[For Immediate Release]
BRITISH COLUMBIA, Unceded Tahltan Territory - September 18, 2014
The Wildlife Defence League (WDL) has been invited by the Klabona Keepersto blockade the only road providing access to the Sacred Headwaters. This area is home to numerous species of wildlife, including moose, grizzly bear, black bear, and stone sheep. In recent years these animals have been exploited by resident hunters, mainly for trophy. Moose populations have been most effected, due to no bag-limits that have precipitated a massive decline in the species. Consequently, the Klabona Keepers and the WDL are firm in their conviction that protecting wildlife and safeguarding habitat in the Sacred Headwaters from exploitation is a pressing priority. The Klabona Keepers with the support of the Wildlife Defence League, intend to blockade the entrance to the Sacred Headwaters from non-Indigenous and resident trophy hunters. Tahltan hunters will not be blockaded, as the Wildlife Defence League supports their right to live off the land as they have done for thousands of years.
Wildlife Defence League member Tommy Knowles stated, “It’s taken us 3 days to drive through what feels like the most wild place on earth. We’ve seen Grizzly Bears, Black Bears and Moose living out their natural lives in this unique habitat. It’s disheartening to arrive in the Sacred Headwaters today knowing that this land is a trophy hunters paradise, but it feels amazing to be standing in solidarity with the Klabona Keepers to put an end to this exploitation.”
Not only are the wildlife and the community that is dependant on them being exploited, but so is the land. This past week, RCMP surrounded a group of unarmed, peaceful members of the Klabona Keepers. The group was occupying a drill site on the mountain behind this blockade because the company was drilling without consultation or consent. The Klabona Keepers had simply requested that the company (Firesteel) meet with the elders prior to releasing the drill. However, in a show of disrespect, Firesteel and the government disregarded that request and arrived by helicopter to remove the drill. They came unannounced and heavily armed. Thereafter, the RCMP prohibited members of the Klabona Keepers from communicating via radio to anyone outside the blockade, cutting the only means of communication they had with the elders and their family in Iskut, to assure them of their safety. They were threatened with arrest if they attempted to use their radios.
The situation unfolding in the Sacred Headwaters is illustrative of the interconnections between these issues; the corporate and political exploitation of the land, resources and animals of this territory and the communities that rely on them. The Klabona Keepers, with support from the Wildlife Defence League, are asserting their lawful authority to defend their territories and both organizations hope that the hunting blockade will raise awareness about the devastating impacts of trophy hunting and will draw attention to corporate and political exploitation of the Sacred Headwaters.