Head north on the Alaska Highway from Fort St John and you end up… where? Well, Alaska obviously. And, seemingly, that’s exactly what the summer RV and tourist traffic does.
But it’s right in that 300 or so clicks between Fort St John and Fort Nelson that some of what many call the real north can be found. Take a drive at night (or at most times of the day in the winter…) and lights twinkle like stars through the forests and in the mountains. Stars that shine 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Late at night there’s endless traffic of trucks. And the highway is lined with row after row of cabins that look more like they belong in a refugee zone than nestled under the snowy peaks of northeastern British Columbia. What’s going on? Oil and gas, that’s what.
The twinkling stars are the well sites themselves. The trucks carry the stuff to processing sites and carry equipment north to south to north again. The cabins house the workers on long and lucrative contracts – with big bonuses at contract end to encourage them to see it through the months away from family and friends.
With the logging industry in a state of collapse this is the beating heart of BC ‘s economic prowess, and the government hopes it’s a lucrative, long-lasting revenue stream. The tough bit for the Province and for the residents of BC is striking a balance between the benefits that come from all this development and the risk to the stunning environment that surrounds it.
In the meantime it provides a unique juxtaposition; with some tough decisions in the future.