Today, Washington Wild’s Executive Director testified in Olympia before the House Rural Development, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Committee in support of a SJM 8014 which Requests that British Columbia work with the city of Seattle and the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission to prevent logging and mining in the donut hole of the Upper Skagit watershed, in order to ensure the area’s environmental and recreational resources are permanently protected. Since 2017, Washington Wild has coordinated a growing international coalition of more than 140 conservation, recreation, and wildlife organizations as well as local businesses and elected officials who oppose mining and logging in the Skagit Headwaters.
In his testimony, Uniack testified in favor of the resolution on a panel alongside Amy Trainer, Natural Resources Director of the Swinomish Tribe and Lynn Best Chief Environmental Officer at Seattle City Light. In his testimony he said:
“The resolution addresses logging and mining threats in the Canadian headwaters of the iconic Skagit River which threaten downstream values here in Washington State including North Cascades National Park, a designated Wild and Scenic River, one of the most productive salmon rivers in the state and the source of a third of the fresh water input to the Puget Sound. Whether you are an angler, farmer, recreationist, wildlife watcher, local business owner or tribal member the quality and quantity of water coming from the headwaters of the Skagit River is your business.”
The resolution has passed the State Senate and will next be considered in the House Committee.
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.
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.