Chuitna: More Than Just Salmon on the Line Film

Paul Moinester  /  6 Min Read  /  Activism

Sam Weis displays the beauty of the Chuitna’s silver salmon. Photo: Dave McCoy


Watch Chuitna – More Than Salmon On The Line. After a successful run on the film tour circuit and dozens of local screenings, we’re thrilled to share this short film with you for free. Video: Trip Jennings


Stop a Massive Open-Pit Coal Strip Mine on the Chuitna River

Take_action_largePlease join the fight and help Judy, Larry, Terry and the Tyonek defeat the Chuitna Mine. All it takes is a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. Watch the film and share it on social media. And take action today at American Rivers by telling Alaskan officials to protect the Chuitna’s important habitat. Then, like the Facebook page or text “Salmon” to 313131. You will be notified when it’s time to speak up again.

The Biggest Salmon Fight No One’s Heard Of 

The 40-minute bush plane flight from Anchorage to Alaska’s Chuitna River watershed is like a journey back in time. As the tires grip the gravel of the tiny outpost runway, you are thrust into a wild world teeming with life and vibrant rivers overflowing with salmon. It’s a world like my Pacific Northwest home used to be, before we dammed our rivers, logged our forests, and destroyed our salmon runs.

But the unspoiled Chuitna watershed and its residents are now staring down the barrel of destruction because of a proposed project that is an egregious throwback to an era when rivers, salmon and native people were deemed expendable in the name of “progress.” In this case, “progress” is the proposed Chuitna Coal Project and the millions of tons of low-grade coal it would produce every year for export to China and other Asian markets.

Alaska is no stranger to mining, but never has a company had the audacity to mine directly through a salmon river. This first-of-its-kind project would dig 300 feet deep through 13.7 miles of prolific salmon streams and through hundreds of acres of pristine wetlands, forests, and bogs. Not only would the project completely remove miles of the Chuitna’s headwaters, but it would also pollute the river downstream by discharging seven million gallons of mine wastewater into the river each day. The unprecedented scope of this devastation is why American Rivers recently named the Chuitna one of America’s most endangered rivers.

Making matters worse, approval of this “pioneering project” would also increase the likelihood that other proposed mines in the Chuitna Watershed will be built. Plus, it would establish a dangerous precedent that would endanger hundreds of salmon rivers that course through Alaska’s untapped coalfields.

For the media team that had the privilege to visit the Chuitna and make this film, it was impossible to fathom how this pristine paradise could be transformed into an industrial wasteland and Asia’s newest power source. But for the native Tyonek people, hardy homesteaders such as Judy and Larry Heilman, and commercial fishermen like Terry Jorgensen, it is the harsh reality they face every day—the chance that their homes as well as the lands, waters, and animals they cherish could vanish before their eyes.

As you can imagine, this handful of homesteaders and the Tyonek people are not going down without a fight. Despite being overmatched financially and politically, years of arduous work and coalition building have created a strong and growing coalition that is on the precipice of defeating this destructive proposal. But to make that happen, we need your support.

Chuitna-1
View from the plane of the pristine Chuitna watershed. Photo: Paul Moinester

4
Al Goozmer, Native Village of Tyonek President, poses with several salmon he caught subsistence fishing. Photo: Sara Quinn

3
Commercial fisherman Terry Jorgensen loads a crate of salmon bound for a grocery store near you. Photo: Dave McCoy

JL_1
Judy and Larry Heilman, residents of Beluga, Alaska.

11Patagonia’s Dave McCoy rides along the shores of the Cook Inlet on a loaded down trailer towed by a four wheeler. Photo: Paul Moinester

2Camp on the banks of the Chuitna. Photo: Dave McCoy

1With rod in hand, Josh Prestin strolls by a chunk of coal in the Chuitna. Photo: Dave McCoy

5Trip Jennings capturing some silver salmon magic during the golden hour. Photo: Sara Quinn

6Sam Weis displays the beauty of the Chuitna’s silver salmon. Photo: Dave McCoy

15A surprisingly comfortable log provides a bit of a respite for a worn-out film crew. Photo: Paul Moinester

19It was hard to walk more than 100 feet on the Chuitna without seeing bear tracks. Photo: Dave McCoy

Chuitna-6
Paul Moinester, Chuitna River, Alaska. Photo: Sam Weis

12Trip Jennings films as Dave McCoy casts to a pod of salmon smashing the Chuitna’s otherwise placid surface. Photo: Paul Moinester

18After a long day of filming and fishing, our waders and wetsuit are hung up to dry. Photo: Paul Moinester

Together, we can save the Chuitna!

Take_action_largePlease join the fight and help Judy, Larry, Terry and the Tyonek defeat the Chuitna Mine. All it takes is a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. Watch the film and share it on social media. And take action today at American Rivers by telling Alaskan officials to protect the Chuitna’s important habitat.

On behalf of the individuals fighting vigorously to protect their homes, livelihoods, and the place they most cherish, the Save the Chuitna Campaign would like to express their most heartfelt gratitude to Patagonia and filmmaker Trip Jennings for making this project possible.

For more information and to join the Chuitna Action Team, please visit savethechuitna.org or text “salmon” to 313131.

