Our gruff Kiwi pilot lands the chopper at one of the three decommissioned Shell test wells set for removal, just a few ridges over from the headwaters. I’m taken a bit aback at first: Somehow, I thought they’d be taller. Instead, it resembles a fire hydrant propped up a few extra feet, circled by a metal bar fence that reminds me of a city bike rack. A Shell Canada sign is plastered with “Get the Shell Out” and “Save Our Salmon” stickers. Electric pink fireweed creeps down from the snowcapped peaks in the background, intruding on the flattened dirt pad left over from installation. It’s August 2013, and the wells won’t be removed for another two months, but the vegetation seems impatient.
I'm along for the ride with Karen Tam Wu and Melyssa Desilles-Rubino, representatives from ForestEthics, a Vancouver-based NGO that threw its weight behind the Sacred Headwaters in 2007 when they learned of Tahltan and SWCC’s stand against the second largest company in the world. Over five years, they engineered a plan to get the word out and draw international support, mostly with stunts by turns audacious and zany: Buying full-page protest ads in the Financial Times; hounding Royal Dutch Shell CEO Peter Voser across the globe to present him with a dead salmon trophy; hiring Santa to deliver coal to Shell headquarters; stringing 50-foot-long banner of 60,000 signatures (rendered in 10-point font) in opposition at Shell Canada headquarters in Calgary.