull green-scored 29 8/16 inches. Thecurrent Pope & Young world record brown bear stands at 29 3/16 inches. Could Chris Stewart’s brown bear be the new archery world record? We’ll know in mid-July, after the 60-day drying period.

“I didn’t care how big the bear was,” Stewart says, smiling. “The amazing thing is, in bowhunting, when one little thing goes wrong, the hunt is over. But on this hunt, every single aspect played out perfectly, making this Friday the 13th one I’ll never forget.”

 

Congrats to Chris no matter what the bear gets classified as.

 

 

Size Matters For Smallish Salmon Numbers

Good read in the Alaska Dispatch News, as the Copper River’s sockeye season last week started with kind of a thud:

The first opener produced a catch of 25,000 sockeye and about 1,500 kings.

“It was pretty slow to start. Small fish, not too many of them,” said Kelsey Appleton with Cordova District Fishermen United.

Weights recorded on several hundred samples after the 12-hour fishery showed sockeyes averaging just 4.2 pounds, 15 percent smaller than last year when fish size was the smallest in 50 years. Sockeye salmon normally average 6 pounds.

“It’s bad for our economy and bad for our fishermen,” said Rob Campbell, a biological oceanographer with the Prince William Sound Science Center. “It’s not necessarily bad for our fish.

“It’s just been astoundingly warm in the entire North Pacific for two or three years now, and for most cold-blooded things like salmon or plankton, in warmer conditions they tend to reach a smaller final body size,” he said.

Of course, the biggest fish story of the week was the price for the first fish — a whopping $6.50 a pound for sockeyes and $9.50 for kings. That compares to starting prices last year of $5.15 and $6.50, respectively.
Those dollar numbers should provide some hope for fishermen as projections are for a much smaller run of fish this season.

A Rookie Skipper Takes On The Bering Sea

 

Captain Sean Dwyer and the crew of the Brenna A.

Capt. Sean Dwyer and the crew of the Brenna A.

The following interview appears in the May issue of Alaska Sporting Journal:

BY CHRIS COCOLES  

It was a classic mentor/rookie moment for Sean Dwyer.

In the dangerous world of commercial crab fishing off the coast of Alaska, Dwyer’s debut as a fishing vessel skipper couldn’t have been more pressure-packed. The cameras of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch followed Dwyer’s boat, the Brenna A, during his maiden voyage as a captain. If that wasn’t enough of a welcome-to-crabbing moment, his mentor on this journey was venerable and wonderfully gruff Sig Hansen, who set a 290,000-pound bairdi crab benchmark for the 24-year-old Dwyer to reach during this 12th season of the popular series.

“One of the pieces of advice that Sig gave me is, you’re only as good as your last season,” says Dwyer, who was at even more of a disadvantage given that he didn’t have a last season to measure himself against. “You don’t know what’s going to happen next season. You just can’t predict it. I’d like to think that when I stop learning about crab fishing is when I’ll stop crab fishing.”

But once a fisherman, always a fisherman. It’s the kind of career Dwyer was destined to fulfill from the start. Sean’s dad Pat Dwyer was one of the most respected commercial captains along the Pacific Northwest coast, and Sean tagged along from the beginning, soaking up the lifestyle and dreaming of a similar career path. Fate intervened along the way, but this was meant to be a family business from the start.

Pat Dwyer passed away at age 52 on June 4, 2013 after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). Before that, Pat’s dream of his son following in his footsteps became reality when he purchased a new fishing vessel, theBrenna A, which became the younger Dwyer’s home-away-from-home on Bering Sea.

Dwyer, who grew up in and still calls the Seattle area his home base, says he spends at least eight months out of the year plying his trade in Alaska. We chatted with Sean about his father, life at sea and just how difficult the crabbing game can be for both the young and young and heart.

Chris Cocoles So what was the experience like for you – captaining your own fishing vessel and having all of it captured on camera?

Sean Dwyer I don’t know if it was a good year, but it was what I wanted to do. It’s definitely a challenge to do it on TV and being a new captain at the same time. But I think I do better under pressure, so why not bring it on all at once? It was a good opportunity, and whatever it entailed I just couldn’t pass it up. The TV thing wasn’t top priority, but it’s pretty fun. And what I really appreciate is that Discovery and Original Productions have done a really good job of keeping it real. It’s been a lot of fun.

Sean and his late father, Pat Dwyer.

Sean and his late father, Pat Dwyer.

 

CC With your background in this industry, were you preordained to do this too?

