Some of the most stunningly beautiful land I’ve ever been privilaged to visit is in the Canadian Province of British Columbia. The pristine purity of the landscape and ecosystem is wonderful to behold. I feel an instinctive, deep respect for this unspeakably magnificent area.
During my 1996 visit to B.C. an old college friend, Sam met me in Vancouver. We traveled in a small airplane to Telegraph Creek, which is southeast of Juneau, Alaska. It was a compromise destination. I had wanted to visit the Yukon Territory. But Sam showed me that a Yukon trip would outstrip my vacation budget for that year. He said that the Northwestern portion of B.C. is every bit as fantastic as the Yukon.
After landing, we were met by Sam’s Tahltan friend, Striped Fish. I was asked to call him by his nickname, Fred. We then hiked to Fred’s cabin in the midst of the headwaters of the four holy rivers that are especially sacred to the Tahltan peoples. Sam and I listened to Fred’s lecture about the area we were hiking through. His people call it “Klabona”. One of Fred’s cousins was acquainted with one of the tribal elders who was a “Klabona Keeper”.
The next day, Sam and I were introduced to several Tahltan people in Telegraph Creek. Over breakfast we learned that prospectors from some large corporations were investigating the viability of the area for mining operations. The discussions were heated and against any mineral extraction from the Klabona lands.
The rest of our stay in Northwestern B.C. was very pleasant as we enjoyed the kind hospitality of Fred’s family and friends. I remember that I was reluctant to return to Vancouver and then back to Nebraska. The memories of Northwest B.C. will stay with me until I die.
Just recently, I thought about the Klabona lands and the Tahltan people I knew in B.C. because of recent news stories I’ve heard. There are several mining projects in that vicinity that represent more than $2-billion in investment potential. Some are linked to the very controversial Keystone XL Pipeline project in Western Canada that has been proposed to pass through Nebraska on its way south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Shell Canada, Ltd. had been planning to drill in the Klabona Lands. The company has temporarily abandoned those plans in favor of prospects adjacent to that area. It is these and similar concerns about fracking in Northern B.C. that worries people there. Shale gas development may well lead to the polluting of the area’s most important salmon habitat rivers. There is also concern that the iconic wilderness area could sustain irreversable environmental damage.
Shell-Canada has owned the rights to explore for natural gas and oil in that region. Shell-Canada drilled three exploration wells in 2004 but Tahltan blockades helped persuade Shell-Canada to put the project on hold. The Tahltan people were backed up by a massive international environmental campaign.
Five years ago, the provincial government imposed a moratorium on exploration efforts by energy and mining companies. The negotiations are still in progress. It is my hope that the Klabona lands, and the neighboring area will be forever protected from environmental degradation.
The Blue Jay of Happiness has this link to more background material for you: