Alaska Delegation supports international solution for B.C. mines

Misty Fjords National Monument. Photographer unknown.
By Jenny Weis
Maybe you’ve heard of the steelhead fishing in the Tongass National Forest. Or maybe you’ve eaten wild salmon harvested in the Taku river of Southeast Alaska. Or perhaps you’ve gone sightseeing in Misty Fjords National Monument. Wherever it was, you can’t deny that Southeast Alaska completely revolves around clean water and healthy fisheries.
What many don’t know are the threats facing the region. More than ten large-scale open-pit hard rock mines are in various stages of development upstream in British Columbia. These mines threaten the three major transboundary rivers, the Taku, Stikine and Unuk, which originate in B.C. and flow into Southeast Alaska. These rivers collectively support southeast Alaska’s traditional way of life and multi-billion-dollar fishing and tourism industries.
Taku River King salmon. Photo by Mark Hieronymus
For years, Trout Unlimited has joined with local fishing groups, Tribes, First Nations and other concerned citizens to find a solution that ensures the fisheries downstream from B.C.’s mines won’t be harmed in the event of a mining catastrophe – that these days are all too common. Though the state of Alaska has pursued various agreements with B.C., it has become clear that an international solution is the only way to handle this international issue and guarantee the protections Alaska needs. 
As one can assume, international solutions are hard work and take years of negotiation. We’re nowhere near there yet, but last week we moved a major step closer to securing the protections that are needed between the U.S. and Canada.
The Alaska congressional delegation last week sent a strong letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asking the state department to, “utilize all measures at your disposal to address this issue at an international level.” The support from the Alaska delegation was never a given, and we are thrilled they will stand up for the fish-based jobs and cultures of Southeast Alaska from risks posed by upstream mines in sending this unified, strong letter.
Getting to this point in the last two years has been a herculean effort that has involved many meetings, rallies, petitions, phone calls and events. Though there is a long road ahead as we work to defend and sustain the rivers, jobs and way of life of the transboundary region, we are taking a moment to savor a sweet victory along the journey.
If you feel so inclined, click here to thank the Alaska delegation, Sen. Murkowski, Sen. Sullivan and Congressman Young, for their commitment to this issue:
Jenny Weis is the communications and digital advocacy specialist for TU’s Alaska Program, which is a participant of the Salmon Beyond Borders campaign.

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