My buddy Yvon and I made the trek up to Skeena Country to give talks at the SkeenaWild fundraiser, but also to spend time with our friend Bruce, and sneak in a little fishing, too. I don’t know if there’s a more important place for Western Canadadian conservation–or epic meals–than the wooden table in Bruce and Anne Hill’s kitchen in Terrace, BC. Ideas, plans, strategies and campaigns have been hatched, setbacks lamented, victories celebrated around this table, and I always feel honored to have a seat here. On this morning, Bruce and Yvon talk history and strategy for the video cameras.
Then we were off to The Shack, for more time with friends I never get to see enough, and some actual fishing. After a day on the water, that’s (from left to right) Yvon, April, Aaron, Bruce and Calvin chewing the fat before dinner. Rick, our host was, I believe, outside turning moose steaks and deer backstrap on the barbecue, and I took a quick break from tending the matsutake mushroom rice to snap this shot. The highlight of the night, and probably the whole trip, for me, was when Bruce put his prized Martin six-string in my hands, and with a mix of embarrassment and fumbling fingers, I plunked out and sang a couple verses of Long Black Veil with Bruce. My utter lack of guitar and singing skills made me unworthy of the instrument, but it’s a moment that’ll stay with me forever.
Lured in by the aroma of sizzling moose steaks, our landlord, Bob and his giant friend Ootza(sp?), dropped by for a bite and a visit. Bob is one of the finest steelhead anglers and cane-rod makers on the planet, as well as a staunch protector of his beloved river and fish. He’s also a hell of a nice guy. Any time I fish or talk with him, I learn something new. Stay tuned for fishing and fish…
As one of the last great salmon strongholds on the West Coast, and the greatest road-accessible steelhead fishery on the planet, the Skeena’s value is beyond measure. The good people at SkeenaWild are battling tooth and nail to save it, currently from the threat of Petronas’ LNG plant slated for Lelu Island and Flora Bank, which are the prime salmon/steelhead rearing habitat in the Skeena estuary.
You can help with contributions to SkeenaWild, and, if you happen to be in Skeena Country this coming Saturday, it’s easy to contribute in person: Come to the annual SkeenaWild fundraiser in Telkwa, bid on cool gear, buy a sweet SkeenaWild hoodie or hat, raise a glass, eat some food and have some fun.
I will be there to give a little talk, fellow Patagonia Ambassador April Vokey will MC, and we’ll feature a surprise appearance and a few words from someone you will definitely want to meet. I think it’s going to be an awesome time.
It isn’t all fun and games on the British Columbia coast. Hard to believe, but the threat of destruction hovers over all those miles of untouched beaches, steep spruce-covered islands, and the incredible abundance of marine life.The array of disastrous industrial projects proposed for the North Coast is staggering.
The Enbridge Pipeline, designed to carry up to 800,000 barrels of oil a day from the Tar Sands to the coast, and another 200,000 barrels of toxic, explosive “condensate”–a byproduct of the Asian oil fields used to melt the thick bitumen–from the coast to the Tar Sands, would run right down the landslide- and avalanche-prone Skeena watershed. It will cross the headwaters of both the Fraser and Skeena rivers, the two largest salmon rivers in Canada. Of course, Enbridge says it’s safe, but I imagine they said that about their pipelines in Wisconsin and Kalamazoo and every one of the hundreds of places on their spill tally. The hubris here–Or is it flat-out bald-faced lying?–is breathtaking in its audacity. Just check out the list of Enbridge accidents from Reuters HERE and decide how much faith you have in their claims.
All that oil has to go somewhere once it gets to the coast, too. Which means up to 220 oil-laden tankers navigating a treacherous maze of fjords, reefs and islands each year. Navigation here makes Prince William Sound look like a cakewalk. This is a region known for it’s extreme tidal currents and weather, with 100-foot waves recorded in the not-so-distant past. Just last week, in broad daylight and calm weather, a bulk transport ship about the size of an oil tanker, hit a rock in Prince Rupert harbor, breached its hull and nearly sank.
Then there are the 14 Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plants currently proposed for the North Coast. Chevron has already cleared land and moved part of a mountain for their plant just outside Kitimaat, and Royal Dutch Shell is proposing one three times bigger in the same area. The Petronas LNG plant at the mouth of the Skeena would require dredging the vast eel grass beds that help make the Skeena such a productive salmon watershed. And yes, every LNG plant will require a pipeline to get their fracked gas from the interior to the coast, and more tankers to haul it away.
All that stands between this magnificent ecosystem and the disasters that would destroy it, should the oil corporations have their way, are the heroic measures of local First Nations and a handful of overworked conservation organizations. David and Goliath come to mind. But the little guys can win this war; there’s simply too much at stake to lose, and they’re fighting as if their lives depended on it. Which in the case of the First Nations people, isn’t far from the truth.
Perhaps you will never visit the north coast of BC. Or it’s so far away, it has little impact on your life. But here’s what I think: When this piece of truly wild coast is gone, the last destination of our northward time machine will go with it. When we want to understand what our home waters were like 100 years ago, or see what natural abundance should look like, our only choice will be the local public library. And I’m not ready for that. The Haisla say this place is a gift to all humanity. I would add that it’s gift we all need to know is there, whether we ever visit in person or not.
For more info about the efforts to preserve the north coast of British Columbia, check out these organizations and consider making a donation: SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, Pacific Wild, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, and the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition.