“Earth River Expeditions, the whitewater-rafting company that pioneered the first raft descent of the Futaleufu in 1991, has and continues to put up a massive fight. They bought a large amount of land that the power company would have to purchase in order to build the dams and fought the construction of unsustainable development. In 2012, with the profits from their raft trips, they also founded a conservation organization, the Futaleufú Riverkeeper, to work on litigation, community outreach, and other conservation efforts full time. All profits from the trip go toward protecting the river.”
National Geographic Adventure Magazine, February 2013
Excepted From the Futa Friends web site, www.futafriends.org:
“Education and conscientious action are key to stopping Didymo. FutaFriends is working with local government, tourism, and non-governmental groups to establish a Didymo Awareness and Education Program to reach the local and tourist communities. FutaFriends has the priviledge to work with scientist Dr. Bill Horvath and outfitter/guide Robert Currie who, motivated by their love for the Futaleufú and for Patagonia, are spearheading advocacy for Didymo action at local, regional, and national levels. Their primary focus is to spotlight the issue and to help grassroots efforts move forward. Dr. Bill Horvath, an analytical scientist from the USA, is advising the technical aspects of informational materials and educational presentations, with a special focus on the role river guides and tourism operators have in educating tourists about Didymo. Robert Currie is putting a spotlight on Didymo within government circles.”
Montreal, June 27th 2005
M. Eric Hertz
Earth River Expeditions
180 Towpath Road
Accord, NY 1 2404
Subject: Sincere thanks
We would like to thank you for your precious collaboration with the Rivers Foundation and want to express our gratitude with a letter.
We want to thank you especially for all your actions regarding the Magpie River. Your participation in preserving waterfalls and rapids is very important and effective. Ecotourism is an industry that allows the preservation of our natural resources while being financially beneficial. Its promotion is essential in helping people to discover the wonders and greatness of Quebec's rivers.
Also, we greatly appreciate your efforts to mobilize the financial resources that allowed the Magpie publicity to be published in the paper Le Devoir. We believe that reaching people and raising awareness is the key to saving our collective natural patrimony.
We hope our collaboration will continue for years to come.
5834, rue Clark, MontnSal, H2T 2V7 T616phone : (514) 272-2666 T616copieur : (514) 274-0126
Although the oldest trees in the Main River watershed are no more than 260 years old, the Main's woodlands are sometimes referred to as an ancient forest. The reason? The Main's boreal ecosystem has remained intact since it was established after the retreat of the glaciers thousands of years ago.
The forests of the Main have remained insulated from insects, disease, fire and wind, the natural enemies of boreal forests elsewhere in Canada. Relatively, undisturbed by the large-scale blowdowns, raging forest fires, and spruce budworm infestations that have ravaged other Newfoundland woodlands, the balsam fir and black spruce of the Main have been left to live out their natural cycles of birth, growth, death and decay.
A Close-Knit Forest Family: The lack of disturbance to the Main watershed has resulted in a highly diverse, multi-generational forest "family" rarely seen in modern environments. Balsam fir lives to 3 times their normal life span. Trees of many different sizes and diameters grow side by side, interspersed with fallen trunks and decomposing logs. Very old trees, still standing, and branches that have fallen to the forest floor are often covered with mosses and lichens. Woodland caribou are drawn to "old man's beard," a lichen that grows on the trees of the Main. Decomposing fallen logs often become "nurse logs," acting as a seed bed for young trees.
"Our small group of people were content for centuries pursuing our traditional way of life based on hunting and fishing. The Ouj-Bougoumou people welcomed the early prospectors to our region and escorted them throughout the territory helping them to survive in the sometimes harsh climate. As mineral deposits were identified in increased quantities more people entered the territory. Mining camps gave way to settlements which eventually gave way to towns. As the mining activities increased the Ouj-Bougoumou people came to be seen as an obstacle to industrial growth.
