A little over a week before British Colombia’s Supreme Court Justice Kathryn Neilson ruled in favor of the Gitanyow First Nation, over the Forestry Ministry’s failure to adequately consult them when they leased out sections of the Gitanyow’s traditional territory, Shell Canada moved to suspend drilling in B.C.’s Klappan Valley for the remainder of 2008.
Interior News, one of the only agencies to report on Shell’s decision, explains, “Shell’s sudden suspension follows almost two years of heated protests from residents throughout the Bulkley Valley [as well as the Tahltan People, among others] against coalbed methane exploration in the ecologically sensitive area known as the Sacred Headwaters, the birthplace of three major salmon-bearing rivers.”
“Shell excluded the press last week in an e-mail to stakeholders announcing their plans to halt drilling. A copy obtained by The Interior News notes public pressure as but one of the driving forces behind the suspension.”
Seeming to credit its own ‘nobility’ more than anything, the company says it wants to expand its environmental awareness in the Klappan and hold further consultations with the region’s stakeholders. “We feel further data is required before a number of important questions can be answered,” the email reads. “Shell is planning to continue with its environment studies in the Klappan to help us to better understand the natural setting in the Klappan, to help answer some of questions raised, and to ensure informed decisions continue to be made during these early planning stages.”
To that end, Shannon McPhail from the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition (SWCC), says it’s “definitely a step for Shell in the right direction, [but] it is not the final destination.”
In a SWCC press release, McPhail further states, “regardless of whether Shell conducts more ‘consultations’ with the public, the risks of drilling for coalbed methane at the headwaters of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine Rivers is too great and [the] group’s opposition will continue.”
Located in a remote corner of northern British Columbia, the Sacred Headwaters supports one of the largest predator-prey ecosystems in North America. It also provides a crucial space for the cultural practices and livelihoods of the Gitxsan, Wet’sewet’an, Tlingit, Tahltan, Nisga’a, Haida, and Haisla Peoples.
Shell, one of several companies trying to ‘export’ the region of its resources, wants to drill at least 1,000 wells throughout the headwaters. This threatens to disrupt the wildlife population, destroy the Salmon habitats, pollute the surface and ground water, and irreparably damage the traditional camps, sacred sites, and cultural practices of the Indigenous Peoples.