Braided channels and marshes twist and tangle across the Taku’s river valley. A thousand variations of green, brown, and blue, these intricate waterways make up some of the best salmon rearing habitat on the planet. Seven miles south of Juneau, the Taku River is the largest totally intact watershed on the Pacific Coast of North America. Home to all five species of pacific salmon, as well as wolves, brown and black bears, moose, mountain goats, wolverine, and lynx, and just about every kind of migratory bird found in Southeast Alaska, the Taku watershed shines.
But just across the Canadian-U.S. border, on the banks of the Tulsequah River (one of the Taku’s feeder rivers and a part of the Taku watershed), the Tulsequah Chief Mine’s dilapidated remains are leeching sickly red mine waste into this pristine river-system.
The Taku has been the traditional territory of the T’aaku Kwaan for millennia. Head up the Taku Inlet today and you’ll find Juneau-ites using the Taku for subsistence, sport fishing, and recreation. Commercial fishermen from Juneau and surrounding communities rely on the Taku’s massive salmon runs for their livelihoods, and tens of thousands of tourists come to marvel at the Taku’s wildlife and glacial landscape.
The Tulsequah Chief Mine hasn’t operated since the 1950s, so why is this site still not cleaned up, despite the acknowledged need?
Plain and simple.
B.C.’s alternate solution is to help the owner of Tulsequah Chief find yet another buyer, not to clean-up the site, but to re-open it and expand it. And then once they’re done mining, that new owner will clean up the site.
Let’s just say we’re feeling skeptical – especially given that the two most recent owners of the mine went bankrupt within a few years.
The Taku River is in Juneau’s backyard and belongs to all of us. We want our children and our children’s children to have the chance to pull in a net full of fighting sockeye salmon, to see a bull moose pick his way across a marsh, and to fly over the Taku and see nothing but beautiful clean water.
Take half a minute and sign on to let our local, state, and congressional elected officials know that you want them to stand up and defend our salmon rivers.
What just happened? How is it already the end of 2016?
Today is the Winter Solstice, perhaps my favorite holiday because it gives us pause. Pause to appreciate the gift of light (for real) and a sense of rebirth; solstice draws from new energies in the atmosphere which create transitions that I totally don’t even pretend to understand. But by all means, I do my best to embrace. This is starting to sound like one of my Mom’s holiday cards...
This past year was one of ups (seriously HUGE ups) and downs for the Salmon Beyond Borders campaign. For those of you I’ve not yet had the chance to meet, let me just say that I am a real human, and therefore intend to deliver this message as a real human would. I don’t always get to write these messages to you, our remarkable support crew, because I have colleagues that are way better at this kind of thing. However, I’ve been feeling the weight of the world as of late, and I absolutely wanted to take this opportunity to tell you, for real, how incredibly proud I am to be part of this campaign, this movement...this remarkable THING - with YOU.
From our meetings with the United States Department of State, to the United States Ambassador to Canada and subsequent Consulate Staff to meetings with the members of the University of Alaska Southeast Sustainability Club, I am humbled by the resonating call for action to protect the transboundary rivers of Southeast Alaska and the people dependant upon them.
I was asked to write about what I am most proud of for the campaign. That’s easy. YOU. We had numerous opportunities for the public to submit comments, sign petitions, send letters, eat and donate sustainable seafood, take pictures, watch movies, answer questions, etc. And you did. And you did it WELL. The support we are so fortunate to have garnered from our elected leaders is because you told them that this issue matters. That these rivers matter. These salmon matter. This is not just about our fishing communities - it’s about watersheds, the future, our food security. It’s about health and safety. It’s about governance. It’s about community. And we are so thankful to be part of this working community.
I was also asked recently about what will come of this issue in 2017 with the impending administration. Thankfully I had just had an insightful conversation with one of my best friends at Coppa in Juneau, and I now feel more prepared to answer.
My best and most honest answer: think globally, act locally.
Alaska: More than 7,000 Alaskans have signed onto our petition calling for international binding and enforceable protections for the Taku, Stikine, and Unuk transboundary rivers. Although this number is impressive - we know Alaskans can do better. Tell your friend, your neighbor, your deckhand - about this issue. Talk to them about ways we can better relay information to you - ways we can help each other reduce, reuse, and recycle - alternative energy sources - local food systems, including but not even limited to salmon! And no, I’m not pulling out the old play book here - this stuff really matters and is part of the bigger picture - part of the future.
United States: More than 25,000 Americans have signed onto our petition. Why do Americans care? Because they recognize how much ALASKANS VALUE sustainable seafood, quality of life, pristine environment, and clean water. And because governance matters. And Canada has not given us reason to trust that they VALUE what WE VALUE quite the same way. So again, tell your people. Tell your story. Tell them about Alaska.
2017 needs us. And I am ready. And we need you. We have some exciting things brewing with our partners in Alaska and in BC and we cannot wait to share them with you. Are you in Vancouver? Sweet, we’ll see you there, and with world-renowned chefs in tow. Are you in Southeast Alaska? Cool, join us at your upcoming community assembly meetings (dates and locations TBD). Are you somewhere far away - like my friend in Africa getting her PhD? Or on a commercial fishing vessel in the middle of the Bering Sea? We’ve got stuff for you, too (online, of course, silly). Southeast Feast with a new twist? Stay tuned.