SD It’s almost been my passion and dream. I followed my dad around when I was a little kid and I started salmon fishing when I was young, like 12 years old. Once I actually got my feet on the boat and I started working, I knew that’s all I wanted to do – much to my mother’s dismay, initially. Because it was my passion, I’m really fortunate that I was able to share that with my dad because in that, he taught me a lot of valuable information that I used going forward.

CC Can you share one of your early experiences on your dad’s boat?

SD It was during the summer and we used to go out on Jennifer A, which was named after my mom [his current boat, theBrenna A, pays homage to Dwyer’s sister of the same name]. We used to go out on the Jennifer A for two to three weeks at a time. I remember being in Southeast Alaska and there were icebergs and whales; I was just a kid running around in my life jacket watching the big guys work. It was awesome to see the big-boy stuff: the machinery, fish flying around. I think I was probably like 5 or 6 years old. It just stuck with me ever since.

CC What kind of impact did your dad have on you? And it had to be such an emotional time for the family when he was sick and bought the Brenna A.

SD It was a huge impact. He bought that boat after he was diagnosed. It was one of those things where my dad would buy equipment, machinery, 4X4s – whatever – without telling my mom and just show up with them. It got to the point where, once she heard a big truck outside the window, she just hoped it was the garbage man and not my dad showing up with a new piece of equipment. But he kind of did the same thing with the Brenna A. He always wanted to have two boats and he figured no better time than the present. The one thing we all learned through my dad’s dealings with ALS is that time is really valuable. If you want something and have a passion, you should just follow it. And that’s what he did; he just went out and bought another boat.

CC When he passed away was it in your and your family’s mind to be able to carry on his legacy with the new boat?

SD I definitely did. For me, I’ve watched my dad go through that whole thing, and he was always a hands-on guy. And for him to be sitting in his wheelchair for the last four years of his life, not being able to go down to the boat every day and work, it was tough. What he did was teach me to be his hands. I would go down there and take pictures and send them to him midway through the day. And he’d call me and say, “Hey, you need to do this, or, This is in the wrong spot.” We did that for awhile and he taught me a ton that way. And because of the unfortunate later stages of ALS, I think, for me personally, I was relieved when he finally did pass because he just wasn’t happy. He was frustrated but he held his ground until the end. He passed in June and in May I was with one of the boats in the shipyard. And he was still telling me I was spending too much money on paint and I needed to do this and that. Right after that he finally said, “OK, you’re good.” And after that, he passed away.

CC Is there a lot of solace for you in that you’re able to do what he spent his life doing?

SD Definitely. He was proud – he is proud. And it’s pretty cool. Obviously, it’s not a job that everyone can do; and it’s not a job that everyone loves. A lot of people go up there and their heads are not in the game. The thing about it is, you can be the biggest, the strongest and toughest you guy you want. But if your head’s not there, you’re not going to make it. And I think on all those promos – “The Bering Sea will make you or break you” – but what it does is test how mentally strong you are and how bad do you want something. And when he saw that in me, he was proud and he wanted to fuel it because he knew the potential. And it took us a little bit of time after he passed, but we’re at the point now where we’re doing what he wanted – fishing crab – and it’s great.

 

Captain Sean Dwyer of the Brenna A.

Captain Sean Dwyer of the Brenna A.

Brenna A Captain Sean Dwyer.

Brenna A Captain Sean Dwyer.

 

CC You have an engineering degree. But you’re at heart a fisherman. Tell me how it was to be stuck in classrooms when you could have been on a boat.

SD [Laughs] It was tough. I have a two-year technical degree in diesel engines and heavy equipment technology. What that meant was over the course of the two years, basically half the time we were in the classroom doing the books; and the other half we were out in the shop. South Seattle College was where I (studied) and we mainly worked on trucks, though there were a few marine engines and some pieces of heavy equipment. So it wasn’t the field I wanted to go in, but it all applies. Mechanics are mechanics, and having that mechanical mind is really what benefits you. Whether it’s a car or a boat, you can eventually figure it out if you can troubleshoot. The cool thing about the program was that it was from 7 a.m. to noon, so from noon to 5 p.m. I’d go into the shipyard and go work on boats. I was able to kind of do both at once.

 

Cape Caution and pot of crabs.

Cape Caution and pot of crabs.

Captain Sean Dwyer of the Brenna A.

Captain Sean Dwyer of the Brenna A.

CC How challenging was it to hire a new crew for the
Brenna A?

