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Polls show Alaska and British Columbia support for shared watershed protection


October 10, 2015
Saturday AM

(SitNews) - Two new polls show Alaskans and British Columbians overwhelmingly support increased protection for water, fish, jobs and culture from mining development taking place in northwest British Columbia (B.C). The region includes the transboundary watersheds of the Taku, Stikine and Unuk Rivers that originate in B.C. and flow into Alaska.

“Time and again, Alaskans have raised concerns about upstream mining in B.C. and now polling shows B.C. citizens share our concerns and are less likely to support mines that could impact downstream resources. This provides a clear mandate for significant action by government and industry to ensure B.C.’s mining development doesn’t harm salmon, water quality, jobs and way of life downstream,” said Heather Hardcastle, Salmon Beyond Borders campaign director and commercial fisherman.

The two polls, one in Alaska and one in B.C., were commissioned by Salmon Beyond Borders in Alaska and SkeenaWild in B.C., and were conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. A summary of the results include:

  • Nearly three-quarters of Alaska respondents expressed concern about a mining waste spill in B.C. affecting shared watersheds that drain into Alaska, with the number jumping to 86% for Southeast Alaska respondents.
  • 76% of Alaska respondents want Alaska to have a seat at an international table to address concerns about upstream B.C. mining in shared transboundary watersheds. 45% said their vote for a member of Congress hinges on elected officials pushing for this seat at the table.
  • 65% of British Columbians polled were less likely to support mines in northwest B.C. that could affect the integrity of Alaska’s water quality.

Alaska (72-90%) and B.C. (85-95%) respondents emphatically endorsed several specific reforms, including a mandatory, industry-paid clean-up fund, mining no-go zones in sensitive areas such as key salmon watersheds, and the assurance that mines have full funding and plans for clean-up, closure and long-term tailings maintenance and water treatment prior to getting operating approval. The measures had strong support among Republicans, Democrats and Independents.

“I urge leaders in Alaska and Washington, D.C. to take note that three-quarters of Alaskans polled want an equal seat at the table with B.C to ensure our concerns about upstream B.C. mining are addressed in shared Alaska/B.C. transboundary watersheds. The involvement of the International Joint Commission, established under the Boundary Waters Treaty, is the obvious choice to provide this table that will assist in developing permanent protections for water quality and fisheries in this region,” said Hardcastle.

Additional results from the B.C. poll should provide further impetus for action by government and industry, including:

  • 54% of B.C. respondents believe B.C. mining poses real risks to people's health, the environment and local tourism and fishing industries that outweigh the jobs and economic benefits the mining industry provides.
  • Three-quarters of all B.C. respondents said reforming B.C.’s mining laws would actually protect jobs and revenue by, for example, ensuring a waste spill doesn't endanger other key industries, like tourism and fishing.
  • 68% of B.C. respondents said conservation should be a higher priority than development.

Greg Knox, Executive Director of SkeenaWild, said, "These results show the people of British Columbia are not willing to give mining companies social license to proceed with projects if they believe salmon, water and wildlife on either side of the border could be at risk. The Mount Polley disaster and ongoing acid mine drainage from the Tulsequah Chief mine in the Taku River watershed also confirm the need for much tougher regulations and enforcement in B.C., as well as greater financial assurances to pay for accidents. The polls are clear that broad, commonsense reforms are needed to improve trust on both sides of the border.”

The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research live-interview survey involved 805 BC adults eligible to vote, including an oversample of 200 residents of Northern British Columbia, and was conducted between August 19 and 30, 2015. The sample is subject to a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error is higher among subgroups. Its live survey of Alaskans involved 500 registered Alaskan voters during the same period and is considered accurate within a margin of error of +/-4.4, 19 times out of 20.

Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Salmon Beyond Borders in Alaska

SkeenaWild in B.C.


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