We were forced to relocate our villages time after time to make way for new mines. Between 1920 and 1970, the Ouj-Bougoumou people were forced to relocate no fewer than seven times. We witnessed our villages repeatedly destroyed. And we were left, scattered, to live in deplorable conditions as "squatters" on the land we had occupied since time immemorial.
But the Ouj-Bougoumou people refused to disappear. We decided to make our stand and take our rightful place in the region as the original inhabitants and the centuries-old stewards of the land. After a lengthy and protracted political struggle and, against all odds, Ouj-Bougoumou won recognition by the Government of Canada and the Province of Quebec of our right to live as a community. We began to re-build our village and restore the community life which had been shattered. Our courage and our commitment throughout the years was sustained by our yearning to live together again as a community. That determination was translated into the building of a new village. In Ouj-Bougoumou an enormous creativity was unleashed which was applied to the construction of a new village.
We are now in the process of transferring that creativity and that enthusiasm to the building of community. Having successfully built an award-winning village-basically a physical shell-we are now re-building our community and focussing on those areas of community life which will be essential to our long-term health and viability.
We hope that Ouj-Bougoumou can be an inspiration for indigenous peoples everywhere to continue their struggles to build healthy and secure communities.”
Chief, Ouj-Bougoumou Cree
NATO's Invasion: Air combat training and its Impact on the Innu first Nation.
“The Innu, otherwise known as Montagnais-Naskapi Indians, constitute an indigenous nation of about 10,000 people who live in a number of communities in eastern Québec and Labrador. Many Innu continue to pursue an a age-old hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering way of life. In the fall and spring each year, Innu families leave their communities and travel far into the interior of the Québec-Labrador peninsula where knowledge of hunting, trapping, fishing, hide preparation, cooking methods and traditional religious beliefs can be most effectively transmitted to younger generations., Unfortunately, the survival of Innu culture is now seriously in doubt due to the expanding military air combat training activities in the peninsula and plans to establish an $800 million NATO Tactical Fighter and Weapons Training Center in Goose Bay, Labrador.
The main problem for the Innu at this time is low-level flight training based in Goose Bay by the West German Luftwaffe using primarily Phantom II and Tornado aircraft and the British Royal Air Force using Tornados. According to both Innu and Settler (Inuit/White descent) reports, the aircraft fly so low that their exhaust makes waves on the surface of lakes and river, ripples the canvas on tents and sways trees. West German Phantom IIs, either singly, in tandem, or as many as four in low-level formation, fly as low as 100 feet, passing through canyons, valleys and over lakes where Innu camps are located. Pilots have even engaged in "hot dogging", standing the aircraft on end over a camp or hunting party, kicking in the afterburners, and shooting straight up into the air above the heads of the Innu.
The Innu say that the extremely loud and unexpected noise generated by low-flying aircraft is extremely traumatic, especially for the young and the elderly. They report that on occasion their children have jumped out of canoes and into the water and have run into the forest to seek refuge from the jets. Other children have left their camps and run into the forest, and their parents have experienced difficulty finding them. Many Innu men feel that they cannot leave their hunting camps to check more distant traplines because they are worried about the adverse reaction of their children to the overflights. Innu report that after an overflight they experience a ringing in their ears which may last hours.
The country where the Innu live and hunt is extremely quiet mainly limited to camp noise of children playing and adults conversing, and chopping wood. Away from the camps it is so quiet you can hear yourself breathe, and even the sound of the canoe paddles flicking the water seems like a lot of noise. The sudden arrival of a noisy jet is obviously a horrendous contrast to the tranquility and solitude normally present. Apparently, during the fall of 1983, a number of Innu children from La Romaine on the Québec North Shore had to return to the community because of their fear of the aircraft. Some Innu have said that they will never again go out in the country for the fall as long as the low-level flights continue, because the loud, unexpected noise is just too traumatic for them and their children.
Innu claims that the extremely loud and unexpected noise generated by low-flying jets severely traumatizes their children and discourages the from going into the country are not exaggerations. Rural peoples in Scotland and Wales, have been complaining for years about the serious public health problems posed by noisy low-flying military jets.