SD It’s tough because everybody has the best intentions. But when you’re out there on the banks there’s nowhere to hide, and like I said, your head has to be in the game. It doesn’t matter how good you talk and how strong you are or how far you can push the pot. If you’re not into it, you’re not into it. What was challenging for me was trying to find guys that, first, were best for the boat and best for us as a team. And I was concerned that I was going to get guys who just wanted to be on TV. But I hired one guy who I’d worked with before on a deck crab fishing; he’s my engineer. And the other guys – with the exception of my greenhorn – the others were just word of mouth or some had left me a card and they said to call if there was ever a spot. So you just start going through the list to see who’s available. I was kind of scrambling but was happy with the way things turned out. We had our ups and downs, but the guys really pulled through at the end. And they came as long a way as I did. It was a learning experience for everybody.

CC Did you have to find your niche as a first-year captain?

SD Definitely. I didn’t go out there and expect to be a Sig Hansen right off the bat. I went out there and I needed to make sure that, for one, we’re safe. And two: to try and figure out and apply all these things that I learned and see if I could catch these crab. I tried to tell the crew that we’re all after the same goal; you gotta work together, and it did take some time for all those guys to find their roles. And once that was established and we knew who was where, things really flowed. It was cool to see that process, because it’s not every day that you just get to
start fresh.

Portrait of Captain Sig Hansen of the Northwestern.

Portrait of Captain Sig Hansen of the Northwestern.

Brenna A Captain Sean Dwyer.

Brenna A Captain Sean Dwyer.

 

CC You worked toward Sig’s quota demands. Has he been a mentor for you on the journey so far?

SD He’s given me a lot of really useful information. When we started this thing we really didn’t know each other; I knew of him from the show and outside the show in the industry. We weren’t friends or anything and it was business first. But he gave me some really good pointers, and I think the most important one was just to be honest with the whole TV thing. This show is such that it’s not scripted; you can’t make it up. You can’t take a second to think about what you’re going to say. Even the camera people only get one shot to film these things. But you have to be honest with yourself. When you mess up, you mess up. That was the biggest piece of advice that he gave me and it holds true. To keep it real you make the show what it is:
a documentary.

CC How much did Sig’s health scare – his heart attack – provide a wakeup call for you and your colleagues? He is the epitome of a tough customer, but it reflects what a challenge this life can be.

SD It’s hard on everything – the boat, the crew and your body, and it’s hard on your relationships back home. What we go through to get that crab off the ocean floor and onto the table is tough. Sig and I were the only two boats left still fishing when he had his heart attack. I was a little bit scared for him because it is a stressful job and you never know what’s going to happen; you don’t know how you’re going to react with everything. Unfortunately, sometimes that takes a toll on your body.ASJ

Editor’s note: You can keep track of Sean Dwyer on Twitter (@captseandwyer) and Facebook (facebook.com/seandwyerbrennaa). For more on Deadliest Catch go to discovery.com/tv-shows/deadliest-catch.

 

Happy Anniversary To Historic Salmon Catch

Good stuff from the Alaska Dispatch News commemorating a world-record fish caught in Alaskan waters.

Les loved to fish, but that’s not the same as a love of big fish. He was just out there to have fun, and honestly, he was always — before and after — the type of guy who was just as happy to bring someone along and see them catch a fish,” said Clara Anderson, widow of Les Anderson, who 31 years ago today (Tuesday, May 17, 1985) landed a 97-pound, 4-ounce king salmon to set the world record.

The fish was more than four pounds heavier than the existing record one caught by hook and line, a 93-pound king caught in June 1977 in Southeast Alaska by Howard Rider of Juneau. Les’ record still stands, and it has secured him a place in the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

“It was quite an exciting day for him, for us, for all the Peninsula. It was a grand day for sure, but Les just looked at it as being in the right place at the right time,” Clara said.

That right time wasn’t just early in the year. Most anglers then and now consider spawning kings that return in May and June to be smaller than the late-run fish of July. It was also early in the morning, around 6:30 a.m.

“We fished every day before work back then, and he took off around 3 or 4 a.m.,” said Clara, who’s no salmon-catching slouch herself, having landed an 85-pound fish that held the family record until Les hauled in his hawg.

It’s a really good read, and though Les is no longer with us, the spirit of his accomplishment lives on. Congrats on a wonderful record-setting king.

A Love/Hate Affair With Nome

Emily Riedel out on the Bering Sea closeup.

Emily Riedel out on the Bering Sea. (PHOTOS BY DISCOVERY CHANNEL AND EMILY RIEDEL)

The following story appears in the May issue of Alaska Sporting Journal 

BY CHRIS COCOLES 

About the only thing Emily Riedel has in common with one Francis Albert Sinatra: they both have/had quite the singing pipes.

Sinatra once famously crooned about hitting it big in the Big Apple. Riedel’s little-town blues are melting away thousands of miles west in Nome, Alaska, a place where dreams live and die in the form of gold hidden at the bottom of the Bering Sea.

