(Ethnographer Wade Davis and photographer Paul Colangelo explore the sacred value of the Stikine-Nass-Skeena)
Located in the northwest corner of British Columbia (B.C.), the Stikine-Nass-Skeena Headwaters priority area is often referred to as the Sacred Headwaters. Three of B.C.’s most iconic and productive salmon rivers – the Skeena, the Nass and the Stikine – arise in this landscape. Salmon travel some 250 miles (400 km) from the Pacific Ocean to spawn here. It is the traditional territory of the Tahltan Nation and is home to healthy populations of salmon, grizzly bears, caribou, moose and other species.
Value to Yellowstone to Yukon Vision
These headwaters and the lush ecosystems make this priority area a core region. Maintaining the health and wildness of this region is important for salmon and wildlife populations, but also for the human populations that depend on these fresh waters and the abundance they provide.
Pressure to extract resources, particularly from mining, oil and gas and forestry sectors, are assaulting this region. For example, Imperial Metals has secured permits to establish the open-pit Red Chris copper and goal mine near Todagin Mountain, home to the largest lambing herd of Stone Sheep in the world. Further south, Fortune Minerals wants to build an open-pit coal mine on Mount Klappan, within traditional Tahltan territory. Open-pit mines have numerous environmental impacts, including habitat loss, toxic pollution and increased conflict with wildlife.
Y2Y Goals and Gains
Goal: Y2Y seeks to protect habitat of critical value in this priority region.
Gains: Royal Dutch Shell held numerous leases in the region that would have deeply wounded the Sacred Headwaters. Due to the work of several conservation groups and the Tahltan Nation, Shell announced in 2012 that it would withdraw plans to develop coalbed methane in the area and the B.C. government announced it would not issue future oil and gas tenures.
What We Are Working On Now
Y2Y has supported conservation organizations working to permanently protect the Sacred Headwaters. Formal discussions between the Tahltan Nation and the B.C. provincial government are underway and include the potential to protect more land.
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