by Sierra Harvey
If you are a person of the coast, you have a salmon story. I didn’t recognize mine until my third year at university.
In 1980, my step dad, as a young and over-energetic 19-year old was thrilled to be offered a position with a logging company straight out of high school. A great deal of money was locked up in old growth coastal timber of Clayoquot Sound, and companies offered new employees great financial incentives to perform this type of high-risk work. Little did he realize the effects of logging would leave on the watershed, reducing the stabilization capacity of stream banks, removing key shading to regulate water temperatures and saturation abilities, resulting in increased runoff and flooding. The effects are extremely detrimental to salmon. Salmon, like trees, are another key resource in these small communities. The fish that we love, are central to our diets, our lifestyle, and are affected by everything we do on land. My family is dependant on salmon to fill the freezers. Our 17ft fibreglass was a source of so much joy as a child.
These days, like most small logging towns in coastal British Columbia, my hometown of Ucluelet, BC has shifted from resource extraction to tourism.
Now in Victoria, I study geography and restoration. Geography is an exploration of the possibilities and capacities of nature, and the story of human interactions with the land and sea. A central component of geography and restoration is conservation. My interest was seeded in my first year by Phillip Dearden, who sheds light on the big, gnarly, and obvious (when you look for them) problems in society and resource management in his Geography 101 course. Already filled with a desire to be outdoors and exploring, geography grounded my thought processes and guided my passion for coastal conservation in B.C.
Last summer I had my own experience working in Clayoquot Sound. Now thirty years after the demise of logging in the biosphere, I worked in the same watershed that is home to spawning Chinook, Coho and Chum salmon, and the same one my step-dad logged many moons ago.
My time with Central Westcoast Forest Society was both humbling and motivating. I had the opportunity to work with an incredibly hard working organization on salmon habitat restoration. I spent my time directly in the rivers and estuaries, working to bring these ecosystems back to the healthy state they were in prior to logging.
Considering the connections between salmon and the make-up of terrestrial ecosystems is key to ensuring that these systems remain healthy and functioning for the long term. Humans effect on salmon populations is unlike any other predator. My passion, combined with my growing knowledge of salmon ecosystems, led me to Salmon Beyond Borders’ work, where I can focus my efforts on policy related to transboundary rivers. The rivers of Northern BC and Alaska are dear to my heart and I am passionate about making as many waves as I can in this time.
A salmon story is always full circle. My family’s history on the coast is lengthy and has fostered who I am today. I grew up on the fresh fish that we caught and smoked; camped in archipelagos; and spent weekends exploring the watershed. It seems anomalous to even consider a world where this kind of life is not possible. Like the life cycle of a salmon, beginning in a single river and returning to that same river, my salmon story will always be a part of me and whether I realize it or not, and the decisions I have made in life are made with these stories in mind.
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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