If I can make it there, I’ll make it … anywhere. But can you imagine Ol’ Blue Eyes trying to do the same in old Nome?

“Or maybe it’s, if I can make it here, I’ll never make it anywhere else,” Riedel deadpans.

She jokes that every time she boards an Austria-bound plane for classical music-inspired cities like Vienna and Salzburg, the flight charts must be screwy because the plane always seems to end up in Nome.

(She playfully blames the Discovery Channel, which chronicles Riedel’s and the other dredgers’ highs and lows on Bering SeaGold.)

But the lure of striking it rich – even amid a setting that’s caused undo frustration, tension and, at times, failure – has swallowed the 27-year-old whole.

“It’s something I find myself not being able to quit doing,” she admits. “Unless I go through intensive reconstructive therapy involving a really insane addiction to the trials of gold mining, I will continue to do this.”

She purchased her own dredge – with modest success – and even called a truce in her feud with childhood pal and onetime boyfriend Zeke Tenhoff to work together during the winter season (they are at odds again as rivals this season). But give her credit for being tenacious, if not stubborn as seasons go by with less-than-prolific profits being made.

“I consider myself dedicated, period. This is a challenging industry – both television and gold mining in their own way,” Riedel says. “But you can’t go halfway in this business, especially after all these years of doing it to not succeed at it fantastically means to have failed. So that’s taken over my head quite a bit. I’m no longer a beginner. What can I do to evolve and be better?”

Bering Sea Gold 2

RIEDEL WAS ASKED IF her time on Bering Sea Gold has been a real-life opera. If you count romance, conflict, heartbreak, personal tragedy and more, you have all the elements of a musical epic.

“It’s a grand question because being in Nome is a great drama. I graduated from arts school amid all these divas, and then I came to go gold mining in the Northwest and found more divas,” she says.

(Riedel also points out that – we kid you not – early 20th century German composer Kurt Weill did write an opera about Alaskan gold miners, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, or Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.)

“Everyone here is part of that drama. When I’m in a place like Manhattan or San Francisco or Seattle, I’m never normal but I feel relatively sane or even-keeled,” she says. “But when I’m in Nome I’m this crazy person, this broken-tooth old sourdough. But we’re on our own stage up here.”

Oh, how her classmates at the University of North Carolina School for the Arts would be curious about Riedel’s whereabouts when they meet up for their 10-year.

“It would be a puzzling reunion,” Riedel says with a laugh. “‘You’re doing what?’”

Her alma mater’s more famous alumni include actors Mary-Louise Parker, Anthony Mackie, Danny McBride and Anna Camp and several prominent singers and dancers. The school can also claim one of the biggest celebrities in Nome, Alaska.

For that reason, Riedel considers herself as a Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde hybrid – half the sophisticated opera singer and sweet voice, and the other a foul-mouthed, not afraid-to-get-her-hands-dirty Alaska girl. And among the future thespians, dancers and singers she went to college with, this wasn’t the stereotype student on campus. Leaving Alaska meant getting out of her comfort zone.

“I would walk around campus barefoot in the winter. I was the Alaskan hippie and they’d say, ‘What is she doing here at this conservatory and school of opera?’ Everyone else was a lot more classy than I was.”

In hindsight, her time as a gold miner was a lot closer to her roots – Riedel was active performing in Homer, one of Alaska’s most artsy communities – than she might have once believed. She goes as far as saying she needed to experience life like an Alaskan.

It’s not likely any other alums from the university’s Winston-Salem campus would list Nome gold dredger in the what-are-you-doing-now questionnaire. So she can embrace that she’s a little bit eccentric in the two worlds she’s split her life around.

“I didn’t feel entirely right amidst the elitists of the operatic world. I kind of got a little bit tired of them,” Riedel says. “Alaska is in my blood and this state feels right to me a lot of the times. It’s who I am.”

“There’s a certain spirit that comes from being raised in Alaska. You don’t have any preconceived notions of identity. You can be whomever you choose to be. And most choose exactly that. We don’t have any lineage of a certain career. The opportunities are endless, and we’re all raised believing that of ourselves.”

Emily Reidel and Zeke Tenoff of The Clark.

Emily Reidel and Zeke Tenhoff.

NO PART OF EMILY Riedel’s “opera” existence in Nome is more dramatic than her relationship with Tenhoff, a complicated dynamic that continues to be one of the major backstories of this production known as Bering Sea Gold.

When their brief rekindled partnership (strictly professional, of course) deteriorated again as Tenhoff went to work for a corporate dredge owner, they stared each other down on the dock as the subplot thickened. She still considers Tenhoff to be a part of her life through the highs and lows they’ve shared off- and on-screen. She calls him “instrumental” in the journey she’s had a gold miner.

