By Paul Colangelo, International League of Conservation Photographers
Blockades, arrests, sit-ins, protests. Swimming a 355-mile river, living in the wilderness for months at a time. Music festivals, art shows, traveling exhibits, school programs. Singing, dancing, praying. For a decade, the people of British Columbia along with many supporters from around the world made these efforts to protect the Sacred Headwaters, a pristine wilderness in northwestern B.C. that is the headwaters of three major salmon rivers, the Stikine, Skeena and Nass.
The Sacred Headwaters means many different things to the people fighting for it. To some, it is a place interwoven with their history, culture and identity. To others, it is the heart of an ecological system on which their livelihood depends. It is a place some people visit to escape the world we have created and explore wilderness. And to others still, it represents the struggle to reach a balance between industry and conservation. But the common thread among these people is the recognition the Sacred Headwaters is one place we must protect and honor.
The response to a decade of work came yesterday, when the B.C. government announced a permanent ban on oil and gas exploration in the Sacred Headwaters. This is an historic event for the region and an inspiration for the world – it is possible to have your voice heard and protect what is sacred to you.
The work will continue, as this ban does not affect the mineral and coal mines proposed for the Sacred Headwaters, but for now, we celebrate.