Victory! Shell Pulls Out of Sacred Headwaters

In a rare victory against an oil company, Shell has withdrawn its plan to drill for gas in British Columbia’s Sacred Headwaters and the government has permanently banned oil and gas drilling there.

Now the majesty and wildness of the Sacred Headwaters will not be scarred by thousands of Shell’s gas wells.

For five years, Canada’s First Nations and nearby communities, who rely on the pristine waters and wild salmon where the mighty Skeena, Nass and Stikine Rivers come together, battled Shell’s plans to drill more than 4,000 gas wells in the Sacred Headwaters.

Nearly 100,000 people signed petitions, sent letters and supported ForestEthics in helping the Tahltan First Nation, on whose territory the Sacred Headwaters are found in northwest British Columbia. 


This vast, pristine landscape is home to rich populations of grizzly bears, caribou and mountain goats. It is the place where creation stories originate for First Nations like the Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Haisla and Haida.

Shell’s plan to drill for coalbed methane in the region posed a direct threat to wild salmon, wildlife and the culture and livelihoods of First Nations and other downstream communities.

"The B.C. government and Shell deserve recognition for listening to these communities and making a decision that will protect salmon cultures and livelihoods."

In 2004, Shell drilled three test wells in the area. Blockades and public rallies across the Northwest ensued in 2005 and 2006, resulting in the arrest of Tahltan elders. International protests were also held at Royal Dutch Shell headquarters in The Hague. Due to opposition, the Province imposed a moratorium on coalbed methane development in the area in 2008, which was set to expire on December 18.

First Nations continue to fight Shell elsewhere in western Canada. Residents of Fort Chipewyan, an indigenous community near the Arctic Circle, that lives directly downstream from Canada’s tar sands in Alberta, are officially challenging tar sands expansion there on constitutional grounds – saying it violates their rights under Canada’s First Nations treaties.

For the first time, a Canadian First Nation will officially challenge tar sands development on the grounds of aboriginal rights.

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