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A Resounding Vote for Nature-Based Economies

05/15/2015 05:21 EDT | Updated 05/15/2016 05:59 EDT

WWF-Canada applauds the Lax Kw'alaams decision to reject offer in favour of healthy Skeena Estuary.

In a third and final vote, members of Lax Kw'alaams First Nation expressed definitive opposition to the Pacific Northwest LNG export terminal.

This decision to reject over $1-billion, which was offered to gain consent for the proposed Pacific Northwest liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal on Lelu Island in the Great Bear Sea, sends a clear message of opposition to a project that threatens this ecologically and culturally rich region and its salmon-based economy.

From its inception, the project has faced multiple concerns about its potential environmental impacts. Environment Canada regulators have twice stopped the assessment process, owing to the company's failure to provide adequate information on impacts. Community and First Nations researchers have undertaken extensive field research that challenges the project's own assessment.

B.C.'s second longest river, and a primary salmon river, the Skeena is a spectacular and wild river, winding 610 kilometers from its headwaters in the Spatsizi Plateau to its rich estuary near the city of Prince Rupert on the Pacific coast.

The Skeena estuary plays a fundamental and irreplaceable role in maintaining the structure and function of B.C.'s coastal ecology. At its mouth, the Flora Bank is a critical eelgrass habitat that acts as a nursery for salmon and provides foraging grounds for waterfowl and countless invertebrates and fish, such as eulachon and herring. It plays an essential role in the journey of millions of salmon that return to spawn every year.

A healthy and resilient coastal ecosystem will confer multi-generational benefits for the region and beyond by supporting nature-based economies. By proposing the Pacific Northwest LNG export terminal directly next to the Flora Bank, proponents are risking environmental wealth and biodiversity and the long term economic health of the region. By definitively rejecting the offer, members of Lax Kw'alaams are choosing a future where nature and economy are in balance.

This definitive vote reflects a long history in the region of standing up for nature and the true wealth it provides: from integrated land-use planning, to the Great Bear Rainforest agreement, to the recently signed announced Marine Planning Partnership for the Pacific North Coast.

These actions are adding up and showing that the specific threats posted by the Pacific Northwest LNG project to the Skeena system, combined with the industry's GHG emissions, represent a step in the wrong direction, for North Coast communities, British Columbians, and Canadians.