“We’ve grown up in Nome doing this business. The way that Zeke has changed in my eyes has been huge,” she says. “He’s been a lover, a friend, a brother, a bastard enemy. And we’ve found ourselves in situations where we’ve had to do business together, whether we’ve liked each other or not. I can look at Zeke and see a bunch of history or I can look at Zeke and see Zeke as someone to do business with; that’s what I tried to focus on.”

After a disastrous debut to Season 6 – damage to Riedel’s boat, The Eroica, forced her to suspend dredging operations – more mechanical issues cut short a promising dive and triggered tension between the captain and her top-notch diver, Daryl Galipeau. Riedel reported Murphy’s Law to be alive and well in Nome during her stint there.

Emily Riedel helping her diver with his scuba mask.

Emily Riedel helping her diver with his scuba mask.

“The only thing I can do to keep my people around is make sure they keep making money,” she says in an early episode that ended with her crew cashing in 10.76 ounces of gold, worth $12,912. That total didn’t exactly prompt the popping of any champagne bottles from her crew. But this is what Riedel signs on for when she goes back every year.

Riedel believes there are so many gold deposits still undiscovered on the sea floor off Nome that it’s a little easier for herself and colleagues to justify why they keep going back. Some of the other dredges had more success over time, but perhaps that’s even more reason to keep coming back – the body blows she’s taken be damned. On a 1-to-10 scale, Riedel puts herself around a 6½ to 7 as a gold dredger.

“Leadership for me on a boat has been a lot of trial-by-fire and learning on the job – quite often learning on the job. There is a traditional way of doing this; I could have been raised on a boat and could have had a dad who was a captain and was organized,” she says of her dad Steve, who also has tried his hand as a dredger on Bering Sea Gold. Like Emily, Steve was also new to the industry when Tenhoff convinced them to give this career a shot.

“I got on a boat before knowing anything about boats. I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll take over a dredge; this is starboard and this is port.’ All I have to do is learn as fast as I can and get better.”

Being a woman – on the season six premiere Riedel said at times it’s been difficult for the men to take her seriously – makes the challenge that much greater, though Riedel is defiant.

“The most important battle to me is to do a really good job as a gold miner. What’s important is that I know that I deserve their respect,” she says. “Being told that you can’t do something is an amazing motivator.”

So as the planes continue to divert from Europe or other cities with storied opera scenes and Riedel finds herself back on Nome’s Front Street heading toward the harbor, she understands Nome is – for better or worse – part of who she is, who she’s been and ultimately who she wants to be.

“Six years in Nome. And one of the locals told me, ‘Once you’ve been to Nome 10 years, you can never leave because you can’t function normally in any other society,” she says with a laugh.

“So you learn to function here. And I’m terrified because I’ve noticed this. I’m always so happy for work to be done and to be leaving Nome and seeing my family and that sort of thing. But it’s become increasingly more difficult to disconnect from this place. And I’ve started to feel better and better to come back here. I’ll think, ‘Thank God; I’m back in Nome with the crazy Nome-ites. I’m my old self again.”

Start spreading the news; she is not leaving
today. ASJ

Editor’s note: For more on Emily Riedel, follow her on Twitter
(EmilyRiedel23), Instagram (Sluice24) and like her at facebook.com
/theemilyriedel. New episodes of
Bering Sea Gold air on Wednesday nights (check your local listings) on Discovery Channel. For more, go to discovery.com/tv-shows/beringseagold

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Football Or Not? An Alaskan Lets A Bear Hunt Decide

“I know I’ll go after another bear but try not to get too caught up in what was best because it’s all about the context of the speci?c adventure,” Lund writes. (JEFF LUND)

 (JEFF LUND)

Ever had one of those decisions where you just wanted to flip a coin or play rock-paper scissors to decide? Check out this story of how a teenage Alaskan decided what path he wanted to take to college:

From Deadspin via the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman:

Ferris, a standout in multiple sports and the classroom at Palmer High, is also an avid outdoorsman. He picked a spring bear hunt earlier this year to help him make the final decision. If he got the elusive bear he’d tracked before, Ferris would follow the call to play football at the University of Mary. If not, Ferris would turn his focus to academics at the University of Wyoming.

As it turned out, the hunt was a success. And now Ferris, a two-time all-state running back, is ready to make the run to the next level.

“I let it all come down to fate, and fate chose University of Mary,” Ferris said Monday after he signed his National Letter of Intent to attend the Bismarck, North Dakota, school and play for the Division II Marauders. “We’d gone up for (the bear) once. We hadn’t seen it in two days. I said, we kill it, I’ll go play football.”

