Natural Resource Based Campaigns: The Coalition to Protect Bristol Bay from Pebble Mine
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Public policies are created through an intricate network of advocacy coalitions and policy brokers within public and private networks who seek to change or enhance current policy. The focus of this thesis research is a rarely used authority of the Environmental Protection Agency granted under the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) to prohibit or restrict dredge and fill activity in the Bristol Bay watershed in the Southwest region of Alaska based on anticipated impacts of large-scale mining activity. Those who fish in Bristol Bay, whether for subsistence, recreational or commercial purposes want to prohibit or restrict large-scale mining activity like the proposed Pebble Mine in the region. If built, Pebble Mine would be one of the world's largest open-pit mines with mineral values estimated to exceed $500 billion at the estimated building cost of $6 billion, not to mention the cost of environmental impacts to the Bristol Bay ecosystem. Some who write about development and its environmental impact seem to advocate for collaborative subsystems to promote policy learning and change, however, the Pebble Mine conflict - having a clear winner and loser - reflects how adversarial subsystems interact. Mark Smith's (2009) environmental flow policy analysis of advocacy coalitions is a useful framework to use to understand the Save Bristol Bay coalition formation and strategy. The coalition used science for intra-coalition cooperation and for policy advocacy. Through the coalition's efforts, protecting Bristol Bay moved beyond the public agenda and reached the formal agenda for policy decision-makers. In this thesis research I provide a brief background of the issue, identifying the stakeholders, providing background on the Bristol Bay watershed ecosystem and the selection of policy strategy used by the Save Bristol Bay coalition. This study evaluates the Save Bristol Bay coalition using Smith's (2009) framework for successful coalition collaboration to better reflect natural-resource conflicts when coalitions disagree and are not able to find common ground. The results of the analysis conclude that under adversarial policy subsystems, the Save Bristol Bay coalition uses uncertainty founded in science to educate and motivate the public through precipitating events, while macropolitical actors use the conflict as a wedge issue to gain public support. Raising uncertainty to macropolitical actors is essential to move the policy from the public agenda to the formal agenda and ultimately produce the desired policy outcome by the Save Bristol Bay coalition.
- Marine affairs