Last month, the shareholders of the Chugach Alaska Corp. agreed to a carbon-offset trade that retires the Bering River coalfields in the Copper River and Cordova region. The corporation will essentially be paid to leave their trees standing, and to keep the Bering River coal in the ground. The Native Conservancy land trust holds the conservation easement to the 62,000-acre Chugach Alaska Corp. coal title.
“So for the first time in 105 years the indigenous people are stewards and protectors of their ancestral lands,” according to an Eyak Preservation Council press release.
“We are excited to share in a conservation victory that the Eyak Preservation Council has been working on for 20 years that will bring long term benefit for the wild salmon habitat, for the Cordova and Copper River communities and for the Indigenous people not only in this region, but all over Prince William Sound,” wrote Carol Hoover with the council.
In January, Alaska Coast magazine reported on the Council’s efforts to keep the Bering River coalfields wild and development free. The Council, along with other advocacy organizations, asked the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustees Council to consider taking the land into its protective hold since in abuts already-identified EVOS restoration boundaries. While the EVOS Council did not reject the request, it also did not confirm it either.
“EPC is thrilled, and we are reaching out to thank you, and to share with much appreciation for this precedent setting conservation victory,” Hoover wrote.
Now that the Native Conservancy is holder of the coal title, most of the protection is complete, yet there is still work to be done. The Korea Alaska Development Corp. owns the remaining 11,000 acres of bituminous coalfield land, and a buyer is needed.
“We are very concerned and focused on reaching out and retiring this bituminous coal title,” Hoover wrote. “It is still a viable option for mountaintop mining in one of the wildest and largest wetlands complexes in the world. We say let’s keep all this coal in the ground.”
For more details or to help, www.eyakpreservationcouncil.org.
— Coast staff