November 15, 2011

 

The Honourable Christy Clark

Premier of British Columbia

PO Box 9041

Station Provincial Government

Victoria, BC

V8W 9E1

 

Dear Premier Christy Clark,

 

RE: Environmental consequences of multiple development projects in the British Columbia – Alaska transboundary region

We are writing to ask for your leadership to balance the rush to develop mineral and energy resources on the Canadian side of the British Columbia – Alaska transboundary region with safeguarding the unique and irreplaceable ecological values of this largely pristine area. The impending construction of an industrial transmission line into west central British Columbia is the catalyst behind a spate of new proposals for mining and power generation, yet no process is currently in place to meaningfully assess cumulative impacts. Of particular concern are the international salmon runs of the Stikine, Iskut and Unuk Rivers. If allowed to proceed haphazardly, without careful consideration and thoughtful planning, the rush to develop this extraordinary region will almost certainly result in unnecessary destruction of fish and wildlife habitat and a diminishment of water quality and overall ecosystem health.

 

Vast, interconnected, and largely pristine, the transboundary watersheds of northwestern British Columbia and southeast Alaska comprise spectacularly diverse and wild natural environments. The Stikine, Iskut, and Unuk river watersheds are of profound importance to First Nations on both sides of the border. The watersheds support robust populations of all five North American species of Pacific salmon, and sustain international fisheries. The coastal estuaries are essential stopover sites for migratory birds, and the varied landscapes are ideal habitat for wildlife species of concern such as wolverine and grizzly bear, along with iconic species such as mountain goat, Stone’s sheep, and caribou. Owing to their location, biophysical complexity, and largely intact state, the transboundary watersheds are climate change sanctuaries of global importance.

 

In British Columbia, a multitude of industrial projects is planned or proposed for these watersheds. The Northwest Transmission Line (NTL) – a 287 kV industrial transmission line extending 344 km (215 miles) into the region – has received environmental approvals. Characterized by proponents as a “gateway to a completely transformed region over time,” the NTL is a government subsidized venture that’s being constructed to power massive mining (11 proposed sites), energy (coal bed methane), and hydroelectric (at least 18 sites) developments. Collectively, these mean that roads, pipelines, pollution and haphazard human infrastructure will undoubtedly follow.

 

As this burst of development activity proceeds, no organization (government or non-government) has comprehensively addressed the huge scope of ecological and social issues that are likely to arise across the entire region. The scale and intensity of proposed development certainly will fragment the watersheds with roads, transmission lines, river diversion projects, and open pit mines. Habitat for salmon and other wildlife will be destroyed at the development sites. Cumulative impacts likely will cascade throughout the watersheds in the form of altered flow and temperature patterns, disturbance to wildlife interacting with roads, and reduced water quality associated with sedimentation and acid mine drainage. There is much at stake, and the existing baseline inventories are entirely inadequate to assess, project, monitor, and prevent cumulative impacts anticipated from burgeoning resource development.

 

The Stikine, Iskut and Unuk River watersheds contain pristine salmon habitat and form some of the largest contiguous wildlife habitat in North America. A resilient future for these watersheds depends on sustainable management policies and stewardship practices that reflect a commitment to sound science, healthy environments and community wellbeing. However, as the B.C. Auditor General reported in July 2011, with regard to certified development projects in the province, “the Environmental Assessment Office cannot assure British Columbians that mitigation efforts are having the intended effects because adequate monitoring is not occurring and follow-up evaluations are not being conducted.” Furthermore, “information currently being provided to the public is not sufficient to ensure accountability.” Given that proposed development would be occurring in transboundary river headwaters, the downstream impacts to Alaskan interests will also likely not receive adequate consideration.

 

We respectfully ask for your support for a renewed focus on creating a well-structured and transparent ecosystem-based approach for assessing new development proposals in the British Columbia-Alaska transboundary watersheds. Before further development is approved, British Columbia must initiate a comprehensive assessment of potential cumulative impacts arising from the multiple development proposals in the watersheds. The cumulative impacts assessment must be rooted in a more complete baseline understanding of ecological values in the region. In addition, a formal mechanism must be established to incorporate downstream U.S. concerns about potential Canadian development projects into review processes.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Dr. Jim Pojar, Ph.D.

Registered Professional Biologist (Association of Professional Biology of B.C.)

Certified Senior Ecologist (Ecological Society of America)

Smithers, British Columbia

 

Dr. Jack A. Stanford, Ph.D.

Jessie M. Bierman Professor of Ecology and Director, Flathead Lake Biological Station,

University of Montana-Missoula

 

Dr. David W. Schindler OC, AOE, DPhil, FRSC, FRS

Killam Memorial Chair and Professor of Ecology

University of Alberta, Edmonton

 

Dr. John D. Reynolds, Ph.D.

Tom Buell BC Leadership Chair in Salmon Conservation

Department of Biological Sciences

Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6

 

Dr. T. E. Reimchen, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor, Department of Biology

University of Victoria

PO Box 3020, Victoria, B.C., V8W 3N5

 

Dr. Daniel E. Schindler, Ph.D.

H. Mason Keeler Professor, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

University of Washington

Box 355020 Seattle, WA 98195-5020

 

Dr. Michael Fay, Ph.D.

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

Biologist, Wildlife Conservation Society

Ketchikan, Alaska

 

Dr. Anne Salomon, Ph.D.

Hakai Professor and Acting Director

Hakai Network for Coastal People, Ecosystems and Management

Coastal Marine Ecology and Conservation Lab

School of Resource and Environmental Management

Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC Canada V5A 1S6

 

Dr. David Suzuki, Ph.D.

Scientist, broadcaster and author

Co-founder David Suzuki Foundation

Vancouver, BC V6K 4S2

 

Jay Ritchlin

Director, Marine and Freshwater Conservation

David Suzuki Foundation

2211 W. 4th Ave., Suite 219

Vancouver, BC V6K 4S2

 

Dr. Wade Davis, Ph.D.

Ethnobotanist

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

3411 Woodley Road, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20016

 

Dr. John Smol, Ph.D., FRSC

Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change

3M Teaching Fellow

Editor, Environmental Reviews

Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Lab (PEARL)

Department of Biology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6

 

Dr. Jonathon W. Moore, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Liber Ero Chair

Simon Fraser University

Department of Biological Sciences

Burnaby, British Columbia, V51 1S6

 

Dr. Thomas P. Quinn, Ph.D.

Professor, Aquatic & Fishery Sciences

University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

 

Dr. John S. Richardson, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Forest Sciences

 

University of British Columbia

Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4

 

Dr. John W. Schoen, Ph.D.

Wildlife Biologist, Retired

Anchorage, Alaska

 

Dr. Donald G. Reid, Ph.D.

Conservation Zoologist

Wildlife Conservation Society Canada

39 Harbottle Road

Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 5T2

 

Dr. Megan V. McPhee, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Fisheries Division

17101 Point Lena Loop Road

Juneau, AK 99801 USA

 

Dr. Craig Orr, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Watershed Watch Salmon Society

1037 Madore Avenue

Coquitlam, British Columbia, V3K 3B7

 

Dr. Thomas D. Sisk, Ph.D.

Professor of Ecology

Northern Arizona University

Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

 

Dr. Lance Craighead, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Craighead Institute

201 South Wallace Ave., suite B2D

Bozeman, Montana 59715

 

Dr. Jeffrey V. Baumgartner, Ph.D.

Executive Vice President

Wild Salmon Center

Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center

721 NW Ninth Ave, Suite 300

Portland, Oregon, 927209

 

Dr. Jeffrey W. Short, Ph.D.

JWS Consulting LLC

Juneau, Alaska

 

Dr. Gordon F. Hartman, Ph.D.

