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Protecting the Skeena River's Past and Future

03.03.16

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Protecting the Skeena River's Past and Future

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  • Skeena River. Photo courtesy of Ken Morrish.- Protecting the Skeena River's Past and Future
  • Flyfishing on the Skeena River. Photo courtesy of Ken Morrish.- Protecting the Skeena River's Past and Future
  • Photo courtesy of Ken Morrish.- Protecting the Skeena River's Past and Future
  • Wetsuweten leaders heading to Lelu Island. Photo courtesy of Wild Salmon Center.- Protecting the Skeena River's Past and Future
  • An aerial view of the Skeena watershed. Photo courtesy of Wild Salmon Center.- Protecting the Skeena River's Past and Future
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Protect the Skeena

For those not immersed in the world of fly fishing, you probably haven’t heard of the Skeena. This world-renowned river is located on the northern coast of British Columbia and weaves its way through a watershed the size of Switzerland. It hosts some of the largest steelhead and salmon on the planet and is home to a huge array of wildlife, including bears, wolves, and bald eagles.

Unfortunately, this intact ecosystem is threatened by ill-conceived gas development.

Lelu Island and Flora Bank, located at the mouth of the Skeena, form critical habitat for juvenile wild salmon and steelhead. This habitat is under pressure from a $12 billion liquefied natural gas export terminal being pushed by Petronas, a Malaysian state-owned oil and gas conglomerate. The latest plans from Petronas' local affiliate, PacificNorthwest LNG, calls for the construction of a Golden Gate Bridge-sized causeway over the bank to service 350 tankers a year at a new deep water port. Current research conducted by lower Skeena tribes and Simon Fraiser University, published in the research journal Science, indicates that Flora Bank is the linchpin of the entire Skeena salmon system, where over 40 different populations of juvenile salmon and steelhead take refuge during their transition from fresh to salt water. Flora Bank is essentially a sandbar. A disruption to the delicate balance of ocean and river currents that formed it over thousands of years could have devastating impacts to the river's fish. The wildlife the depends on it, as well as the livelihoods of the region's indigenous tribes.

A Global Impact

The impacts of an LNG facility at the mouth of the Skeena extend beyond those on the wild fish and people who call the river home. The facility would also emit enormous amounts of greenhouse gasses. According to the proposal, over a 30-year period, the proposed LNG facility would facilitate putting at least 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere. Marc Lee, Senior Economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives wrote, “In the wake the Paris Agreement to curb carbon emissions and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, we no longer have the luxury of entertaining proposals that would substantially contribute to increased GHG (Green House Gas) emissions at home and abroad.” Developments like the Petronas LNG facility moves us farther away from mediating some of the more harmful effects of climate change and the goals the U.S. and Canada agreed to in the Paris Agreement - a bridge between today’s policies and reaching climate neutrality before the end of the century.

Take Action - Speak up to protect the Skeena River

Canada’s environmental assessment agency is now reviewing the project, and the the public comment period is open until March 11.

An unprecedented coalition of First Nations leaders, local residents and federal and provincial politicians in northern British Columbia are calling for the protection Lelu Island and Flora Bank at the mouth of the Skeena River. Take a moment to join the coalition and send your comments to B.C.’s Minister of Environment Catherine Mckenna and Premier Kristy Clarke. Let them know the Skeena River watershed is too important to risk its future on an LNG export facility.

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Published in collaboration with Wild Salmon Center

Wild Salmon Center is an international organization committed to the conservation and sustainable use of wild salmon ecosystems across the Pacific Rim.  From northern California up to British Columbia, Alaska and across the Pacific to Russia, WSC partners with local communities, governments, businesses, and other key stakeholders in a shared commitment to long-term stewardship of salmon and their home rivers. WSC has been working to protect wild rivers for over 20 years and we are excited to join them in exploring and protecting these amazing places.

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