The hunt was not just a thrill for Ferris, but a relief.

“Once I made the decision, it’s a full commitment,” Ferris said. “(The) decision was weighing me down. I was losing sleep over it. It’s the biggest decision I’ve had to make.”

The bear was obviously not available for comment.

 

 

Moose Takes On Wind Chimes: Guess The Winner

What’s the old saying? Music calms the savage beast. Tell that to this Alaskan moose.

From the Alaska Dispatch:

On May 4, Britta Schroeder was drifting off to sleep when her wind chimes began to ring. It’s windy in Healy, the Interior Alaska community just north of the park, so at first she didn’t think much of it, Schroeder said.

But “it continued on and on,” Schroeder said. Once her dog’s ears perked up, she realized an animal must be outside her door.

She peeked outside and saw the moose, which a co-worker told Schroeder is likely a female. Schroeder opened her door just a crack — so that her dog wouldn’t get outside — to take video.

Schroeder is a GIS specialist with the National Park Service, and she works in Denali National Park year round. She believes that the musically inclined moose is the same one that has frequented her yard before, along with a mother moose and another sibling.

Sportsmen’s Alliance Names New President

Evan Heusinkveld (Photo provided by the Sportsman's Alliance)

Evan Heusinkveld (Photo provided by the Sportsmen’s Alliance)

The following press release is courtesy of the Sportsmen’s Alliance:

The Sportsmen’s Alliance and Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation are pleased to announce the appointment of Evan Heusinkveld as president and CEO. The appointment is effective immediately.

Heusinkveld, who has served as interim president and CEO since Dec. 1, has been with the Sportsmen’s Alliance for the past nine years, most recently serving as the vice president of government affairs. During his tenure, Heusinkveld has led the organization’s legal and legislative divisions. He brings more than a decade’s worth of experience in government affairs, public policy and campaign management.

“Evan has shown key leadership qualities that should take the Sportsmen’s Alliance to a new level,” said Mason Lampton, Chairman of the Sportsmen’s Alliance Board of Directors. “His knowledge of the issues that surround hunting gives him the ability to hit the ground running. He is aware of the fraud that surrounds the anti-hunting movement and, likewise, he knows how positive hunting is for the environment.”

His recent work to protect hunting, fishing and trapping at the local, state and federal levels, includes managing the strategy that defeated the Humane Society of the United States when they initiated a ban on hunting and trapping bears in Maine and overseeing the appeal of the gray wolf court ruling that returned the apex predators to the protections of the Endangered Species Act.

Heusinkveld has also been key player in paving the way for the next generation of American hunters to take to the fields through his work to enact Families Afield legislation, which reduce barriers for new hunters seeking to experience the outdoors.

“It’s an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to lead our team of professionals in protecting our hunting heritage,” said Heusinkveld. “Hunting and wildlife conservation as we know are under constant attack from animal rights and anti-hunting extremists. Our adversaries are extremely well funded, and they will stop at nothing to end our way of life. It’s imperative that hunters, anglers and trappers work together and fight to protect what’s right.”

Contact: sportsmensalliance.org or (614) 888-4868.

Sportsmen, -Women Against Bristol Bay Mining Challenge Presidential Nominees

Protecting Wild Alaska 2

 

The following report appears in the April issue of Alaska Sporting Journal 

 

BY CHRIS COCOLES

If anything else, the subplots, social media buzz and sidebars defining the 2016 race to the White House have been – what’s the right word choice here? – interesting.

It’s been an eccentric hodgepodge of drama, and, in some cases, comedy. Hillary Clinton and her email scandal and Chris Christie’s rise to GOP frontrunner and fall to disappointing flameout. Bernie Sanders’ cult status as Saturday Night Live’s lovable punchline with his kindred spirit/funny man Larry David making “Bern Your Enthusiasm” a pop culture thing. You have Marco Rubio pissing off Donald Trump, Fox News talking head Megyn Kelly pissing off Donald Trump and Trump pissing off everyone who doesn’t support his unlikely surge. Meanwhile, America is making fun of Ted Cruz every chance it gets, though at press time he was the only remaining viable challenger in The Donald’s path to securing the GOP nomination at the convention in July.

And there you have the major players to succeed Barack Obama. Super Tuesday 2 stamped Clinton and Trump as the runaway leaders and put them on a November collision course, but we digress. Whoever becomes POTUS No. 45, Alaskans would like to know what he or she thinks of the proposed Pebble Mine and the impact it may have on Bristol Bay’s wildlife and the region’s salmon, including the world’s largest run of sockeye.

