With all the standard invective and clichés, Keene goes on to pummel the vile and ubiquitous enviros for opposing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And then he makes charges that, while also false, are utterly fascinating and revealing: "Meanwhile, they [the enviros] have largely ignored what could be a real threat to the Alaska they claim to be so dedicated to saving. The Alaska of our dreams may not be found on the mud flats that hide the oil we so desperately need, but it can be found in the Bristol Bay watershed, where streams flow into Lake Iliamna and provide the habitat in which some 40 percent of the state's Pacific salmon breed, where the world's largest moose and brown bears are to be found alongside streams harboring the largest and scrappiest trout on the continent … The environmental lobby hasn't gotten involved because it senses there is more money to be raised attacking our addiction to oil and SUV's and the people who run the oil companies than by taking on an obscure Canadian mining operation that may actually be putting the Alaska of our dreams at risk."

Then there are the admonitions of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), one of the angriest and shrillest anti-environmentalists in Congress whose typical response to people questioning slap-dash development is to scream "Liar," and who, until now, never saw a mine he didn't like. Listen to Stevens, as quoted by Alaskan media: "If this was some essential commodity that we absolutely had to have to run our economy, it would be a different matter; and even then I would want to have a lot better attention being paid to the environmental process. But this one, I just don't like it … We really don't know what's happening with the reproductive capability of those streams out there …

"I'm not going to change, and I hope people will listen to us. That resource is an enormous resource not just for the Native people but for the Bristol Bay run, and it ought not be tampered with by a gold mine … If that makes me a turncoat from being an extreme developer, so be it … They [Northern Dynasty] are hiring people from all over the place to criticize me, to fly back to Washington to talk to everybody about my opposition to this mine … My old friends in the mining industry … are ready to put a red-hot poker to my throat."

Pits in Crown Jewels

by Ted Williams
Reprinted courtesy of Ted Williams and Fly, Rod and Reel

It was a day of superlatives in a place of superlatives. I had thought I threw a long line until I watched the guy fishing with me – Steve Rajeff, who can cast farther than any other man on the planet. Together we eased down the clean gravel of the river that sustains the world's biggest salmon runs – the Kvichak, 300 hundred yards from where it collects water from the biggest lake in Alaska. Now, in late September, the giant rainbows of Lake Iliamna were dropping down to snark the last eggs from the last moribund pink salmon. From 20 feet they'd chase down the Globugs Steve had tied that morning. We didn't have anything with which to weigh the fish that fried my reel, but it dwarfed the 12-pound silver I'd caught two days earlier. Rajeff's photo of it hangs on my office wall. Anglers who haven't fished the Kvichak won't believe me when I tell them it's not a steelhead.

That's how I got hooked on the Bristol Bay area of southwest Alaska. No place on earth is wilder or more beautiful or offers finer salmonid fishing. In the Kvichak, for example, you can catch all five Pacific salmon, rainbows, dollies, char and grayling. The rivers, lakes, mountains, valleys, tundra and forests of Bristol Bay are aptly called "America's crown jewels." I cannot get enough of them. But the day may not be far off when you and I will get no more because, if a small Canadian mining company with no track record and backed by Middle Eastern money of unknown origin gets its way, they will be ruined.

Some of the fish and wildlife will, of course, survive. Many of the topographical features will remain intact. But the essence and magic of the place will be destroyed utterly and irrevocably. The Bristol Bay area will no longer be wild and remote. It will become a populated, easily accessed, industrial-waste storage facility.

Even if the Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Mines made a habit of keeping its word, its copious promises would mean nothing. This is because its modus operandi is to find and stake deposits, then hawk them to larger companies who do whatever they please. Having never developed a mine, Northern Dynasty proposes to strip-mine what it describes as the nation's largest gold deposit and second-largest copper deposit near Upper Talarik Creek and the lower Koktuli River in the Nushagak and Kvichak River drainages, just south of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve and 15 miles northwest of Lake Iliamna.

In addition to cyanide, with which gold is extracted from ore, the operation would release sulfuric acid, arsenic, lead, cadmium, zinc, mercury and sundry other toxins known to kill fish and wildlife, cause cancer and destroy nerve tissue. A witch's brew of these and other poisons would be held in a 20-square-mile lagoon consisting of former wild-salmonid habitat in what is called the "Ring of Fire," a volatile seismic zone beset by major earthquakes (including one in the spring of 2005) at the base of Mt. Iliamna, an active volcano, and flanked by two other active volcanoes. In fact, all the past and present volcanism make the site one of the world's richest sulfide mineralization areas, meaning that production of acids and toxic heavy metals would be way higher than at other strip mines.

When the toxic-waste lagoons downslope from hard-rock mines fail, results are always catastrophic. So great is the threat to the Bristol Bay area that the DC-based environmental group American Rivers took the unusual step of including this land of many waters on its 2006 list of the nation's 10 most endangered "rivers."