Northwest B.C. is no stranger to conflict over resource development, and the current conflict over Petronas’ Lelu Island LNG development has grown increasingly bitter.
Over the last 30 years the Skeena has seen major confrontations over fish farms, old growth forests, oil tankers, fracking in the headwaters, and more.
On the extremes some people seem OK with the north being an industrial wasteland, and others would prefer no industrial activity at all.
But I think its safe to say most of us need to make a living, that poverty sucks, that we love the beauty of the place we live, and we especially treasure wild salmon.
SkeenaWild is acutely aware of criticisms of the conservation movement generally and us specifically.
An iteration of this is Christy Clark characterizing people who oppose the Lelu project as the “forces of no”. But lets look at what SkeenaWild actually does.
First, we don’t oppose all development. We have only taken a position on one of the 20 plus LNG projects.
We don’t oppose logging, but we do insist critical salmon habitats be protected. We don’t oppose mining, but we do have serious concerns about tailings dams being constructed in the same manner as Mount Polley, as is proposed for the Seabridge Gold project. We didn’t oppose the Brucejack mine, as the impacts seem manageable.
We didn’t oppose the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter rebuild, but we fought to force Rio Tinto to install scrubbers to deal with deadly SO2 emissions.
In this case, we were for an additional $200 million in construction, and we were for clean air to breath for northwest residents.
Forces of no, or forces of yes to clean air, wild salmon and communities worth living in?
The international oil and gas industry, including Exxon, Shell, Sinopec, Enbridge and Petronas have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to convince Canadians that their projects will cause no harm.
But when we support independent, peer reviewed science by Canada’s leading scientists we are vilified as negative and “blocking progress”.
Don’t wait for us to apologize for doing everything we can to empower local communities in protecting the public’s interest in healthy wild salmon, clean air and truly responsible development. No apology forthcoming.
Our communities, working together, have a history of stopping the more stupid projects, like fracking in the headwaters of the Nass, Stikine and Skeena, or fish farms at the mouth of the Skeena.
Because when people unite around protecting the very values that makes this home, they project a power oil and gas companies can only dream of.
Having said that, we understand and are sympathetic to the recent demonstrations supporting development.
We understand people are scared as all the promises that Christy Clark made about a 100,000 jobs, and a $100 billion in a legacy fund, now seem to be fading.
Nonetheless, most of us are sick of polarized and useless conflict over resource development. I know I am.
We need to find a way where we no longer face the absurd situation where 22 LNG projects are on the books and no regional planning is undertaken.
Where the Prince Rupert Port Authority is allowed to promote massive industrial development on top of some of the most critical salmon habitat in Canada – ignoring existing federal science, and without first consulting First Nations or local communities.
If they had, they would have never chosen Lelu Island, and the project would likely already be under construction.
Depending on government to provide leadership on these issues isn’t working, we need to lead this as northern communities, or be perpetual victims of resource conflict.
While the current federal government says it is committed to fixing the process, they are moving slowly, or not at all.
We can choose to find a more rational and civil way to make decisions, and we can choose to lead a more civil and fact informed dialogue.
This isn’t about Christy Clark, or provincial NDP leader John Horgan; it’s about us, our families, our towns, our kids and grandkids.
It is up to us.
Greg Knox is the executive director of Terrace-based SkeenaWild Conservation Trust.