Conservation Alliance Grantee, Rivers Without Borders, in conjunction with The University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre, unveiled a collaborative website this week, Wild Border Watersheds.
This website aims to raise awareness of the extraordinary conservation values of the transboundary watersheds shared by British Columbia and Alaska, and to highlight the growing development pressures on those watersheds. The website is also a framework to highlight the recently revised Canadian and British Columbian regulatory processes for mining and hydroelectric permitting and environmental assessment.
Wild Border Watersheds can be found here: www.wildborderwatersheds.org
"The website is called Wild Border with good reason" says Will Patric, Executive Director of Rivers Without Borders. "The transboundary region of northwest British Columbia and southeast Alaska embodies some of the wildest country left on the planet. In a time of diminishing wild salmon, the international watersheds here rank among thetop salmon producers on the West Coast. And in a time of accelerated climate change, the significance of these still largely intact ecosystems as reservoirs of biodiversity can hardly be overstated."
Numerous mining and energy projects are currently targeting transboundary watershed headwaters and tributaries. British Columbia's Northwest Transmission Line, now under construction, is bringing industrial power north into the region to facilitate development. At the same time, scientists are increasingly pointing out that transboundary rivers like the Taku, Stikine and Unuk, with diverse and interconnected mountains-to-sea habitat, are extremely important climate change sanctuaries for fish and wildlife. They are also profoundly important to First Nations and communities in the region that depend on the rivers. While their mineral and energy development potential may be substantial, so too is the intrinsic worth of keeping them intact, sustaining commercial and sport fishing, subsistence uses, clean water, recreation and tourism.
"With this new website we hope to create broader public awareness of these spectacular and threatened watersheds," says Patric. "We want to encourage ecosystem-based planning for their future because what happens in one part of a watershed can impact the entire river system."
Photo: Taku River by Flannigan MacKinnon