Washington Wild has been working to coordinate a coalition of conservation, recreation and wildlife organizations to raise opposition to the proposed mining in the Canadian headwaters of the iconic Skagit River. WA Wild submitted a letter signed by more than 50 organizations and elected officials to the British Columbia Ministry of Mines opposing the proposed mining in the Skagit Headwaters.
The company proposing to mine in an unprotected area of the Skagit Headwaters, Imperial Metals, was responsible for the infamous Mount Polley mine disaster of 2014, which spilled more than 2.6 billion gallons of toxic sludge into the Fraser River watershed, one of the biggest environmental disasters in Canadian history.
The risk of such a disaster in the Skagit, home to Puget Sound’s healthiest remaining runs of wild salmon and steelhead—vital food for southern resident orca whales as well as cherished resources for Native American nations and other local communities—is simply unacceptable.
The priceless ecological and cultural values of the Skagit Watershed have been recognized for decades, notably through the High Ross Treaty of 1984 in which the City of Seattle and British Columbia reached an agreement to avoid flooding more than 5,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat and recreation lands. The Treaty also created the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission (SEEC), the bi-lateral body intended to conserve and protect wilderness and wildlife habitat, enhance recreation opportunities, and acquire mineral or timber rights consistent with those values.
The approval of Imperial Metals’ permit application would violate the spirit and intent of the High Ross Treaty, the creation of the SEEC, and the stated opposition of indigenous nations and conservationists on both sides of the international border.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has engaged quickly and effectively on the pending threats to the Skagit Headwaters, writing several letters and meeting with British Columbia Premiere John Horgan as a participant in the international treaty. As a result, proposed clear cut logging in the area has been temporarily postponed in the hopes of moving the project elsewhere.
Demand for such nearby natural areas will continue to grow, not shrink. To not recognize and plan for such demand is short-sighted and counter to the interests of this and future generations. The Skagit Headwaters are a regional showcase for international conservation cooperation, supporting the quality of life that in turn underpins our regional economic, ecological and cultural vibrancy.