In 2009, Geohedral LLC, (an Oklahoma based company) staked more than 1000 placer claims over more than 91 square miles of the Yakutat Forelands for gold and iron strip mining. The company announced that it had discovered an astounding $34 billion dollars of gold on these claims. Many were skeptical. In 2010, Geohedral announced that it had failed to verify that any of the previous assays had any commercial quantity of gold at all. Since that time the Bureau of Land Management has forfeited all the claims due to lack of payment of maintenance fees.
The Forelands have drawn attention of mining companies for over 100 years. Its world-class salmon spawning habitat, recreation opportunities and important Native cultural sites need to be protected from mineral speculation and exploitation. Any placer or dredge mining will permanently destroy this area and leave it unfit for wildlife and human use. Converting this area into an open-pit mine would have serious impacts on the economy of Yakutat and threaten cultural and historical sites sacred to the local Tlingit Tribe. Mining this area will only benefit a few people for a very short time, but the negative consequences will be permanent.
The Yakutat Forelands are located just south of Yakutat, Alaska and contain abundant wildlife and spectacular salmon producing rivers. In the fall, thousands of salmon spawn in the many rivers and streams, drawing hundreds of thousands of foraging gulls, eagles and ravens, as well as brown bears.
Yakutat, which is Tlingit for “the place where the canoes rest”, is a small village on Monti Bay, the only sheltered deep-water port in the Gulf of Alaska. The site was originally the principle winter village of the local Tlingit Indian Tribe. In many ways Yakutat still maintains a traditional Tlingit culture and life style. Subsistence fishing, hunting and gathering are prevalent.
Subsistence fishing on the Forelands is critical for Yakutat residents. In 2007, Residents took 7287 fish, 16% of all subsistence fish take in Southeast Alaska. This area is also crucial for the commercial fishing industry. The 2009 gillnet fishery in the Yakutat management area took in an estimated $1,462,000 worth of fish. (ADF&G Division of Subsistence; ASFDB, 2008). The residents of Yakutat hold over 200 commercial permits and for many people it is their sole source of income.
The Alaska Division of Sports Fish has documented that 30% of all sport fishing in southeast Alaska occurs in the Yakutat area. The Italio, Akewe and Situk Rivers are world famous fly fishing rivers and are the primary destination for international fly fishermen targeting steelhead and salmon. The community of Yakutat depends on the Forelands for much of its outdoor recreational economy. Yakutat is a primary destination for surfing, cross-country skiing, biking and guided fishing and hunting expeditions.
Bird watching is an annual event that brings many tourists to the Forelands. Each spring, millions of shorebirds migrate north along the Pacific coast of North America to Arctic and sub-Arctic breeding grounds from temperate or tropical wintering grounds. To replenish depleted fat reserves during migration, shorebirds congregate and feed on these productive tidal flats (Myers et al.1987). For example, more than 60% of the world's Western Sandpipers (Calidris mauri) utilize the Forelands each spring.
The Forelands include:
- All of the rivers except the Dangerous are ranked by ADF&G as Class 1 watersheds vital to the spawning and rearing of salmon and have been recommended for permanent protection for their outstanding fish and wildlife.
- Supports the largest Moose population and largest moose hunter harvest in SE Alaska providing an essential traditional food source to Yakutat residents.
- Contains more black bears of the blue color (Glacier Bears) than any other costal Alaska area.
- Lost River/Tawah Creek and the Dangerous River are eligible for Wild and Scenic River designation because of their “outstanding values”.
- Six popular public-use cabins are located in the Forelands.
- The area is defined as a high sensitivity area for the presence of cultural resources. The Yakutat Tlingit Tribe has expressed serious concerns that exploration activities will negatively impact known ancient village sites and potential cultural resources.