(Corrects spelling of Alaska in first paragraph)
By Roberta Rampton
DILLINGHAM, Alaska, Sept 2 President Barack
Obama headed to remote fly-in native villages of Alaska on
Wednesday on a trek the White House hopes will bring attention
to how climate change is affecting Americans.
Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit
a community north of the Arctic Circle when he flies into
Kotzebue, an Arctic town of about 3,000 that is battling coastal
erosion caused by rising seas.
Before going to Kotzebue, Obama went to Dillingham, home to
one of the world's largest sockeye salmon fisheries, where
residents are fighting the Pebble Mine copper and gold project
that has been proposed by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd
Ignoring a light drizzle, he walked down the banks of the
Nushagak River where women who fish for a living had anchored
fishing nets to shore to catch a silver salmon.
"I've got to get some gloves so I can handle my fish," Obama
said. As he lifted it, the fish relieved itself on his shoes.
"Uh-oh. What happened there?" he asked.
Obama spoke with Alannah Hurley of the United Tribes of
Bristol Bay, who is part of a coalition fighting the mine.
Hurley told reporters before his arrival, "We have never
seen a mine the size of the Pebble project."
The Environmental Protection Agency has placed restrictions
on the proposed mine, which the company is fighting in court.
"Our view is that if the president is interested in the
issue he should try to hear from all perspectives about it
including those closest to Pebble who would like the jobs Pebble
may provide," said Mike Heatwole, a spokesman for Pebble Limited
Obama did not directly address the mine in brief remarks to
Earlier this year, he took steps to shut the bay off from
oil and gas exploration to protect the fishing industry.
"There are other threats to this environment that we've
always got to be alert to," Obama said.
The stops in remote communities, at the end of a three-day
tour of Alaska, will add to Obama's legacy of improving ties
with Native Americans. He has also traveled by foot and boat to
see glaciers that are quickly receding due to climate change.
Obama boasted this week that he will have visited more
tribal communities than any previous sitting president by the
time he leaves office.
(Additional reporting by Steve Quinn in Juneau, Alaska; Editing
by Louise Ireland, Toni Reinhold)