FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Heather Hardcastle, Salmon Beyond Borders, (907) 209-848
Southeast communities renew push for federal help with B.C. mines while state stands still
Sitka, Wrangell, Petersburg, and Ketchikan update municipal resolutions for federal involvement on transboundary river concerns in advance of upcoming U.S.-Canada bilateral meeting
JUNEAU, AK – In recent weeks, four Southeast communities passed resolutions renewing calls for the State of Alaska to explicitly request the involvement of the federal government on the AK-British Columbia (B.C.) transboundary mining issue. The resolutions come a week before an Oct. 23 U.S.-Canada bilateral meeting in Ottawa. Community leaders and many other Alaskans hope this issue will be broached by U.S. officials.
However, under the Walker Administration, the State of Alaska still has not formally requested the involvement of the U.S. State Department. This inaction is in spite of updated resolutions from the assemblies of Sitka, Wrangell, Petersburg, and Ketchikan, and letters and resolutions from dozens of other communities, legislators, and Tribes, as well as Alaska’s entire U.S. Congressional Delegation.
“Wrangell is The Gateway To The Stikine, and as such, Wrangell, as well as all Alaskans, need to have enforceable regulations in place to prevent contamination of these shared transboundary watersheds," said City and Borough of Wrangell mayor David Jack. "Enforceable protections and financial assurances can only be secured through a binding federal framework.”
Recent resolutions passed by the four communities were centered on the necessity for the State of Alaska to request that the U.S. take action under the Boundary Waters Treaty so that binding protections are secured between the two countries. This is not achievable through the non-binding agreement between the state and B.C. As local assemblies passed formal resolutions this fall, citizens of each community turned out to local events to learn more about the Canadian mines threatening productive salmon habitat in Southeast Alaska.
“Commercial fishing is Petersburg’s economic engine and lifeblood and the large-scale mining development in B.C. presents a very real potential threat to our economy. For this reason, Petersburg, along with other Southeast Alaska communities, continue to strongly urge that Governor Walker requests explicit U.S. involvement to protect the interests of Alaskans downstream,” said Petersburg Borough mayor Mark Jensen.
“Unfortunately, the State of Alaska has neither the authority nor the fiscal resources to protect our fisheries from Canada’s large-scale mines,” said Ketchikan Gateway Borough mayor David Landis. “The critical next step is for the state to appeal to the United States government to craft enforceable regulations that will protect our interests.”
Although members of the Juneau community packed public events in support of federal engagement, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly members paused to take more time with their updated resolution after a mining executive, Mr. Mike Satre, expressed his personal concerns via email to the Assembly about the federal approach. The Assembly will reconsider the issue later in November once they have had time to more fully understand mining industry concerns with invoking the Boundary Waters Treaty, which applies directly to the governance of international watersheds. Salmon Beyond Borders formally responded yesterday to Mr. Satre’s concerns via an email to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly.
“Senators Murkowski and Sullivan, as well as Congressman Young, continue to elevate this issue and drive federal resources toward securing long-lasting protections for Alaska’s future. The Walker Administration needs to join with the communities it represents and the people who have put trust in this Administration to protect wild salmon and clean water, Alaska’s greatest resources,” said Heather Hardcastle of Salmon Beyond Borders. “We just learned the transboundary mining issue isn’t currently even on the U.S.-Canada bilateral meeting agenda. Governor Walker, please join with your constituents and fellow elected leaders in explicitly calling on the State Department before October 23rd.”
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.