About the Region
The Alaska – British Columbia transboundary region ranks among North America’s top ecological hotspots. Here six international mountains-to-sea river systems form in northwest B.C., traverse diverse interconnected eco zones, and empty into teeming Pacific Ocean estuaries along Alaska’s panhandle. The storied transboundary rivers – all still largely intact, several virtually pristine – boast world class runs of the five wild Pacific salmon species. In a time of accelerating climate change the significance of these watersheds as complete, diverse, and resilient reservoirs of biodiversity may be unparalleled. The transboundary region is home to First Nations and Native Alaskans including Tlingit, Tahltan, Haida, and Tsimshian peoples. Communities on both sides of the border depend on its natural bounty. Robust wildlife populations here include grizzly and black bears, moose, caribou, mountain goats, sheep, wolves, and myriad species of birds, both resident and migratory.
North to south, the transboundary watersheds are the Alsek-Tatshenshini, Chilkat, Taku, Whiting, Iskut-Stikine, and Unuk. These names are practically synonymous with the essence of North American wilderness. Covering 130,000 square kilometers, or 32 million acres, the majority of the transboundary region is Canadian, embracing an area the size of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia combined.
In addition to their outstanding ecological and cultural values, the transboundary watersheds share another commonality. Mineral and energy wealth lies in their headwaters. The rugged and remote character of the transboundary region, without roads and power infrastructure, kept it mostly free of industrial development through the 20th century. But the recently completed Northwest Transmission Line, bringing provincial power into the southern transboundary region, has jump started mining activity. The transboundary headwaters are now the target of BC’s “ten mines in ten years” aspirations, and numerous mine projects are in various stages of planning or development.
Rivers Without Borders is raising awareness of the transboundary watersheds and promoting ecosystem based planning and decision making to sustain their outstanding attributes. Engaged on both sides of the border, Rivers Without Borders is the only organization with a conservation mandate and vision for keeping the Alaska – BC transboundary watersheds intact and thriving.