Letter to the Editor: Don’t drill for oil on sacred land

Editor’s note: Belle Mickelson wrote this letter in response Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas opportunity to comment on an application to do oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Alaska.

Dear DNR, Division of Oil and Gas,

I am writing to oppose granting a license to Cassandra Energy for oil and gas exploration on the Katalla/Controller Bay area.

This area is an amazing source of salmon that return year after year — feeding the nation — and boosting the economy of Cordova and the home towns of the over 500 gillnet fishermen and women permit holders, their crew, the fishing boat tenders and processors, marine repair shops, grocery stores, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. The fish from the Copper and Bering Deltas sustained our Cordova community in the years after the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill — when the Prince William Sound fisheries plummeted. At the time of the 1989 oil spill, the economy of Cordova was determined to be 95 percent fishing dependent.  

Unfortunately, this area has no oil spill response plans. And typical in the fall and winter are typhoon style weather with blowing rain and snow, over 100 knot winds — and huge seas. The family and friends of the fall silver salmon fishermen and women — breathe a sigh of relief when they are home safely.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the eastern Copper River Delta and hike around Katalla. 


The area is spectacularly beautiful, filled with fish and wildlife including some of the world’s largest moose. These wetlands are the rearing ground for our abundant salmon. And the mudflats of the Copper and Bering River Deltas are known to feed and host the largest numbers of migrating spring shorebirds in the western hemisphere—and maybe the world. In addition, swans and geese travel through in huge flocks.

Our world is feeling the impact of a warming climate due to our use of fossil fuels.  Now is the time to be looking at renewable resources and energy conservation rather than drilling for oil.

Most importantly — this is sacred land for Native residents — and for those of us who have come more recently. Thanks for your efforts to preserve this amazing, world-class habitat for fish, wildlife, wetlands, seas—and all of us!


The Rev. Margaret Belle Mickelson

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