Why I oppose the Northern Gateway Project – For my family, my community, and wildlife

I was born and raised in the community of Terrace and spent 20 years there enjoying the outdoor lifestyle the region provides. During that time I have canoed the Kitimat river with my father, hunted moose and mountain goat on my great uncles trap line in the Copper watershed and enjoyed many a family trip to the community of Kitimat.
For the last 5 years I have worked for the World Wildlife Fund. As part of my work with WWF, I co-led climate adaptation and cumulative effects work in the Kalum, Lakelse and Copper watersheds and I currently sit as the conservation alternate on the North Coast Marine Planning Partnership, which encompasses the majority of marine region that would be utilized by tankers should this project go ahead.
I am also someone that believes in the intrinsic value of nature above and beyond the benefits it provides to humanity. As such my message is as much about how this project would impact the species of the area as it is about the impacts on me and my family.
As someone with deep connections to the region, I am opposed to the project based on the impacts it will have on the areas ecosystem and way of life.
As a Canadian, I am troubled by how efforts to push this pipeline through have continually subverted practices that Canadians hold as central to our identity.
As a specific example, I would like to talk for a moment about sponge reefs and sponge gardens. I had no idea that there was a possible sponge garden located at the proposed terminal site until I read the project proposal. The proponent has indicated that these sponges are unimportant because they are not reefs. I have been advised by other experts that based on what has been submitted it is likely that this is a shallow water sponge garden. I know of only 3 other sites in BC where that occurs and I would love to see these sites one day as not only are sponge gardens rare they tend to be remarkable productive rockfish habitat.
This particular example highlights only one ecosystem that we didn’t know was there. What other species and ecosystems have we missed? I do not see how a determination of public interest can be made when we don’t even know what will be destroyed.
I am worried that this project has not given consideration to how it will destroy the ability of species to adapt to climate change. This worry covers a much broader geographic area than my previous example, and arises from the scant treatment of climate adaptation on the part of the proponent in their proposal.
In order to keep the region rich in species one of the essential planning strategies is to maintain north/south migration corridors. These are similar to the migration corridors the panel has already heard about in regards to particular species such as the SARA listed Caribou but differ in a few significant ways. Most importantly we not talking about established historical migrations but novel attempts to find new areas where new climatic conditions can support species that are experiencing climate related stress. By cutting across the landscape from east to west this pipeline would form a massive barrier to future migration.
For me the two examples I offer highlight the insufficient effort put forth by the proponent to understand its potential impacts, from the most localized to the broadest landscape scale impacts.
Finally, I am worried that project, the panel and the process have lost the trust of the public and will no longer be able to gain social license here in BC. For as long as I can remember our coastal communities have always had low levels of trust in our federal government. I am sad to say the way this project has unrolled has only made matters worse. Furthermore, authoritarian tactics, such as limiting public participation in court process are further undermining the public trust.
At this point the only option I see before the panel is to recommend that the project be halted until the proponent has regained the trust of local citizens.
Panel members, you tread on issues that hallowed to Canadians so I ask please, please step carefully.

(c) Natalie Bowes/WWF-Canada