Civilians in rural Europe exposed to the above-pain threshold noise from the military aircraft have been told that the jet noise is the "sound of freedom" or the "price of peace." Nevertheless, growing public opposition is motivating the German government to export its unwanted domestic problem to the skies above Innu bush camps and hunting parties.
Many medical professionals and researchers who are familiar with the literature on the effects of jet noise and sonic booms have concluded that military training operations such as those experienced by the Innu constitute a serious public health problem. According to Dr. Richard Bargen, an MD living in Nevada who has studied the health effects of low-level and supersonic jet noise, "people cannot overcome the 'startle effect' induced by extremely loud and unexpected noise - they never habituate to this kind of adverse stimulus." For example, the noise produced by the Phantom II F-4, one of the aircraft used by the West German Air Force iover the Inu territory is 134.8 dBA at 200 ft 140.8 dBA a 100 ft, and 146.5 dBA at 50 ft. The pair threshold for most people is somewhere between 110 and 130 dBA and permanent damage to the inner ear can occur as a result of exposure to noise in excess of 140 dBA for more than five milliseconds.”
“For over 2 decades, Earth River has bought and helped conservation minded clients buy dozens of significant properties along Patagonia Chile’s Futaleufu River to keep them out of the hands of developers, land speculators and the hydro-electric company, insuring that the Futaleufu would not meet the same sad fate as the once world reknowned Bio Bio River to the north where a land speculator acquired all the land and flipped it to the power company for profit.'
"This land conservation effort on the Futaleufu, consisting of a tremendous amount of company resources and countless volunteer hours, is nothing short of Herculean and represents the single largest river land trust endeavor ever initiated by a commercial outfitter. By joining an Earth River tour, you are providing direct financial support for Futaleufu land conservation and helping to prevent the dams planned for the river.”
Ronald G. Dodson, President Audubon International
August 12, 1991
Mr. Eric Herltz
R.D. 2, Box 182-A
Accord, NY 12404
I am ever grateful to you for arranging the trip to Great Whale and inviting me. It could not have been a more interesting and meaningful experience. I learned a great deal.
We discussed as immediate steps the following three items :
Let's keep in touch.
Franz S. Leichter
Nov. 18, 1991
Dear Mr. Hertz,
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for becoming involved and taking the initiative to invite key personalities to partake in a rafting trip down part of the proposed flooded section of the Great Whale River. This river, as well as, the other surrounding rivers are critical habitat for the survival of, not only animal species, but to sustain the Cree way of life. The Cree have long maintained that the resource they are trying to protect is far more precious in its natural wild state than as part of any hydroelectric reservoir and generating station. There are few places left where man has not developed or altered nature to fit his design.
The objective of the trip was to create awareness and to provoke action on the part of its participants. You succeeded brilliantly! By inviting key players in the New York political milieu, you succeeded in putting a human face of the proposed destruction of one of North America's last pristine wildernesses. We've talked with Senator Franz Leichter, Assemblyman Bill Hoyt, as well as, Robert and Michael Kennedy on several occasions and the trip impressed upon them the importance of the river to the Cree. In fact, these gentlemen have setup and conducted hearings on the appropriateness of New York State purchasing power generated by the proposed Great Whale Hydroelectric Complex. According to all involved in the various facets of the trip, your expedition was the catapulting and cementing force that brought these people, not only together, but made them aware of the enviromnental and social implications of this project. Their awareness has had a positive effect on New York Power Authority, they are no longer blindly entering into a purchase contract without some understanding of the stakes, both to New Yorkers (economics)and to the Cree (disruption of their way of life). Last week we were surprised to receive a visit from Vincent Tobin, Vice President of the New York Power Authority and although he did not say so, it was understood that the visit by your expedition and its members played a key role in inciting them to see for themselves what's at stake.
