Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition

Skeena Swim Events

Awakening the Skeena - Wild & Scenic Film Festival

Date and time: Sat, January 15, 2011 - 8:45 am
City/Town: Nevada City, CA
Venue: Vets Hall

Nestled among a rugged knot of mountains in northern BC, lies a vast alpine basin that is the shared birthplace of three of Canada’s richest wild salmon rivers, among them, BC’s second largest river, the Skeena.To the Tahltan this place is known as Klabona, or Sacred Headwaters. Globally significant populations of wild salmon, grizzly bear, stone sheep, wolves and caribou roam free in one of Canada’s largest remaining intact predator-prey ecosystems.In the heart of this remarkable region, often referred to as the Serengeti of North America, a battle is underway to save this pristine wilderness from becoming an industrial landscape.The most urgent threat is a plan for coal bed methane gas drilling that will fragment the headwaters with thousands of gas wells connected by a maze of roads and pipelines, irrevocably affecting sensitive water tables.Thirty-three year old local resident Ali Howard is among those who have been inspired to action. In July 2009 she began a historic expedition to swim the entire 610 km of the Skeena River.Her epic month-long journey starts in the Sacred Headwaters where the Skeena River emerges as a trickle along the arctic divide and continues down picturesque valleys, through treacherous white-water canyons all the way to the temperate rain forest at the river’s mouth in the Pacific Ocean at Prince Rupert.She is not alone in her fight. An enthusiastic and idealistic coalition of young people – including the sons and daughters of the loggers, ranchers and outfitters who settled these valleys – has formed to advocate for a sustainable balance in the Skeena. A new generation is applying their creative energy, spirit of adventure and social conscience to real issues of significance.They see that what’s happening here is part of a pattern. A legacy of exploitation that leaves polluted rivers and decimated fish stocks in its wake. There’s a feeling that if we cannot save the Skeena from the same fate there is little hope.Against the drama of this odyssey the filmmakers examine the issues that have motivated this soft-spoken woman to literally put her life on the line in an effort to call attention to the plight of this wilderness. The Skeena is remote and too often out of sight means out of mind. While the front lines in this fight may be far from the beaten path, its clear that the fate of the Skeena affects us all.The swim is the ribbon that runs through the film, allowing us to experience first-hand the beauty of the region and come to appreciate exactly what is at stake. You can’t help but be moved by this place and the story that is unfolding here.People, both on and off the river, have much to say about what life in the valley. Their story is one of courage and heroism, at times disillusionment and even desperation, but ultimately a tribute to optimism and the strong conviction that individuals can make a difference.


Video Review of Awakening the Skeena:

Shannon McPhail
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