Copper River Tribal Watershed Council
EPC has crafted a plan for outreach to upriver tribes to create a Copper River Tribal Watershed Council program to protect the integrity of the wild salmon and wild salmon spawning habitat. Tribal elders have endured as the original stewards, keepers and monitors of the Copper River; they are essential ancestral stakeholders.
Despite the painful lessons of the Exxon Valdez catastrophe, the Copper River watershed continues to have no comprehensive action plan for oil spill response or development. At this time, twenty percent of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline runs directly over and next to tributaries feeding into the Copper River, and should the pipeline spill oil into those tributaries now, the best we could hope for is an uncoordinated reaction.
Those most at risk, the tribal communities of the Delta, are largely silent on the issue. Villages far up the river often do not hear about potential developments and their impacts on wild salmon for many months, if at all. In particular, the upriver tribal villages have been largely unaware and therefore unresponsive to the numerous environmental threats to the ecosystem in which they live.
Spread out along 300 miles of riverbank, the twenty-three Native communities living within the Copper River Delta have no formally recognized or ongoing collaborative relationships. While they have respected each other’s coexistence and right to the salmon for survival, they have for the most part acted independently on social and economic matters.
EPC proposes to begin the process of uniting these constituents to collective preservationist action through the development of a Waterkeeper program, to be called the Copper River Tribal Watershed Council.
Waterkeeper programs help people preserve and protect a body of water that is in close proximity and important to them. Citizens unite through water quality monitoring, environmental education, and effective advocacy – the tools they need to promote clean water in their watershed. The Council will be the first Waterkeeper program to focus on the Indigenous people of a region. It will help them establish habitat protection policies for subsistence and commercial stakeholders.