British Columbia will no longer log in key Skagit headwaters

SEATTLE (AP) — British Columbia's government announced Wednesday amid an international dispute that it will no longer allow timber sales in the Skagit River's headwaters.

The Seattle Times reports the decision could intensify pressure over Canadian mining company Imperial Metals' pending permit to start exploratory mining in the area, which conservationists see as a larger threat to the river's ecology.

Loggers last year built roads and clear-cut large swaths of forest in the headwaters, which drain into the Skagit River and flow through Washington state to Puget Sound. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan wrote to B.C. officials with “grave concern” about water quality and environmental degradation.

The Skagit is a top producer of salmon for Puget Sound, is home to endangered bull trout and its waters churn hydropower dams to bring Seattle much of its electricity.

After Durkan’s protests, B.C. officials last summer put future logging plans on hold.

“Timber harvesting under this license has ended. No future licenses will be awarded,” Doug Donaldson, the minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development in British Columbia, said Wednesday.

Controversy over the Skagit’s headwaters began in 1937 when the city of Seattle began constructing the Ross Dam on the river. The dam created a reservoir, Ross Lake, that stretches into Canada. For years, the city considered building the dam higher and expanding the reservoir farther into Canada, flooding some old-growth forestland.

Environmentalists protested. B.C. and Seattle eventually came to an agreement in 1984 in which Seattle agreed not to raise the dam and the Canadians promised to provide cheap hydropower to Seattle through 2065.