Xtratuf boots are ubiquitous in Southeast Alaska. About a hundred pairs of the brown rubber boots, along with photos of Alaskans, were on the steps of the Capitol building Wednesday to protest mines in British Columbia.
“This day and this gathering is truly about celebrating clean water and healthy fisheries and the things that make Southeast what it is,” said Edie Leghorn, speaking into a microphone.
Leghorn lives in Sitka. She’s an organizer with Inside Passage Waterkeeper, a group focusing on clean water in Southeast Alaska. She stood on the steps of the Capitol with about 40 other people.
“This day is also about standing united as Alaskans, to hold our elected officials accountable to the will of the Alaskan people who have responded with a resounding ‘not on our watch’ to the threat of mines in our Southeast Alaskan salmon streams,” she said to a cheering crowd.
The rally participants carried signs that read “Get Extra Tuff on BC Mines” and “No More Mount Polleys.” It’s been about a year since the Mount Polley Mine disaster in British Columbia, which spilled millions of gallons of mine waste into creeks and lakes. The protesters don’t want the same thing to happen at other B.C. mines near the border.
Among the people and signs were pairs of Xtratuf boots. Caitlyn Cardinell, also with Inside Passage Waterkeeper, said they represent the livelihood of people in Southeast Alaska.
“We use and rely on these boots … for our work that we do outside with commercial fishing, forestry, research. They are pretty much a staple in every Southeast Alaskan’s footwear,” Cardinell said.
She brought about 200 pounds of boots from Wrangell to Juneau. Boots also came from other communities like Petersburg, Sitka and Kake.
“What we found for this project of collecting salmon stories and boots from Alaskans throughout the region is that Alaska is united on this issue,” said Malena Marvin, executive director of Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.
She met with Bill Bennett, B.C.’s top mine official, who’s traveling in Juneau and Ketchikan to discuss concerns about transboundary mines.
“We really hope to send him and everyone the messages that this is everybody,” Marvin said. “We don’t see unity on issues in Alaska. Certainly there are so many different types of people and controversies around many issues, but on this, people are united. We want to protect our salmon, our jobs, our way of life.”
The rally participants want to see an international solution through the Boundary Waters Treaty, which was signed by Canada and the United States in 1909.
The boots will be donated to Juneau’s soup kitchen and shelter.