Mine, Yours and Whose?

Mar 3, 2016 | Citizen Advocacy, Mining

Mine, Mines, Mining. We seem to not be able to go for any stretch of time at all here in Wisconsin without being in the midst of a mine controversy. Now is no exception and Wisconsin is certainly not alone.

You may have just read our recent blog post “Oh My, Another Mine” about the state of Michigan reviewing a proposal for a mine located a stone’s throw from the Menominee River, the border river between Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In the post, we mentioned that one of the films featured in our upcoming Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Xboundary, deals with a similar issue in a different location. An open-pit mining boom is underway in northwest British Columbia, Canada, the massive size and location of which – at the headwaters of major salmon rivers that flow across the border into Alaska – has Alaskans deeply concerned about the impacts to their multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries.

As often happens with the films we’re drawn to select for Wild & Scenic, we didn’t have to look far to find a local link to that famous wild Alaskan salmon featured in Xboundary. Sitka Salmon Shares, a growing community supported fishery (think a CSA for wild caught fish) hand delivers sustainably harvested Alaskan fish to nearly 20 different markets across the Midwest including Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago and Indianapolis. While individual members form their core of community support, Sitka Salmon Shares is also helping meet a growing demand for restaurateurs who are concerned with quality and sustainability.

“There is a growing demand for healthy, wild-caught fish brought in by small scale, small boat fishermen. We hand-stamp each individual box with the name of the fishing vessel that brought in that specific fish and everything we do is centered around supporting these family fishing operations, many of whom have generations of history in the business,” says Sarah Janes Ugoretz, Wisconsin Coordinator. “And, while we’re working to meet consumer demand, we’re also encouraging a broader conversation around the questions of who your fisherman is and how and where your fish was caught. We’re able to build that connection between our members and our 13 fishermen-owners, and we love bringing our fishermen down here to meet the folks and the chefs who are enjoying their fish.” (If you’re joining us for Wild & Scenic, you’ll have a chance to meet Sarah and learn more about Sitka Salmon Shares.)

While the fish are an incredibly compelling part of the Alaska/British Columbia border issue highlighted in Xboundary, those who live and breathe on that border see much more at stake – up to and including their very way of life. Liz Purdy is an outreach coordinator for Salmon Beyond Borders, an advocacy campaign currently asking the federal government to uphold The Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, a treaty that guarantees protections of transboundary waters. Specifically, Salmon Beyond Borders seeks action from Secretary of State John Kerry to initiate a formal review of the Taku, Stikine and Unuk watersheds—a globally significant region comparable in size to the state of Maine with pristine ecosystems that has never before been federally reviewed by the U.S. and Canada. In fact, .you can add voice to their petition to Secretary Kerry.

A former resident of the town of Sitka (for which Sitka Salmon Shares is named), Purdy says, “The Xboundary film is not only a wonderful outreach tool, it tells the story of our beautiful region and how communities, businesses, fishermen, tribes and municipalities have all united in their concerns for our transboundary rivers.”

Stay connected to Salmon Beyond Borders to follow continuing developments on the Alaskan border, and we at River Alliance will continue to bring you news and updates regarding our own transboundary water and mining issues.