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First Nations Fight to Preserve Eagles' Nests Slated for B.C. Dam Destruction

First Nations in British Columbia are fighting the Site C dam, which would flood key hunting and fishing areas and eliminate eagles' nests.
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It’s not enough that British Columbia wants to flood the hunting and fishing lands of several First Nations to make way for a third dam on the Peace River. Now the province apparently wants to chop down trees containing eagles’ nests, too.

RELATED: First Nation Fights to Stop Flooding of Its Lands for B.C. Hydro's Site C Dam Project

Treaty 8 First Nations in British Columbia, Canada are trying to halt the $8.8 billion project BC Hydro known as the Site C Clean Energy Project, which would put a third dam on the Peace River system. In one of several court filings, the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have called for a provincial supreme court review of the project, which would flood about a 52-mile reservoir along the river, making it two to three times its normal width.

The British Columbia Supreme Court heard arguments in the case this past spring but has not yet ruled. Meanwhile, BC Hydro has moved ahead, clearing large forested areas for the project. The two First Nations have called for an injunction on work until court cases are concluded; BC Hydro said on August 19 that halting it would add $500 million to the project costs, according to the Canadian Press.

BC Hydro is negotiating land and payment compensations for First Nations in British Columbia and Alberta that are affected by the project. The Saulteau First Nations, for example, voted in July to accept a multimillion-dollar land transfer and lump-sum package, but divisions over the voting and whether people understood the deal could result in a new vote. As the story continues unfolding, though, two videos made this year show the commitment and the creativity of the First Nations leaders in bringing issues to light and in voicing concerns for the people and the environment.

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In May, a Global News report showed West Moberly First Nations Chief Roland Willson delivering two coolers with 200 pounds of bull trout to the provincial legislature. None of the fish, taken from the Crooked River, would be safe for consumption because of mercury contamination caused by another BC Hydro reservoir project, he said. Then with the aid of a piece of candy, the First Nations Chief bluntly illustrated the effect of such contaminations on what has traditionally been a source of sustenance, reported Global News Canada.

On August 7, Treaty 8 First Nations members and non-Native supporters joined to protest the project overall as well as the specific plan—scheduled to start in September—to remove trees with 28 bald eagles’ nests. The nests are not currently inhabited, but eagles often return to nests every year. The company’s permit for removal requires that the nests be moved or relocated between September and March. BC Hydro will install platforms intended to replace the nesting areas—but how the eagles will know what to do is anybody’s guess.

“I don’t know how they communicated with the eagles, how they spoke with them to make them understand that this is your new home,” noted George Desjarlais of the West Moberly First Nations.

Far more than eagle habitat is at stake. The flooding could wipe out evidence of First Nations history going back 12,000 years, The Globe and Mail reported last February.

“The area that is going to be flooded is significant,” archeologist Jonathan Driver told The Globe and Mail. “The Peace River was a well-traveled route between the lowlands and the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains. You need to make a concerted effort to recover the knowledge of that history as much as possible—what is needed is a research strategy, and we are not approaching the destruction of that river valley in that way.”

Photo: Common Sense Canadians via YouTube