Obama’s historic trip to Alaska last summer included a quick cameo appearance in Bristol Bay, where a spawning salmon left the president’s shoe with a rather messy souvenir. While the nut of his visit to the Last Frontier was to focus on climate change, Obama acknowledged the need to preserve the fishing industry there.

But it’s his successor who should have a much bigger impact on the region with regards to the Pebble Mine project. So a conglomerate of conservation groups, fishing lodge owners and guides and other companies – referring to itself as Sportsmen For Bristol Bay – sent a letter to all the major 2016 candidates, including Trump and Clinton (see sidebar on p. 48).

In part, the letter read, “We write to ask you simply: Where do you stand on the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska?” It seems like an easy question to answer, but given that the Pebble Mine and those concerned about the potential for a spill and the effect on Bristol Bay’s fish and wildlife have clashed for more than a decade now, the response is far more complex.

“Whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter. Protecting Bristol Bay has a bipartisan support,” Ben Bulis, president and CEO of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, said during a conference call last month. “We’re demanding that those running for president of the United States take a stand on the Pebble Mine.”

 

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BRIAN KRAFT’S OFFICE where he spends every summer is far prettier than your average cubicle or work bench. Kraft and his wife, Serena, operate three Bristol Bay-area fishing lodges, Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge, Alaska Sportsman’s Bear Trail Lodge and Bristol Bay Lodge (888-826-7376; fishasl.com). Kraft, who joined Bulis and Dallas Safari Club executive director Ben Carter on the teleconference as the main speakers, has everything at stake if Canadian-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. does get the chance to mine Bristol’s rich copper, gold and silver deposits. Kraft said he first heard the words Pebble Mine in summer 2004, when he was first “thrust into battle on Pebble.”

“I noticed a bunch of helicopters flying throughout the area, and one of the locals who lived in a small village asked what was going on. We started asking some questions and discovered that there was a substantial mine (project) going in. I had no idea what mining was or what impact it would be on fisheries. And quite frankly, nobody in Bristol Bay did either.”

They know a lot more now, and a big assist for that should go to Kraft. After that initial understanding of what might be happening, Kraft created the Bristol Bay Alliance  – “an educational effort to learn about mining – what it does and what its impacts are,” he said – and he’s been locked in ever since to help the lead way in the fight against Pebble Mine.

“What the people have discovered is that a mine of this nature cannot coexist with the fragile habitat that sustains the world’s largest wild salmon runs,” Kraft said. “All the things that my friends have talked about have another enormous impact on Alaska, and that’s tourism and the jobs that support the local economy. Twenty-nine thousand fishing trips each year and the wildlife attract (people) from around the world mean jobs in my lodges, jobs for Alaskans, jobs that are here year in and year out. All of that would be wiped away if we had a Pebble Mine.”

His lodges attract thrill-seeking outdoorsmen and –women from all over the Lower 48 and beyond, so he interacts with diverse groups with whom he can share his crusade to block mining from the lakes and rivers that are teeming with wild salmon. Of course, there are those dissenters who simply love the outdoors and can’t imagine such a place threatened by mining. But there are other doubters from less likely sectors.

“I have mining engineers who are customers, so there are ironically people from the mining industry that come up,” Kraft said. “And I had a mining engineer who told me, ‘Take me up there; let me see what this Pebble thing’s all about.’ I flew him up there and asked him for his insights and education on it. He got on the ground and kept shaking his head the whole time and just kept saying, ‘Too much water, too much water. It’s going to be a disaster.’”

Kraft reminded about what happened at the Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia, where in August 2014 millions of gallons of waste seeped into a salmon-rich watershed after a dam collapsed.

Earlier that summer, after the Environmental Protection Agency released a report that all but predicted catastrophe for Bristol Bay if the ecosystem is mined, Northern Dynasty replied, “We continue to believe the project must be developed in a way that protects clean water, healthy fish and wildlife populations.”

But the Mount Polley accident less than a month later raised even more red flags from Dillingham to King Salmon to Iliamna.

“And it can happen here. But it doesn’t have to if we act now,” Kraft said. “That’s why we are making this demand of all the candidates. The EPA now has acknowledged that this critical issue will be inherited by the next administration. So we want to know where the next president stands before they put their right hand on the Bible and take the oath of the office as the 45th president.”

 

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SO WHAT’S NEXT for this issue? How fast will the next man or woman who Obama will pass the baton to act on deciding if mining Bristol Bay will be blocked or Northern Dynasty’s plan will proceed?

Sportsmen For Bristol Bay is adamant that it’s just a nonpartisan and nonprofit group that wasn’t formed to influence the results of what happens on Nov. 8. But as the letter states, it demands that the next POTUS take a stand one way or the other. The growing group includes both hunters and anglers, commercial fishermen and people like Kraft who share the bounty of his backyard salmon and trout bounty, plus the ubiquitous wildlife there.

