By Alex Crook
Last year, my buddy Nick and I discovered that we shared an interest in the Northern British Columbia when Nick was inspired by Wade Davis's book "The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine, Skeena, and Nass," and I had recently produced a short film about the importance of the Stikine River flowing from B.C. in Southeast Alaska. It turned out Nick and I both had free time at the end of August 2015, so we planned a road trip from Seattle north to the headwaters of British Columbia's (and one of Alaska's) wild rivers.
I wanted to see the landscape for myself. I heard it was an insanely beautiful part of the country described as "a wildlife sanctuary in the sky." So that was good enough for me, I had to go. Nick convinced our friends Courtney and Erin to join us, and we set out on the 2,500+ mile journey. We had 10 days to see as much of British Columbia as we could, as cheaply as possible. With a little creativity, it ended up being about $25 per person per day.
Before we set out for Northwest British Columbia, I recalled this anecdote from Wade Davis: In 1978, as the first park ranger in the Spatsizi Wilderness, my job description was deliciously vague: wilderness assessment and public relations. In two four-month seasons I saw less than a dozen people. It is the Serengeti of North America, home to the greatest populations of wildlife in Canada. In the lower 48 the farthest you can get from a maintained road is 20 miles. In the northwest quadrant of British Columbia, an area the size of Oregon, there is one road, a narrow ribbon of tarmac that runs up the flank of the Coast Mountains to the Yukon.
Davis once described Todagin Mountain as "a wildlife sanctuary in the sky." I suppose this quote is what inspired me to make the trip. I wanted to see for myself what an untouched landscape is like; I wanted to experience it. I always thought those types of places were very far away. This trip made me realize that there are still wild places out there, and they are closer and more accessible than you think.
The 300 kilometer Northwest Transmission Line (NTL) is a crucial piece of foundational infrastructure in Northwest B.C. which an August 2014 headline from The Vancouver Sun stated, "The province insists that, long-term, the $736-million [project] is a catalyst for developing an entire region." Mining developments need a reliable and large supply of electricity and, therefore, need access to the provincial grid. The original reason offered by the province to build the NTL was to switch the town of Iskut off of diesel generated power and onto the provincial grid thus creating fewer carbon emissions. However, the town of Iskut only has a population of about 300 people, so the power line was less about getting Iskut to green energy and more about facilitating the construction of mines throughout the region.
I highly suggest a trip to the untouched land of Northwest B.C. and the Sacred Headwaters to see it for yourself. It truly is as beautiful as the descriptions. I feel very lucky to have experienced it and all the more confident this region must be protected. For those who seeking encouragement I suggest listening to this talk by Wade Davis which beautifully describes the location's importance and challenges that it faces. Take action and protect the transboundary rivers of Northwest B.C. and Southeast Alaska.
Alex Crook is a freelance photographer based in Seattle, WA. He first traveled to Alaska as an intern for Sitka Conservation Society and began his journey of understanding the transboundary region and the Sacred Headwaters. To see more of his work, please visit his website.
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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