For over 13 years, the base for our British Columbia mountain bike trips has been the beautiful town of Fernie. Fernie sits in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, about an hour from both the Alberta and U.S. borders. To the south and east sit thousands of acres of wilderness, including Akamina-Kishinena provincial park and Waterton national park.
I spent years exploring the Flathead Valley when I lived in Fernie in the 90s and early '00s. It's an area of remarkable beauty, and home to some of the densest wildlife populations in North America, including one of the largest grizzly bear corridors on Earth. The area is so full of wildlife that biologists have called it the "Serengeti of the North."
So it was with great disappointment that I received news that BP (the company formerly called British Petroleum that is now rebranded as "Beyond Petroleum") had been granted a land tenure to beging exploring and drilling the Flathead Valley for Coalbed Methane (CBM). CBM drilling can be an intensively disruptive process, and the citizens of Fernie have overwhelmingly expressed their opposition to the project.
Is this a case of NIMBYism? The executives at BP and the BC government would like to paint it that way. In any case like this, the multinational corporations usually paint a rosy picture of the economic benefits and longterm jobs that local communities will receive from the project. Yet the executives have yet to show a significant longterm benefit for the communities of Fernie and Sparwood from the project. The permanent jobs created by the project are minimal, and the bulk of the economic 'benefit' will more than likely flow to BP shareholders, not local citizens.
At the heart of the matter is the right of communities to decide their own future, both economic and environmental. Hundreds of people earn their living from this wilderness, from guides, to outfitters, to trappers, to skiers... you name it. They earn their living from the land in a sustainable way; these jobs will be threatened, and more than a few will be eliminated altogether if the proposed drilling takes place (the project calls for hundreds of drill sites). And thousands of people enjoy this area for recreation, from hunters to skiers, to snowshoers, to hikers, to mountain bikers, to... well, you get the picture.
If you're concerned about CBM in southeastern BC, please check out this video, and write an e-mail to the following people expressing your concerns about the project:
Chris Revingtion, VP at BP Canada: email@example.com
Jim Prentice, MP Calgary Centre: Prentice.J@parl.gc.ca
Jim Abbott MP, Kootenay Columbia
Bill Bennett, MLA East Kootenay
Gordon Campbell, BC premier: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on this issue, also check out the Wildsight website.