“Southwest Alaska has been recognized as the top combination area for brown bear, moose and caribou for decades. It’s one of the last places on the face of the Earth with this kind of remote wilderness hunting, and allowing mining on this scale would end that experience forever,” Carter said.

“For a diverse community, we agree on some issues and disagree on some. But one thing that absolutely unites and galvanizes hunters and anglers is opposition to the Pebble Mine.”

Most of the presidential candidates had yet to publicly comment about the mine, but The Alaska Dispatch News reached out to each of the candidates and got a reply from Clinton’s campaign.

“Like President Obama, who protected Bristol Bay itself from consideration for oil and gas drilling, Hillary Clinton recognizes the incredible economic, cultural, and environmental value that Bristol Bay’s fishery and watershed provide to Alaska and the nation,” a Clinton spokesperson told the website. “And she agrees with the need to protect both the fishery and watershed from harmful mining activity.”

But for politicians, particularly in a typically contentious election year, talk is cheap. Northern Dynasty, despite some tumultuous turnover over the last few years, is digging in for a long standoff. Kraft, Bulis, Carter and those they speak for aren’t budging either. Whether Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or whoever’s left among the now longshot opposition can figure out a solution to this fight remains to be seen.

“This is not just an issue about the presidential election,” Bulis said. “Bristol Bay supports the planet’s best remaining wild salmon fishery, producing 46 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon. So this isn’t just about the United States; this is a global issue.”

Kraft, who has so much on the line if Pebble Mine becomes a reality and a Mount Polley-like disaster threatens what he has fought to preserve, and his colleagues have taken a positive approach to winning this stalemate. It comforts Kraft to host guests at his lodges who can’t believe the state of Alaska and federal government would permit mining in such a place (the letter references the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ comment about the idea of Pebble being “the wrong mine in the wrong place”).

“It reassures us that we are doing the right thing,” Kraft said. “It has been a long battle. We’ve been at this since 2004 and there have been many times when we’ve been down in Juneau and were in disbelief of some of the positions of our state politicians on this issue. But the (Native) people who live there, the people who have had thousands of years of heritage, understand better than anybody how dependent everything is on an intact ecosystem. They went to the federal government and said, ‘You’ve got to help us.’ Since that day happened, I’ve been on the side of, we are going to prevail.” ASJ

 

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Sportsmen For Bristol Bay, which includes several fishing and hunting organizations, conservation groups and outdoor-related companies, penned this open letter on Feb. 25 to all the major 2016 presidential candidates, regardless of political party:

Dear Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump,

As organizations and companies that represent millions of sportsmen and -women and outdoor enthusiasts across all 50 states we write to ask you simply: Where do you stand on the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska?

For most of us, for most of the last 10 years it has been one of our organization’s and its membership or customer’s top-tier causes: stopping the Pebble Mine.

The late Sen. Ted Stevens called this project “the wrong mine in the wrong place.” For the last 10 years an unprecedented coalition of native tribes, commercial fishermen, anglers and hunters, conservationists, religious groups, restaurateurs and outdoor enthusiasts have been fighting this foreign-owned mine proposal trying to gain protections for the Bristol Bay region and millions of Americans who cherish eating, fishing for or making their livelihood off of wild salmon.

Our voices have been and will continue to be heard on this. Over 1,150 sport fishing and hunting groups and businesses have asked for Bristol Bay to be protected. Hunters and anglers were strongly represented in the over 1.5 million public comments supporting protection for Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine.

Bristol Bay supports one of the planet’s best remaining salmon fisheries, which at an average run of 37.5 million fish, produces 46 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon. On top of the incredible number of sockeye salmon, the watershed supports Chinook salmon, coho salmon, rainbow trout, grayling, and char, all of which are prized sportfish that result in more than 29,000 fishing trips per year. In addition to world-class fisheries, the area is also home to high densities of brown bear, moose, caribou, waterfowl, and ptarmigan that attract hunters from around the world.

From an economic perspective, sportfishing, hunting, and eco-tourism alone generate more than $160 million in local economic activity, creating nearly 2,500 local, sustainable jobs. The proposed Pebble Mine would create only about 1,000 temporary mining jobs while threatening 14,000 commercial and recreational fishery jobs in a $1.5-billion annual salmon fishery that can last indefinitely.

Pebble Mine will wipe this all away.

Simply put, places like Bristol Bay are extremely rare and extremely valuable. Millions of our members and customers across this country are asking you to stand with us in stopping this mine in this place.

Where do you stand?

Sincerely,

Sportsmen for Bristol Bay