The healing of the “donut hole” in the Skagit Valley Provincial Park

I started fishing the Skagit River in 1981. The river access was rough in
those days and I would often go entire days without spotting another
person. Things have changed now but the closing of the “donut hole” is
a change for the better.

Most people fishing the Skagit today did not know of the extraordinary
effort by Canadians to save the Canadian side of the Skagit from being
flooded by Seattle Power and Light’s high Ross Lake dam. This was
averted by the exceptional efforts of Tom Perry and the R.O.S.S.
Committee (Run Out Skagit Spoilers). This early fight is well
documented in “A Cittizen’s Guide to the Skagit Valley” published by
the ROSS Committee. ( My thanks to Skip Young, founding member of
TU Canada and emeritus Loon for entrusting this book to me).

This early episode ended with the 1984 International Treaty between the
City of Seattle and the B.C. Provincial government. This treaty also
created the Skagit Environment Endowment Commission, a joint
U.S./Canadian Commission to “…manage an endowment fund to
preserve the area, pristine wilderness and fish and wildlife habitat in the
Upper Skagit Watershed until 2065” (https://skagiteec.org/).

I personally was not very aware of this political history until I became
involved with Trout Unlimited B.C. TU members such as Albert
Sawchuk and the late Alan Steeves were instrumental as was the
knowledgeable and continuing influence of Peter Caverhill, currently
Honorary Loon member.

The “donut hole” (Skagit Headwaters Donut Hole | Wilderness Committee)
really began when the Skagit Valley changed status from a
Provincial Recreation Area (where multiple uses may be allowed) to a
Class A Provincial Park. At that time, the Provincial government
exempted from Class A protections a large hole in the middle of the two
contiguous Provincial Parks, Manning and Skagit Valley. In 2003,
industrial logging was permitted and in 2018 Imperial Metal Corporation
(notorious for the 2014 Mount Polly mining disaster) applied for a five
year permit to explore for gold complete with helicopter landing pads
and tailing pond.

This was the moment when diverse organizations such as B.C.
Wilderness Committee, B.C. Fly Fishing Federation, and the Loon’s all
drafted protests about this prospect. Earlier, the Loons (Sawchuk &
White) had drafted a paper on the future of the Park, which left no doubt
about our position. Public pressure was intense but no one should
minimize that many politicians could easily see that this was not the
correct use of two magnificent Class A Provincial Parks.

On January 19, 2022, Imperial Metal surrendered their mineral rights to
the Province. Finally, we think the “donut hole” will become the
historical error that never should have happened in a Province that prides
itself on its natural beauty. We can take heart that many British
Columbians gave of their time and energy to save this wonderful
resource. For this, we are grateful and future generations will be as well.

The link below is from the Seattle Times.

Mining company drops rights to Upper Skagit watershed in key preservation step

Jim White

The LOONS Flyfishing Club

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