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Skiing the pipeline

The environmental risks of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline project are too large to be measured. Even by skiers.

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"No one here is against industry, pipelines or infrastructure per se," he sighs, "But irresponsible development that threatens a way of life, an ecosystem? That's different. If you want to do anything here it should be responsibly and responsibly means engaging people who are tied to the river and other recreational tourism, whether as a livelihood or sustenance. Not a lot of that has happened."

"They say there would be all this economic benefit but we know enough about resource development up here to know that's a lie." In Terrace a tourism worker adds to the discussion with this: "There would be short-term construction work but after that only a handful of jobs. None of the money would flow into the community—it would all go to the oil companies in Alberta."

Smithers' young mayor, Taylor Bachrach, who believes pipelines in themselves do represent a boom-and-bust economy in the areas they run through, shares those concerns. "Do we want something of no net benefit, and that will impact the entire province's tourism branding?"

Jezz Crosby, one of many fishing guides who speaks out in Casting a Voice is less diplomatic. "It is outstandingly arrogant of the Canadian government to even think that British Columbians want this — that it's beneficial to this area. It's arrogance beyond belief."

The locals have spoken, and whether governments listen or not, perhaps the most important voice comes from thousands of kilometres away. "Our river will never fully recover," says Susan Connolly of Kalamazoo River, Michigan, in a widely disseminated quote, "but we can educate... about the dangers of tar sands and the disastrous impact this type of spill can have so the same thing doesn't happen to you."

To read further and see more photos check out the preceding feature in SKIER issue 13.3, as well as the first instalment, "Apocalyptica," by Mike Berard in issue 13.2, and the finale "Oil and Water," by Penny Buswell in issue 13.4.