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NEWS RELEASE · 10th December 2011
Forest Ethics
Conservationists Ask Christy Clark to Ban Coalbed Methane Drilling in BC's Sacred Headwaters, Once and For All

With moratorium set to expire in one year, the Sacred Headwaters offer a potential political win for BC's Premier - or a potential PR nightmare for gas development.

There is one year remaining on the B.C. government's moratorium on coalbed methane drilling in the Sacred Headwaters, and conservation groups ForestEthics and the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition are calling on Christy Clark to institute a permanent ban on drilling in the area.

The request comes as the groups are ramping up their campaign against Shell and the B.C. government, to protect the Sacred Headwaters. A lump of coal and giant greeting card were delivered this morning to Royal Dutch CEO, Peter Voser, at his office in the Hague, Netherlands, issuing a one year ultimatum for Shell to abandon its plans to drill in the headwaters, and reminding the company that 60,000 people have signed a petition opposing its plans.

"Natural gas could face the same backlash as tar sands if Shell's destructive plans for the Sacred Headwaters are allowed to proceed," says Karen Tam Wu, Senior Conservation Campaigner with ForestEthics. "What happens in the Sacred Headwaters will determine the image of natural gas development in B.C. Shell and Christy Clark have one year to make sure it's the right one."

To illustrate the risk of Shell's plans, the groups have created a coalbed methane simulation map. Current regulations would allow the drilling and fracking of over 4000 wells, and the clearing of thousands of kilometers of roads in the Sacred Headwaters, the birthplace of three of North America's most important salmon rivers, and numerous First Nations' creation stories.

"Four years ago, the B.C. government listened to northwestern communities and pushed pause on drilling in the Sacred Headwaters. Now it's up to Premier Clark to follow that path to its logical conclusion," says Shannon McPhail, Executive Director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. "A permanent ban would indicate to local communities, First Nations and the rest of British Columbia that the government is committed to establishing a truly responsible industry."

Last week, the groups placed ads at Shell Canada President Lorraine Mitchelmore's favourite ski hill in the Canadian Rockies, featuring breathtaking photos and reminding her that the Sacred Headwaters are "Out of Bounds".

The Sacred Headwaters are located in northwest British Columbia, about 600 kilometres north of Terrace, B.C. They are home to grizzly bears, caribou and moose. In 2008, the B.C. government imposed a four-year moratorium on Shell's activities in the area. The headwaters have been listed on the Outdoor Recreation Council's Most Endangered Rivers List for the past two years.