For the Cree, the training of their youth on how to operate and run these trips in the near future provides the community with valuable alternatives to destructive hydroelectric development. We are quite aware that development of the territories resources must be undertaken with the utmost care, eco-tourism or whitewater rafting, controlled and operated by a Cree entity assures that this development is done within the limits of the natural environment to sustain it. The operation of limited trips, like those undertaken by you, fits within the limits, they have of development.
We would gladly be part of a similar expedition in the future should you so desire to undertake one during the summer of 1992. Again, we thank you for all you have done to promote the preservation of free flowing rivers and environmental awareness. We hope to see you undertake more rafting trips on the Great Whale and surrounding rivers in the coming future. Some view these trips as "fun" or "touristiclike", in fact the are an extremely important vehicle to create awareness and alternative solutions to a complex environmental problem.
Local Coordinator - G.C.C.Q.
RD 2 BOX 182-A
Accord, NY 1 2404
Dear Mr. Hertz:
It has truly been an honor for us to have spent time with you. It is a rare and special occasion that a group of visitors can develop such a rapport with the community and gain a real sense of the Great Whale River and the land that continues to support us. I especially thank you for leading the party and investing so much personal energy towards our goat of stopping the Project. You have accomplished much by this rafting trip; not only in recruiting key leaders to come here, but in organizing the logistics, leading the rafters in a maiden voyage down these rapids, and cooking the food as well!
During the past few months, our community has had an increasing number of visitors, who come to view first-hand the people and land that wilt be most affected by the Great Whale Complex. We have taken them to the first set of rapids, shown them around the community, and explained the details of the Project. We hope that they depart with a clear sense of the consequences we face, should the damming of these rivers be realized.
The rafting trip was probably one of the best ways to understand the river's richness and importance. As you know. the land you traversed will be under 35 meters of water, if the dams are built. This represents a tremendous and irreplaceable loss, not just to the Cree, but to the entire world. The ecological, social, economic and political factors all reveal this Project as an irresponsible and unnecessary scheme.
As the media continues to follow this issue and its popularity grows, we will surely be greeting more guests and supporters. I assure you. though, that your stay with us will always be remembered as one full of honor, sharing and laughter. After all the words have been spoken, it is still the river, and the traditions which arise from it, that are felt the strongest. I am pleased that you have had the opportunity to experience this, and that we can consider you in unity as we continue the fight against this Project.
The dust has settled on the baseball field, but it's always ready for a re-match!
Chief Robbie Dick
Jan. 26, 1993
Eric, thank you for the wonderful river trip with the artists which Earth River made possible. The GABB/artists trip was very successful and its fruits will ripen in the coming weeks and months. Even without those fruits; a Bio Bio Song, video and Television spots, the human part of the trip was so strong that it justified all the effort. We’re thankful for your generosity and flexibility that made the trip possible. It was for me and all of the passengers very moving to see how solidarity, friendship and respect grew as both groups, Chilean and Americans reached out to each other.
Organizationally and professionally, the trip was carried off very well due to the skills of the guides, whom everyone highly admires. There were so many details on a trip like this and all were deftly taken care of. All the members of the group highly admired the generosity and spontenaiety of you and all the guides.
It was really nice for me - campaign aside - to have ten days of wind, water and currents, a break from the stressful reality of the day to day Bio Bio struggle. Rivers and river trips are good teachers and good healers.
The North Americans and Chileans on the trip are all going to contribute to the Bio Bio preservation campaign in some way, many of them very concretely. In a more subtle way they they have already done so and I’m thankful to have been on the trip and space where that happened and am appreciative that you let it happen.
Grupo de Accion por el Bio Bio (GABB)
As people have learned to harness the tremendous power of rivers, hydroelectric dams have proliferated. Today there are very few major waterways that still flow unimpeded from their source to their culmination in the sea. Those untamed rivers that do remain are not only majestic, but also environmentally vital as aquatic and terrestrial habitat for countless threatened species. A year ago, NRDC's International Program began work to save one such wild river, Chile's Rio Bio Bio, which is slated for massive hydroelectric development.
