The first time I saw Morice Lake and the Morice River was on an overflight of the proposed pipeline route. It was September 2009. This was before there were Enbridge t-shirts, before the flurry of films and rallies and webpages and spokespeople dedicated to raising awareness about the threats to regional ecosystems and communities from the proposed pipeline.
I knew then that the Morice River flowed into the Bulkley and then the Skeena and the Pacific. I guess I thought I understood that connection. I understood that the bulk of wild salmon migrating up the Bulkley spawn in the Morice River system, that the villages of Hagwilget and Moricetown exist because of the access to Bulkley River salmon in the respective canyons of those ancient and current village sites. I knew that the construction of a pipeline along the Morice River would produce a dangerous and potentially catastrophic impact to the spawning and rearing habitats in the Morice system.
Morice Lake from the air felt like an oceanscape in the mountains. It is the most impressive element in a horizon wide landscape of breathtaking scenery and impossibly huge lines and shapes. The chinook dunes that cover the river bed for a few kilometers below the lake's outflow are the direct result of thousands of years of salmon spawning kinetics. These dunes are as striking a landscape feature as the glaciers hanging into the head of the lake.
Seeing the dunes, I realized that my sense of the connection between the river, the salmon and downstream communities was tremendously simplified. It's like I was thinking something along the lines of "my finger is connected to my body".
But my finger isn't connected to my body, it is my body.