Related Stories

Doug Peacock’s Fight for That Last Bear: Ben Moon’s “Grizzly Country”
Is it possible you’re reading this on The Cleanest Line and it’s the first you’re hearing of Doug Peacock? Is that even possible? Well, if so, you’re in for a real treat. In his latest film, Grizzly Country, Ben Moon creates a portrait of Peacock—a man who’s long been willing to put life and limb…
Is it possible you’re reading this on The Cleanest Line and it’s the first you’re hearing of Doug Peacock? Is that even possible? Well, if so, you’re in for a real treat. In his latest film, Grizzly Country, Ben Moon creates a portrait of Peacock—a man who’s long been willing to put life and limb…
Patagonia
2 min Read
Almost Two Decades Watching Wild Salmon from the Same Perch
As I wake, I become aware of the shovel-scraping-asphalt croak of a blue heron, or the brilliant complex cascading song of the winter wren, or the yammering calls of the kingfisher being chased by an accipiter. In the fall a flock of kinglets, moving through the trees and shrubs surrounding our camp, deliver their pure,…
As I wake, I become aware of the shovel-scraping-asphalt croak of a blue heron, or the brilliant complex cascading song of the winter wren, or the yammering calls of the kingfisher being chased by an accipiter. In the fall a flock of kinglets, moving through the trees and shrubs surrounding our camp, deliver their pure,…
Lee Spencer
4 min Read
Doubling Down on the Broken Promise of Fish Hatcheries
You have to hand it to them. It was a wildly creative and successful bait and switch—perhaps the biggest con ever played on the once wild west. The terms were simple. The public would okay the construction of fish-killing dams and other habitat destroying activities. In exchange, the government would use taxpayer money to produce…
You have to hand it to them. It was a wildly creative and successful bait and switch—perhaps the biggest con ever played on the once wild west. The terms were simple. The public would okay the construction of fish-killing dams and other habitat destroying activities. In exchange, the government would use taxpayer money to produce…
Kurt Beardslee
5 min Read
“DamNation” Behind the Scenes: Help Stop Ishiki Dam in Japan
All technology has merits and harmful effects. The same applies to dams that came into existence over 50 years ago. But the detrimental impact brought upon by dams has become increasingly conspicuous in recent years. Because of this, discussions have started to take place in the U.S. regarding the necessity of dams—from economical, environmental and…
All technology has merits and harmful effects. The same applies to dams that came into existence over 50 years ago. But the detrimental impact brought upon by dams has become increasingly conspicuous in recent years. Because of this, discussions have started to take place in the U.S. regarding the necessity of dams—from economical, environmental and…
Takayuki Tsujii
8 min Read
DamNation Petition Delivery to the White House – Washington state residents please take action
On Wednesday, January 28, a small team representing activists, moviegoers, customers and the entire Patagonia family delivered a petition containing more than 70,000 signatures—the online petition and postcards combined—to President Obama and his top environmental advisers. Created in conjunction with the release of DamNation, the petition brought together activist voices from all 50 United States…
On Wednesday, January 28, a small team representing activists, moviegoers, customers and the entire Patagonia family delivered a petition containing more than 70,000 signatures—the online petition and postcards combined—to President Obama and his top environmental advisers. Created in conjunction with the release of DamNation, the petition brought together activist voices from all 50 United States…
5 min Read
Elwha River Uplift
The kids and I decided to squeeze in one last, close-to-home, weekday excursion before school started, so we headed over to the newly dam-free Elwha River for a little float. The last piece of the upper dam was removed last week, so it seemed like a good time to go see what had changed since…
The kids and I decided to squeeze in one last, close-to-home, weekday excursion before school started, so we headed over to the newly dam-free Elwha River for a little float. The last piece of the upper dam was removed last week, so it seemed like a good time to go see what had changed since…
Dylan Tomine
4 min Read
DamNation to Screen in 23 Patagonia Stores Nationwide on June 5, Available Digitally at Vimeo On Demand on June 7
Winner – SXSW Audience Choice Award Winner – Documentary Award for Environmental Advocacy, DC Environmental Film Festival Winner – Mountainfilm Audience Choice Award Winner – Best of Festival, 5Point Film Festival On Thursday, June 5, Patagonia will present the award-winning, feature length documentary DamNation, in 23 cities nationwide. Free screenings will be hosted at Patagonia Retail Stores and are open to…
Winner – SXSW Audience Choice Award Winner – Documentary Award for Environmental Advocacy, DC Environmental Film Festival Winner – Mountainfilm Audience Choice Award Winner – Best of Festival, 5Point Film Festival On Thursday, June 5, Patagonia will present the award-winning, feature length documentary DamNation, in 23 cities nationwide. Free screenings will be hosted at Patagonia Retail Stores and are open to…
Patagonia
2 min Read
“DamNation” Behind the Scenes: Alaska’s Mega Dam(n) Proposal
The Susitna is a huge glacial river that drains the indomitable Alaska Range. Denali looms on the horizon. One of America’s last great, wild, undammed rivers, it is home to large numbers of king, sockeye, pink, coho and chum salmon, which push through its heavy currents to spawn in its clear-water tributaries. The “Su” sees…
The Susitna is a huge glacial river that drains the indomitable Alaska Range. Denali looms on the horizon. One of America’s last great, wild, undammed rivers, it is home to large numbers of king, sockeye, pink, coho and chum salmon, which push through its heavy currents to spawn in its clear-water tributaries. The “Su” sees…
Matt Stoecker and Travis Rummel
6 min Read
Popular searches