"Chilean environmentalists con- us for help in their fight to save the river," explains NRDC International Program Director Jacob Scherr, "and we decided to investigate." Senior Research Associate Glenn Prickett spent hundreds of hours studying the proposed project, traveling to Chile in January 1992. Scherr and Prickett worked in concert with the Grupo de Accion por el Bio-Bio (GABB), a coalition of Chilean environmental and human rights groups opposing the project. GABB had experienced great difficulty getting their message heard. To draw attention to the river's plight, NRDC decided to organize a rafting trip down the tumultuous Bio Bio.
"To the decision-makers, the remote upper Bio Bio is an abstraction," say Scherr. 'To be an effective advocate for it, there's no substitute for going there." This past summer, Senior NRDC Attorney Robert Kennedy, Jr. joined Earth River Expeditions on on a conservation awareness trip down the Great Whale River in Northern Quebec, also threatened by massive hydropower development. This past winter, an NRDC group again joined forces with Earth River, who again donated their time, expertise and equipment, on an expedition down the Bio Bio. In addition to NRDC experts, the trip contingent included Chileans representing a range of political and cultural dispositions, from environmentalists to leading businessmen. A total of 49 people joined in the privately financed convoy, the largest rafting expedition ever to brave the Bio.
The Bio Bio rises out of the Andes, near the Argentine border, and makes its way clear across the country to the city of Concepcion, on the Pacific coast. Its length, volume, and the enormous size of its watershed, make the Bio Bio Chile's most important river. In its upper reaches, the river surges through spectacular canyons, gorges, and steep, forested valleys-complex ecosystems that support a multitude of threatened plant and animal species. Further to the west, the river flows through rich agricultural lowlands, finally culminating in the estuaries of Concepcion and the Gulf of Arauco where its nutrients feed the nation's richest fishery.
Like many of the remote, undeveloped places left on Earth, the valleys of the upper Bio Bio are indigenous lands. The region has long been inhabited by Pehuenche Indians. Approximately 9000 Pehuenche still live on their ancestral lands, descendants of the skilled mounted warriors who managed to arrest the Spanish Conquest at the banks of the Bio Bio. The Pehuenche continue to live sustainably by traditional methods of farming, to speak a unique language, and to observe their own religion, closely bound to the environment.
The Bio Bio occupies a central place in Chile's geography and its history. It has also come to figure prominently in the economic plans of this rapidly-growing nation. To power its economic growth, Chile has increasingly sought to develop plentiful, domestic sources of energy. In the 1950s, the government began exploring the possibility of hydropower development on the upper Bio Bio. Technical and economic feasibility studies were carried out in the 60s and 70s by ENDESA, a state-owned utility privatized during the regime of General Pinochet.
By the late 1970s, ENDESA had laid out plans to build six large dams, which would generate some 2700 megawatts of electricity, a 128% increase in the nation's generating capacity. The company has now completed construction of preliminary works for the first dam, Pangue. It was not until late in 1990, however, that a study of the project's environmental impacts was commissioned. And despite extensive study of the area over the course of two decades, ENDESA did not acknowledge the existence of the Pehuenche communities until 1986 and then did not notify Pehuenche leaders of its plans until 1990.
If carried out, these plans will have a profound and devastating impact on both the Bio Bio's complex ecology and its unique human communities. The project's dams and reservoirs would convert the entire extent of the wild, upper river into a series of artificial lakes, inundating temperate forests rich in rare and endangered species. Roads built into the area will bring a wave of logging as well as tourists, drawn by the lakes. These in turn will threaten the surrounding watershed with deforestation, erosion, and pollution. Concerns about impacts on downstream irrigators and on the rich estuarine fisheries near Concepcion, as well as about the long term safety of large dams in this seismically and volcanically volatile region have not been publicly addressed.
