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B.C. prohibits logging, but not mining, in Skagit River headwaters

168 acres of "The Donut Hole" at the Canadian headwaters of the Skagit River, were logged in 2018. Photo by Oliver Lazenby.

By Oliver Lazenby

More than a year after clearcut logging in a remote area outside E.C. Manning Provincial Park in B.C. drew attention from leaders on both sides of the border, the B.C. government announced that it will no longer allow logging in the area.

B.C. forest minister Doug Donaldson said on December 4 the government will no longer allow timber licenses in a roughly 14,000-acre area known as “the donut hole.”

The pristine area between Skagit Valley Provincial Park and E.C. Manning Provincial Park got that name because it is surrounded by the parks, but left out of either. The area drains into the Skagit River, which flows through North Cascades National Park, Whatcom County and Skagit County in Washington state. The Skagit is the only river in Washington state with all five northern species of Pacific salmon and the state has invested millions into the river for salmon recovery.

“The recent decision by the B.C. Government recognizes how important this landscape is to those in British Columbia and Washington for fish, wildlife, clean water, recreation, tribal lifeways and a sustained quality of life,” said Tom Uniack, Executive Director for statewide conservation organization Washington Wild, in a press release.

The B.C. government allowed 168 acres of clear cutting in the area in 2018. Since then, the government heard a variety of opposition to logging in the area, from dozens of environmental groups on both sides of the border, first nations, and the mayor of Seattle.

Despite the announcement, the B.C. government hasn’t made a decision on exploratory mining in the area. Imperial Metals, the company responsible for the Mt. Polley Mine Disaster, one of the worst mining disasters in Canada's history, applied for a permit to log the area in December 2018.

“The proposed mining in the Skagit headwaters poses a significant and devastating threat to our inherent Indigenous Title and Rights and the fish, wildlife and natural and cultural resources on which our existence is based,’ said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, in a news release “We call on the British Columbia government to honour their obligation to our people and preserve benefits for all of us who call British Columbia home, and exercise their authority to deny this permit. We need a provincial government that will stand up for the environment and uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Read our previous coverage of the Skagit donut hole here: Logging and proposed mining threatens Skagit River