Keep up with us on our website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter to learn what’s next and ways to get involved. Also, have you checked out our new swag? Our online store is back in action, ready to kick 2017 in the teeth.
Here’s to the new energies in the universe, the unknowns, and the knowns - like the fact that we’re all in this together - like we’ve already been. With the most sincere thanks I can muster - from the core of my being - I bid farewell to 2016, and tremble with might for 2017. It’s go time.
Salmon Beyond Borders
P.S. - My mom wishes you all a happy winter! :)
Looking back on the past year I find it very difficult to identify one story or moment that is emblematic of what I think was most meaningful or profound in the work of Salmon Beyond Borders. The thing that stands out to me most is the connections that have either been made or strengthened between people who care about protecting the rivers that sustain us and, ultimately, draw us together.
Thinking about this feels especially poignant to me after enduring a year whose end has been punctuated with politics that paint such strong pictures of division. For my own strength and psychological wellbeing, I have been looking to emphasize ways of finding common ground with those who I come into contact with and drawing closer to those I am already connected to in all aspects of my life and work.
Just today I found a passage that, I feel, exemplifies the kind of thinking that extends beyond the politics of people and reaches to the core of how minds and hearts can move toward finding solutions based on what we all experience as humans. The exercise of finding a passage of writing to share with co-workers as a gift to bring to each other led me to this:
“‘Love seems paramount to me. Seeing through the world, explaining it, despising it may be crucial to great thinkers. But all I care about is to be able to love the world, not to despise it, not to hate it or myself, to be able to view it and myself and all beings with love and admiration and awe.’”—Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
Looking back at the past year I see people we have connected with because of their orientation around fish and water. They are part of a river of faces that is flowing together in time and our numbers are growing. This river of people brings gladness to me, makes my heart feel strong and full, and it brings me hope.
It is my wish that you feel a sense of hope and love in the New Year.
Salmon Beyond Borders
Organizer and Connector
My name is Chris Miller; I am a commercial fisherman, professional photographer, and a member of the Juneau Douglas F&G Advisory Committee.
Once upon a time, there were salmon in the Thames, Seine and the many major arteries of mainland Europe. They are gone.
There were once salmon swimming in the Charles River near Boston, and the many tributaries along the Eastern Seaboard. They are gone.
The salmon on the West Coast, use to choke the mighty Columbia River and the many rivers and streams that line the Western edge of the North American Continent. They too are almost gone.
This is not a fairy tale, it is historical non-fiction; all of these places have one thing in common, human development in its myriad of forms. Laws protecting salmon and their natal streams go back to the Magna Carta, and have been overlooked and unenforced for just as long.
I have been to the Tulsequah Mine site and seen first hand what 60-plus years of acid mine drainage leeching into a river looks like. I have spoken with Tlingit First Nations people, who remember as children playing in the streams and tributaries of the Tulsequah full of Coho salmon. They are now almost gone.
The Territory of Alaska was purchased in large part due to our wealth in salmon. Salmon were the resource that the populace of our territory coalesced around to vote to become a state. We have a robust and revered constitution that gives us simple and steadfast guidance to protect our resources to the maximum benefit of our peoples now and in the future.
The Tulsequah Mine acid leeching and the Mount Polley Dam collapse are warning signs of a lack of oversight, regulation, and stewardship by the Canadian Government and mining industry. It is paramount that we as a state hold the BC Government to the highest possible standards to protect our interests, and theirs, in the rivers that flow across our shared border, that are protected under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.
The Transboundary Rivers of the Taku, Stikine, and Unuk are the last remaining undeveloped rivers on the West Coast of North America that sustain natural runs of all 5 species of Pacific Salmon. At present they are intact ecosystems that will continue to support salmon indefinitely. If we fail to recognize and accept the historical antecedents of salmon in Europe and the rest of the Continental United States, I fear salmon may become an allegory in a future fairy tale.
October 12, 2016
Annie Montgomery joins us this summer after completing her second year of law school at University of Oregon. Annie grew up spending her summers power trolling out of Elfin Cove and attended school in Port Townsend, WA. She fished her own junky 23-foot power troller, the F/V Eyecatcher, in 2007 when she was 19. Although her family now owns and operates South Passage Outfitters—a small business catering to sport fishing and kayaking—they still commercial fish when they can.
While in undergrad at the University of Nevada, Reno, Annie learned about the threat to Alaska’s salmon rivers from Transboundary mines. The prospect of rapidly dwindling salmon populations and the destruction of salmon habitat in Alaska pushed her to action and, ultimately, law school. As she explored the issues surrounding salmon, Annie discovered Salmon Beyond Borders. Last November Annie attended Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle and pitched the idea of a summer internship. She has provided her own funding for her position through Oregon Law Students Public Interest Fund, which provides stipends for summer internships.
This past year Annie was one of five University of Oregon law students who organized the 34th Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC). PIELC is the largest and oldest environmental law conference in the world. Through her role as a conference director she organized panels—including one on the Transboundry mine issues—and brought high-profile keynote speakers--including Mark Titus, director of The Breach.
We are glad to have Annie on board this summer to assist with legal and policy research to support the ongoing effort to protect our transboundary rivers.
SALMON BEYOND BORDERS is a campaign driven by sport and commercial fishermen, community leaders, tourism and recreation business owners and concerned citizens, in collaboration with Tribes and First Nations, united across the Alaska/British Columbia border to defend and sustain our transboundary rivers, jobs and way of life.
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