Momentum for defending the rivers of Southeast Alaska

Photo by April Bencze. Sign the petition to defend Southeast Alaska's rivers here:   
By Jill Weitz
As a Midwestern transplant who has lived in Southeast Alaska for nearly 10 years, I am thankful that I get to help to protect the stunning mountain valleys, magnificent salmon runs, blue glaciers and dense rainforests that make this region so unique – and have kept me here for so long. In addition to my work with Trout Unlimited and Salmon Beyond Borders, I also get to share this remarkable place with visitors as a part-time flyfishing guide during the “land of the midnight sun” summer months.   
Unuk River Photo by Travis Rummel. 
Our clean waters sustain Southeast Alaska’s commercial fishery valued at more than $1 billion annually - and there is a good chance the wild caught Alaskan salmon at your local market in the Lower 48 came from here. We live within the enchanting Tongass National Forest, one of the last truly untouched frontiers in America and a critical wild salmon habitat. I encourage every American to experience this place one day.
The aftermath of the tailings dam spill at Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia. 
More than ten large-scale mines are in various stages of permitting and development in British Columbia that pose significant risk to Southeast Alaskan waterways. These projects sit at the headwaters of the three world-class rivers that flow from B.C. across the border and into Southeast Alaska. As proven by a disastrous tailings spill at B.C.’s Mount Polley mine in 2014, the mining regulations in B.C. are not tight enough to protect our waters and way of life in the case of a spill. Locals near that mine disaster still do not have access to clean drinking water years later, and no criminal charges have been filed against that mine’s owner, Imperial Metals.
Tongass humpy. Photo by Alan Corbett
In truth, Alaska bears 100% of the risk of these mines and 0% of the reward as our economy revolves around tourism, clean water and salmon runs that a mine spill upstream would obliterate. What’s more, we currently have no voice regarding what happens on the Canadian side of the border in these shared international watersheds.   
Thank you for taking time to read about this issue and ask Secretary Kerry to take action – and I hope to see you in Southeast Alaska sometime soon.

Jill Weitz is the Southeast Alaska Operations Manager for Trout Unlimited. She lives in Juneau, AK.


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