The damming of the Bio Bio will have an equally profound impact on the lives of the Pehuenche. Flooding, road-building, and excavation will force many of the Pehuenche to relocate. Indirect impacts are likely to include disease and crime brought by an influx of workers from the outside world, the loss of the Indians' traditional livelihood, farming, and the collapse of their communal social structure with privatization of their land. As one Pehuenche cacique, or chief, said "It will not bring any benefit to our community, only damage." "The Indians of the region are very poor," NRDC attorney Kennedy elaborates. "With the loss of their long term agricultural base, they will face greatly increased pressure to migrate to urban slums, where they will integrate into Chilean society at its lowest rung and be trampled." He believes that the Pehuenche culture, religion, and language will not survive the construction of the dams. "We have our own way of talking to God," a Pehuenche man told him, "These are the things we have inherited from our parents and grandparents If we moved somewhere else, our children would lose the tradition.''
In the larger context of Chile, however, there is tremendous pressure to build the dams, as well as reluctance to challenge the government on the Indians' behalf. After a generation spent under Pinochet, Chilean democracy is still reemerging. Government and economic leaders, eager to demonstrate stability and continuity to potential outside investors, believe it is vital to move ahead with the dams. Chile's indigenous peoples are a small and marginalized group, and their interests have largely been swept aside by the desire for growth And because Chilean law does not recognize communal ownership, the Pehuenche do not hold title to the land they have inhabited for a millennium. Furthermore, Chilean law includes few environmental regulations or requirements.
NRDC's International Program is working with Chilean environmentalists to help balance this complex equation of economic development, indigenous rights, energy, and environment. The rafting expedition was extraordinarily successful. It garnered extensive media coverage and sparked the very first national debate on the project, which had been considered an accomplished fact. At a packed press conference in Santiago and in numerous interviews during the following week, NRDC urged Chileans to reconsider the dams and explore energy efficiency and other alternative means of meeting energy demand. While in Chile, Kennedy, Scherr, and Prickett also met with government officials and utility executives. "By the end of the week," says Scherr, "it seemed like everyone in Chile, including President Aylwin, was aware of our presence—and our message." Back in the United States. NRDC is working to address the very real pressures for building the dams. As in much of its work, the International Program has focused on the financing of the project as a means of checking unsustainable development. To carry out construction of Pangue, ENDESA has applied to borrow $50 million from the International Finance Corporation, a branch of the World Bank that handles loans to private entities. NRDC and CABB so far have succeeded in delaying the loan application until ENDESA completes studies of the environmental impacts and reviews of all energy alternatives. NRDC is pushing the IFC to permit full public review and participation in what is a precedent-setting case.
Through GABB, NRDC is working to equip the indigenous people to confront ENDESA, the nation's most profitable company. NRDC is also working with GABB on the development of economic alternatives for the Pehuenche, some of whom now see employment by ENDESA as their only option. Finally, NRDC is undertaking research on energy conservation This fall, NRDC will sponsor an exchange between U.S. and Chilean utility executives to discuss this approach, which has successfully averted the need for hydroelectric development in America's Pacific Northwest. Kennedy believes that the comparison to America's own great rivers is both apt and cautionary. He likens the damming of the Bio Bio to the U.S. government's decision to dam Yosemite's wild Hetch Hetchy valley in 1913, a project carried out in the face of ardent protests by John Muir and other conservationists. "Seventy five years later, even the most growth-oriented Americans concede the great mistake we made in destroying that special wilderness," he says thoughtfully. "Hetch Hetchy was our nation's patrimony, a symbol and defining element of the American character that we have lost forever."
Thirty years ago, Wallace Stegner wrote "Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed. We need wilderness preserved—as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds—because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed." Kennedy says T h e Bio Bio occupies precisely this central place in Chile's history and identity. Its loss will diminish the Chileans, just as damming Hetch Hetchy diminished us.'' It will not only be a loss for Chileans, but for all people. Kennedy says, "One cannot judge the value of an untamed river solely by cash and kilo- watts. We must consider it in spiritual, cultural, and aesthetic currencies as well." Wild places and wild rivers have a value far beyond their use for exploitation, a value for all people. With the unstinting support of members, NRDC will continue to fight for the preservation of the magnificent Bio Bio.