Update on efforts to protect Southeast Alaska rivers

Photo from “Chasing Wild” the new film featuring the Alaska-B.C. transboundary mining issue. Click here to watch the film!

By: Erin Heist

This time of year in Southeast Alaska the weeks are full of harvesting, processing, exploring, fishing and basking in the lush (unseasonably dry and warm!), summer beauty as we prepare for the winter months ahead.

The push to defend the rivers of Southeast Alaska shared by Alaska and B.C. from large Canadian mines has been steadily gaining momentum and we wanted to give an update on the issue and what we’ve been up to with our coalition, Salmon Beyond Borders.

Here are a few highlights:

  • We partnered with organizations in Montana and Washington who also share a border with B.C. In addition to our growing collaborations, ten Alaska state legislators called for the Alaska governor to take similar steps and partner with other governors and state administrations in the transboundary region.
  • Some three dozen indigenous leaders, representing thousands of First Nations and Alaska Native people, met in March and signed a unity statement, making the commitment to work together to combat damaging industrial activity in U.S. – B.C. transboundary watersheds.
  • U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski is leading on the efforts to include $1.5 million in the Interior Appropriations Budget for streamgages on U.S. – B.C. transboundary rivers. USGS streamgages are an important part of establishing baseline water quality data so that British Columbia and its mining industry can be held accountable for impacts to water quality, and to the fishing and tourism economies of the wild salmon region.
  • In addition to the strong support shown by Senator Murkowski, Alaska Lt. Governor Byron Mallott and U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan made transboundary mining a key issue during meetings in Ottawa this February, at a stakeholder meeting held this summer  with B.C. ministry officials, and in a letter to Canadian federal ministers on July 31.
  • We recently released the short film, “Chasing Wild”, by Wild Confluence. This is the story of three adventurers, vast boreal forest, frigid whitewater, monster trout, grizzlies, a glimpse inside a massive open pit mine, and the Tahltan’s fight to protect their homeland. Click here to watch the film!

There is a lot of work to be done in the next year, especially in the Montana, Washington, Alaska partnership on this issue. Thanks for staying tuned. Finding updates on Salmon Beyond Borders’ facebook page is a great way to stay in the loop!

Erin Heist is the Southeast Alaska Outreach Coordinator. She lives and works in Juenau.

By Jenny Weis.