About the Alsek-Tatshenshini
The Alsek River and its main tributary, the Tatshenshini, are among the wildest rivers in North America. Located where the boundaries of British Columbia, Alaska and the Yukon converge, the Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers flow through exceptionally diverse terrain, from glacial headwaters through subarctic tundra and spectacular mountain landscapes to enter the Pacific Ocean near Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. All five species of Pacific salmon thrive in the rivers, and the watershed supports a globally important grizzly bear population, along with healthy populations of wolves, moose, dall's sheep, mountain goats, woodland caribou, peregrine falcons, bald eagles and trumpeter swans. The watershed is the only place where the rare silver-blue glacier bear subspecies of black bear occurs in Canada.
The Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers are largely protected. Nestled between Kluane National Park and Reserves in the Yukon and Glacier Bay, and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks and Preserves in Alaska, the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park protects most of the B.C. portion of the watershed. Combined, these parks comprise the largest international protected area in the world – approximately 8.4 million hectares (20.7 million acres) – and the area has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its extraordinary scenic and wildlife values. Both the Alsek and Tashenshini rivers are recognized as Canadian Heritage Rivers, and are considered among the finest wilderness rafting rivers in the world. The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations co-manage the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park, and visitors to the region are requested to remember they are guests on traditional First Nation lands.
Threats to Conservation
While much of the Alsek-Tatshenshini watershed is protected, mineral exploration in the upper Alsek watershed threatens grizzly bear populations and habitat. Solomon Resources owns mineral claims in the Kluane Game Sanctuary, just outside Kluane National Park. The company promotes the potential for gold, copper, nickel, platinum and palladium deposits within the Game Sanctuary. A mine in this location would remove key grizzly habitat and block an important wildlife movement corridor. Conflict between humans and bears would also likely increase due to the industrial development.