JUNEAU – In a joint press conference yesterday, Southeast and Coastal members of the Alaska House Coalition stood in unity with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes, Sealaska, and Salmon Beyond Borders to call for immediate federal action on British Columbia’s (B.C.) ongoing transboundary mining.
There are over two dozen Canadian mines proposed or operating along the Taku, Stikine, and Unuk watersheds that connect B.C. and Southeast Alaska. These rivers are historically among the most productive wild salmon rivers on the entire west coast of North America, contributing nearly $50 million in economic activity, $34 million in direct spending, and almost $20 million in labor income towards Southeast Alaska’s annual multi-billion-dollar fishing and visitor industries.
Meanwhile, Canadian mines operate with inadequate regulations and bonding requirements, leaving Alaska downstream and forced to assume all of the potential threats to the health and productivity of the Taku, Stikine, and Unuk Rivers.
After yesterday’s joint press conference, Representatives Dan Ortiz, Rebecca Himschoot, Sara Hannan, Andi Story, Louise Stutes, and Senator Jesse Kiehl sent a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken requesting federal intervention in this important issue.
In the letter, legislators are asking the U.S. federal government to utilize their authority under the United States-Canada Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to create a binding international agreement.
“We have heard loud and clear from constituents that Alaskans need enforceable protections,” said Rep. Dan Ortiz (NP-Ketchikan). “Over 100 Alaska Tribes, municipalities, commercial and sport fishing businesses and organizations, and thousands of Alaskans have written letters and passed resolutions asking for the Boundary Waters Treaty to be invoked. We want to join with these thousands of voices.”
“It was an honor to sit in solidarity with Tlingit and Haida President Richard (Chalyee Eesh) Peterson and Sealaska’s Joe Nelson, leaders from communities in House District 2, to find a constructive path forward that protects these watersheds in perpetuity,” said Rep. Rebecca Himschoot (NP-Sitka).
“These are some of the most productive salmon rivers on the continent,” said Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak). “It is imperative that all stakeholders come together to resolve this problem immediately.”
“In recent years, progress between the state and B.C. to increase protections for these shared watersheds has been too slow,” said Rep. Sara Hannan (D-Juneau). “It’s time to elevate these issues to a federal government-to-government level, which will also to ensure meaningful consultation with Alaska tribes.”