Hello transboundary river supporters,
This will be a big year for our transboundary rivers. The entire corridor of the Iskut, the Stikine River’s largest tributary and where Red Chris mine is already in full operation, is staked with mineral claims. Salmon stocks on many U.S.-B.C. rivers are crashing. British Columbia (B.C.) is making mine expansion, exploration, and investments along U.S.-B.C. rivers a central part of its economic recovery plan from COVID. Meanwhile, B.C. still does not consider the downstream risks associated with catastrophic and cumulative effects of mines when issuing mine permits, does not require mining companies to pay a full bond at permitting to demonstrate an ability to clean up after they are done, and does not require mining companies to obtain consent from all those affected — including downstream Tribes and communities in U.S.-B.C. transboundary watersheds. Moreover, B.C. highlights its commitments to “ESG” (Environment - Social - Governance) for its mining industry, though it remains unwilling to support the binding international governance framework for shared rivers that downstream U.S. communities have long requested, pursuant to the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.
Salmon Beyond Borders has been working to make clear that this is a year in which we must see meaningful action to defend our transboundary rivers if they are to continue to birth millions of salmon in the years to come.
Wild Salmon in Trouble
Low numbers for wild salmon stocks are impacting life in Southeast Alaska with the cancellation of annual fishing traditions.
May 11, 2021 KRBD – Ketchikan king salmon derby canceled due to concern over wild fish stocks
Wild salmon are in heavy decline on transboundary rivers, impacting traditional harvest and commercial fishing.
April 8, KSTK — Low forecast could mean early Stikine sockeye subsistence closure, federal managers say
A Board of Fish meeting that would consider listing Taku and Stikine Chinook as “stocks of concern” (as recommended by ADF&G) in Alaska has been postponed to January 2022.
March 8, KSTK -- Board of Fish bumps back meeting schedule citing cost concerns, public outcry
Farther south, Washington State issued a dire report on its wild salmon that serves as a warning to those who would damage healthy salmon habitat elsewhere, including Alaska and British Columbia.
February 17, Seafood Source — Washington state salmon report offers warning to Alaska
Chinook salmon are in trouble across the Pacific.
February 24, The Astorian — New study highlights climate challenges for Chinook salmon
Meanwhile, B.C. scientists are hobbled by decades of salmon habitat monitoring cuts that have left them uncertain of fish populations.
February 18, The Tyee -- Decades of cuts to salmon monitoring leave B.C. scientists uncertain of fish populations
B.C. salmon are also losing genetic diversity, which threatens their ability to recover from the threats they face.
February 22, CBC News — New research suggests 70% decline in diversity of B.C. sockeye salmon stock in past century
Just days ago, B.C. Auditor General Michael Pickup announced that B.C. failed to effectively manage its conservation lands program intended to protect habitat for fish and wildlife.
May 11, Vancouver Sun -- B.C. didn’t effectively manage conservation lands program: Auditor-General
Montana-Idaho-B.C. Transboundary Rivers
B.C.’s irresponsibly regulated mining continues to threaten salmon and salmonids in U.S.-B.C. transboundary watersheds. Regulators fined mining giant Teck Coal $60 million (Canadian), the largest fine under the Federal Fisheries Act in Canadian history, for its pollution in the transboundary Kootenai River, which flows into Montana and Idaho. But the fine is only for one year, the decision frees Teck from consequences for a number of other violations, and the fine is but a small fraction of the mining giant’s profits.
March 26, The Canadian Press -- Coal company Teck fined $60M for contaminating rivers in southeastern B.C.
Many doubt Teck’s ability to follow through on its promises to address water pollution.
April 10, The Missoulian — Monitors doubt mining company's water fixes
After years of work and conversations with scientists, Tribes and others, regulators in Montana in December approved strengthened standards for the contaminant selenium in Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River at the B.C.-Montana border, which are being polluted by Teck’s Elk Valley coal mines. Some worry it is “too little, too late.” Meanwhile, B.C. has not yet passed its own updated selenium standard for the Elk River that flows into Lake Koocanusa.
April 28, The Narwhal — As mining waste leaches into B.C. waters, experts worry new rules will be too little, too late
Washington-B.C. Transboundary Rivers
Concern about Imperial Metals’ plans to mine in the Skagit River headwaters continues.
May 2, GoSkagit.com — Cities, port, tribe: Risk of mining in Skagit River headwaters is too great
Plans to increase the capacity of the Copper Mountain mine massive waste dump along the transboundary Similkameen River are also igniting cross-border concern.
April 29, The Narwhal -- B.C.’s Copper Mountain mine proposes major tailings pond expansion, sparking cross-border concern
Washington lawmakers recently called on Premier John Horgan to address transboundary concerns.
April 10, Times Colonist — Washington lawmakers, conservationists push B.C. on mining regulations
Meanwhile, in the Fraser River watershed just north of Washington’s border, Imperial Metals — which has still not faced criminal charges, including under the Federal Fisheries Act, for its 2014 mine waste dump disaster — is planning to reopen Mount Polley mine this fall.
