The nonprofit conservation organization Washington Wild looked back last week on efforts to protect the Skagit River headwaters in British Columbia from logging and mining, and rallied supporters to continue that work.
During an annual ceremony held Thursday over YouTube, two of the organization’s three awards went to environmental leaders in Skagit County — Scott Schuyler of the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe and Richard Brocksmith of the Skagit Watershed Council — for their roles in protecting the river.
“It’s a river of superlatives. It’s the largest river in Puget Sound, it’s got the largest salmon runs in Puget Sound, it’s the most glaciated watershed in Puget Sound. ... So the threat of a copper mine in the headwaters in Canada is very real,” Brocksmith said in an acceptance video for Washington Wild’s Karen M. Fant Founder’s Award.
Brocksmith received the award for spearheading the Skagit Headwaters Coalition’s outreach to local government, water and land management authorities in Skagit County, gaining support from cities, towns, tribes, ports, utilities and county government.
Schuyler received Washington Wild’s Conservation Voices Award. He was recognized for engaging with government and nonprofit partners, the community and the media to advocate for protections of the Skagit River and surrounding landscapes.
“I’m proud and honored to be recognized by Washington Wild for carrying on the work that our ancestors started thousands of years ago,” Schuyler, an elder of the Upper Skagit tribe, said in his video statement filmed at the site of a former tribal fishing village. “The salmon are the centerpiece of our culture. Our people need to continue to fish.”
Washington Wild Executive Director Tom Uniak said his organization has focused much of its work in recent years on issues in British Columbia because of the threats posed to the water supply, salmon, orcas, migratory birds, agriculture and other values downstream in the Skagit River watershed and Puget Sound.