Tribal-Led Coalition

Stop Pebble Mine

Protecting the greatest wild salmon runs on earth, and a way of life that’s existed since time immemorial

The challenge

Bristol Bay is home to the greatest wild sockeye salmon fishery left on Earth. For thousands of years, it has fed the region’s Native Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Alutiiq peoples. Today, it powers a $2.2 billion industry, supports 15,000 fishing jobs, and makes the bucket lists of thousands of tourists and anglers each year.

Despite the magnificence and productivity of the region, foreign mining interests long sought to construct a massive, open-pit gold and copper mine, known as the Pebble Mine, at Bristol Bay’s headwaters, which threatened to poison the watershed and destroy its communities and industries. The region’s diverse stakeholders—Alaska Natives, commercial and sport fishermen, among others—banded together to say, unequivocally, “Not here.”

A coalition was formed, led by the local Tribes, to oppose the threatening project. The coalition’s first goal: an EPA Clean Water Act veto to kill the project and eliminate the immediate threat. These protections were nearly completed under the Obama administration, but the Trump administration derailed the effort, posing a challenge to maintain momentum and placing extreme pressure to make headway at the turn of the next federal administration.

Stop Pebble Mine website

The idea

True Blue was brought in to execute on two priorities. First, stop the mining industry from making progress during the Trump administration. Then, pressure President Biden to pick up where the Obama administration left off and finish the job to protect Bristol Bay.

During the Trump years, our work entailed publicizing the shady practices of the mining industry so that people understood the importance of remaining engaged against the threats posed by the project. Then, as President Biden came into office, his administration needed to feel immediate and overwhelming pressure to make protecting Bristol Bay a top priority. Pebble Mine needed to elevate from an Alaska issue to a national movement, inspiring grassroots supporters who had fought for the region for almost 20 years to once again pick up arms, and bringing in a groundswell of new voices to join the fight.

The work

While protections stalled amid the Trump administration, we created a unifying campaign that would maintain inspiration, reiterate why the region was worth protecting, and articulate the paths toward protection. “Stop Pebble Mine” was set up for rapid action—prepared to inform and mobilize nationwide when the moment was right. The brand served a key purpose leading up to President Biden’s inauguration in January 2021: to build community around an incredible place when the campaign, at times, felt hopeless. With new messages and visual reminders of the magnificence of the place, came new enthusiasm. People began paying attention once again.

By the time President Biden took office, the coalition was poised to hit the ground running and push the administration to finish the job. True Blue equipped Bristol Bay backers with the tools they’d need to elevate the issue. Clear and consistent talking points and branded outreach materials were deployed by grassroots organizers around D.C. and across the state of Alaska from Anchorage to Bristol Bay.

To pressure decision-makers, we created a full surround-sound media campaign, peppering D.C. and Alaska print media with visuals outlining the reasons to veto Pebble Mine and pairing ads with a robust digital plan and inspiring video storytelling.

At the campaign’s culminating moment we built toolkits to empower a national comment period, while ensuring partners could easily help drive the message that now was the time for the Biden administration to act. The work resulted in millions of impressions, driving hundreds of thousands of Americans from diverse backgrounds and a shared love for Bristol Bay to the take action website.

Washington Post wrap
Wild posterings for DC fly-in
New York Times full page ad
Social toolkit
DC fly-in social
Comment period animated digital banners
The amazing thing about resources like this–if you take care of it, it can go on forever. It’s impossible to put an economic price on that. In the end, we used our authority under the Clean Water Act. That means the mine will not be built.
May 11, 2023
President joe biden

The impact

Our years of work developing multiple campaigns helped launch an uprising of grassroots and political pressure upon a process that led to the eventual defeat of the proposed Pebble Mine. By the end of the last EPA comment period, four million American comments had been filed against the disastrous proposal. The EPA finalized its Clean Water Act veto on January 31, 2023.

Communities around Bristol Bay and Alaska tearfully celebrated. For the first time in two decades, they’d be able to live and fish without the threat of Pebble Mine looming over their lives, the lives of their children, and their businesses.

In May 2023, local leaders were joined by President Biden in the Rose Garden at the White House to mark the momentous occasion and offer their remarks of gratitude. We can think of no greater culmination to a campaign that lasted decades, as Bristol Bay leaders who started this fight as teenagers in Bristol Bay villages, stood side-by-side celebrating with the President in our nation’s capital.

True Blue won 17 national awards for the campaign, including Best in Show in the “Overall Public Affairs” category at both the 2021 and 2022 American Association of Political Consultants Pollie awards.

Rose Garden celebration for the enactment of the Clean Water Act
Projection on EPA building in Washington D.C.
AAPC Pollie Awards
Campaigns & Elections
Reed Awards