May 6, Williams Lake Tribune — Mount Polley mine expected to open by Fall 2021: Imperial Metals
Alaska-B.C. Transboundary RiversA wide variety of groups decried a “smoke and mirrors” report from the State of Alaska and the Province of B.C. ending a water quality far too soon.
March 4, The Narwhal — ‘Smoke and mirrors’: Indigenous groups, conservationists challenge report claiming B.C. mines have no impact on Alaska waters
March 2, Anchorage Daily News — Southeast tribes and fishermen angry over halt to Alaska-Canada water analysis
March 1, CoastAlaska — Tribes, fishermen decry Alaska and B.C. decision to end transboundary monitoring
Yet, despite all of this — or perhaps because of it — risky mining operations, exploration, and investments touted as meeting “ESG” responsible mining standards continue to move ahead in the Alaska/B.C. region, though downstream Tribes and stakeholders have not granted consent to upstream mining development for which they take on virtually all risks and receive no benefits.
March 11, Junior Mining Network -- Thesis Gold Signs Communications and Engagement Agreement with Tahltan Central Government
February 15, Global Mining Review -- Red Chris receives regulatory and funding approval
March 10, Mining.com — Newmont to buy GT Gold for $311 million
As previously reported, B.C.’s economic recovery plan pivots on mining and exploration, much of it near and within globally significant transboundary salmon watersheds.
Indigenous Leaders Take Action
The Tahltan Central Government, whose leadership is considered by many to be “B.C.’s most mining-friendly,” evicted Doubleview Gold from developing on sacred land in the Sheslay area of the Taku River watershed after Doubleview refused to respect Indigenous law.
April 17, The Canadian Press — B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area
The Tahltan Central Government also expressed concern about Newmont’s purchase of the Tatogga mine project in the Stikine River watershed. That kind of sway is rare, as this Reuters piece points out.
April 29, Reuters — Canadian First Nation, with rare sway over mining, puts Newmont on notice
The Tahltan Central Government, Skeena Resources, and conservation groups worked together to protect 3,500 hectares (about 8,650 acres) near Mount Edziza, in the Stikine River watershed.
April 8, Terrace Standard — New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park
Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas are leading the way in the defense of clean water and wild salmon. After four years of trying to work with the province to create an Indigenous Protected Area in the Skeena River watershed just south of the Alaska border, the Gitanyow First Nation are creating a new one on their own.
April 17, The Narwhal — Saving the salmon: why the Gitanyow are creating a new Indigenous Protected Area
Meanwhile, “Indigenous communities are leading a worldwide push to recognise legal ‘personhood’ rights of rivers, lakes and mountains.” One of the first: Muteshekau Shipu, also known as the Magpie River in Innu territory/Quebec.
April 3, Al Jazeera -- This river in Canada is now a ‘legal person’
Former Tahltan Central Government President and “Salmon Speaker” Annita McPhee broke barriers this spring when she was named the first Indigenous executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s B.C. chapter (CPAWS-BC).
March 20, The Narwhal -- ‘Unity and trust’: Annita McPhee on her role as the first Indigenous executive director of a CPAWS chapter
U.S. Briefings Focused on B.C. Mining
Earlier this spring, Salmon Beyond Borders and the Congressional Wild Salmon Caucus, including Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), co-hosted an expert briefing focused on the need for B.C. to require much more robust financial assurance from mining companies operating in U.S.-B.C. shared watersheds to ensure salmon habitat is protected for generations to come.
April 9, Juneau Empire — Elected officials: Safe mining needed for salmon
At the end of April, Salmon Beyond Borders teamed up with Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC), Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, and United Fishermen of Alaska to update the Alaska House Fisheries Committee with what is going on in our transboundary rivers. Some of the biggest news shared at the event: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has forwarded SEITC’s human rights petition to the federal government of Canada, and Canada has less than four months to respond. The meeting also highlighted the continued broad support for international binding protections for U.S.-B.C. transboundary rivers.
May 3, CoastAlaska — Human rights panel to weigh transboundary mining concerns
Mineral prices and calls for green energy are rising, and B.C. is pushing a perception of its mining as responsible in an attempt to spur more development.
March 15, Vancouver Sun — Province launches 'roadmap' to improved social licence for mining
February 16, The Narwhal — Biden has hit the ground running on climate and environmental justice. How will Canada respond?
The global push for more responsible mining continues. But those like Fariq Fancy, BlackRock Inc.’s former chief investment officer for sustainable investing, are also publicly stating that industry and governments touting high ESG investments distracts from the fact that governments need to pass and enforce stronger regulations on extractive industries.
February 15, Reuters — Ford joins global initiative to promote responsible mining
March 25, Globe + Mail -- BlackRock hired me to make sustainable investing mainstream. Now I realize it’s a deadly distraction from the climate-change threat.
In closing, we leave you with this gorgeous essay in The New York Times, on the magic of wild Alaska salmon, from our friend Colin Arisman.
Here’s our previous edition of US-BC Transboundary Rivers in the News.
As always, thanks so much for taking the time to read this update. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments.
Jill Weitz, Director
Salmon Beyond Borders
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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