November 17, 2016
Heather Hardcastle, campaign director, Salmon Beyond Borders, 907-209-8486, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kirsten Shelton, project manager, McDowell Group, 907-419 -5806, email@example.com
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Study finds threatened Southeast Alaska rivers generate an annual $48 million in economic activity
Regional business owners call for international protections to safeguard jobs and livelihoods sustained by Taku, Stikine and Unuk Rivers.
JUNEAU, AK – Today, the McDowell Group released an economic study commissioned by Salmon Beyond Borders finding the present value of three transboundary watersheds threatened by British Columbia (B.C.) mining are valued at just under $1 billion, when considering a 30-year horizon. McDowell Group also stated, with appropriate management, Southeast Alaska's transboundary watersheds can generate economic benefits in perpetuity.
Alaskans are increasingly concerned about the number, size and scope of large-scale metal mines in various phases of development on the B.C. side of these watersheds, and say this analysis is another reminder of the need for binding, international protections for these iconic watersheds and the livelihoods they sustain.
"The statistics of this economic study highlight the robust yet fragile natural systems on which we depend. Securing enforceable protections for their integrity and future generations is of paramount importance,” said Cynthia Wallesz, Executive Director of United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters.
The economic analysis completed by the McDowell Group, an Alaska-based research and consulting firm, measures the economic impacts in Southeast Alaska of the Taku, Stikine and Unuk River watersheds. The study also briefly considers economic contributions to Southeast Alaska from the Nass and Skeena Rivers, two rivers systems that also have cross-border economic impacts. To assess these impacts, McDowell Group focused on two key industries in the region: commercial fishing and the visitor and recreation industry.
McDowell Group found that, combined, the Taku, Stikine and Unuk River watersheds account for $48 million in economic activity annually, including multiplier effects. This includes $34 million in direct spending, 400 jobs for the Southeast region, and almost $20 million in labor income. The firm also estimates the ex-vessel value and first wholesale value of Nass and Skeena River sockeye that are commercially caught in Alaska waters is approximately $620,000, and over $1.3 million, respectively.
“These numbers are huge and very significant, especially when we consider they are so conservative. The analysis looks primarily at fishing and visitor industry potential impacts and isn’t capable of quantifying the full subsistence and lifestyle values of these iconic river systems,” said Brenda Schwartz-Yeager a fourth-generation Alaskan, and owner-operator of Alaska Charters and Adventures, which takes visitors up the Stikine River on jet boats. “Just think, if we can prevent any negative impacts by B.C. mining, these rivers will continue to sustain us both economically and protect a way of life that is tethered closely to these essential rivers.”
McDowell Group noted that measuring transboundary watershed-related economic activity specifically is complex because data is scant, and it can be difficult to separate the threatened watersheds from the larger ecosystem and economy that includes all of Southeast Alaska and Canada.
“Despite the limitations in the study, there is no question that the bounty from these rivers provides thousands of jobs that contribute to the well-being of communities on both sides of the border,” said Dale Kelley, Executive Director of the Alaska Trollers Association. “These watersheds are economic powerhouses and worthy of international protections.”
Last month, the Alaska House Fisheries Committee held a hearing on the transboundary mining issue where hundreds of Alaskans asked how the State will address issues unaddressed by the non-binding Statement of Cooperation on Protection of Transboundary Waters recently signed by B.C. and the State. Specifically, almost all who testified requested financial assurances for liabilities, and enforceable measures that would protect the clean water, fisheries, jobs and ways of life in the transboundary region.
The hearing spurred House Fisheries Committee Chair, Representative Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak) to send a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry requesting international agreements on this issue between the U.S. and Canada. The Alaska congressional and Washington State U.S. Senate delegations have sent similar letters to the U.S. State Department.
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. Visit us online at salmonbeyondborders.org and find us on Facebook and Twitter.