Retired, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Nanaimo, British Columbia

 

Dr. Mason D. Bryant, Ph.D.

Certified Fisheries Scientist, American Fisheries Society

Douglas Island Aquatic Ecology

Douglas, Alaska

 

Dr. Michel Lapointe, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Geography

McGill University

Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6

 

Dr. Gershon Cohen, Ph.D.

Project Director, Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters

Earth Island Institute

Haines, Alaska

 

Matthew Kirchhoff, M.Sc.

Director of Bird Conservation

Audubon Alaska

441 West Fifth Avenue, Suite 300

Anchorage, Alaska 99501

 

Dr. Clayton Apps, Ph.D.

Ecologist, Aspen Wildlife Research

Cochrane, Alberta

 

Dr. Robert M. Hughes, Ph.D.

 

Senior Research Scientist

 

Amnis Opes Institute

 

Corvallis, Oregon 97333

 

Dr. Robert H. Armstrong, Ph.D.

Research Supervisor, Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game (retired)

Associate Professor of Fisheries, University of Alaska, Fairbanks (retired)

5870 Thane Road, Juneau, AK 99801

 

Greg Knox, MEM

Executive Director

Skeena Wild Conservation Trust

Terrace, British Columbia

 

Dr. Mary F. Willson, Ph.D.

Retired Professor of Ecology

Juneau, Alaska

 

Dr. K V. Koski, Ph.D.

Habitat Restoration Specialist

Juneau, AK 99801

 

Dr. Mark S. Boyce, Ph.D.

Professor of Ecology, and Alberta Conservation Association Chair in Fisheries & Wildlife

Department of Biological Sciences

CCIS 1-271, University of Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2E9

 

Dr. Joseph Cook, Ph.D.

Director & Curator of Mammals and Genomic Resources, Museum of Southwestern Biology

Professor of Biology

University of New Mexico

CC:

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Honourable Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of the Environment

Honourable Rich Coleman, BC Minister of Energy and Mines

Honourable Terry Lake, BC Minister of the Environment

Honourable Steve Thomson, BC Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

Steve Carr, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Energy and Mines

Cairine MacDonald, Deputy Minister, Ministry of the Environment

Doug Konkin, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations

Kevin Kriese, Assistant Deputy Minister Northern Region, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations

Mark Zacharias, Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Sustainability and Strategic Policy, Ministry of Environment

Jane Lloyd Smith, Director of Resource Management, Skeena Region, Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources Operations

John Mazure, Acting Executive Director, Environmental Assessment Office

Susan Farlinger, Regional Director General, Pacific Region, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Doug Donaldson, MLA, Stikine

Adrian Dix, Leader of the BC New Democratic Party, MLA, Vancouver-Kingsway

John Horgan, House Leader Official Opposition, Critic for Energy, Mines and Petroleum, MLA, Juan de Fuca

Nathan Cullen, MP, Skeena-Bulkley Valley

 

ALASKA

Governor Sean Parnell

Senator Lisa Murkowski

Senator Mark Begich

Congressman Don Young

Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Oceans and

International Environmental and Scientific Affairs

David A. Balton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries U.S. Department of State,

Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs

Steven Wiener, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of International and Tribal Affairs

Patty McGrath, Regional Mining Coordinator, US EPA Region 10

Kim Elton, Director of Alaska Affairs, Office of the Secretary, US Department of the Interior

Pamela Bergmann, Regional Environmental Officer – Alaska, U.S. Department of the Interior

Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance

Cora Campbell, Commissioner, Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Gordy Williams, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Randy Bates, Director, Division of Habitat, Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Charlie Swanton, Director, Sportfish Division Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Jeff Regnart, Commercial Fisheries Division Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Sharmon M. Stambaugh, Large Project Coordinator, Office of Project Management and

Permitting, Alaska Department of Natural Resources

 

Letter of Concern about Proposed Development in the Transboundary Watersheds.pdf

 

 

 the Transboundary Watersheds.pdf
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