In a rare bit of good news from the environmental activism front, the Wilderness Committee recently announced that Chief Marilyn Baptiste, leader of Xeni Gwet’in community of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, would receive the 2011 Eugene Rogers Environmental Award. Chief Baptiste was a passionate activist on behalf of the Tsilhqot’in Nation to protect Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) from a proposed mining project.
Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) has been a subject of great controversy at the provincial and federal level. Located southwest of Williams Lake, BC, Fish Lake is not only important environmentally as a watershed and rainbow trout habitat, but also important culturally to many First Nations groups. The isolated region first came into the spotlight in January of 2010, when the BC provincial government approved a mining proposal by Taseko Ltd. The project would have seen Fish Lake reclassified as a “tailings impoundment area” and then used as a dump site for the proposed Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine.
Throughout 2010, Chief Baptiste, along with many other groups and activists, worked to educate the public about the importance of Teztan Biny and the many negative impacts that would accompany the mining proposal. These effects included loss of fish and wildlife habitat and damage to the local ecosystem. The federal government of Canada rejected the project in November 2010, citing environmental concerns.
The Wilderness Committee gives out the Eugene Rogers Award annually at its Annual General Meeting in remembrance of its namesake, a local BC resident who worked tirelessly to protect BC’s local wildlife and natural spaces. The award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to environmental protection.