Valhalla Provincial Park stretches from the far shore of Slocan Lake in British Columbia, to the mountaintops.
Valhalla Provincial Park was created in 1983 after eight years of hard-won battle by the Valhalla Wilderness Society (VWS). VWS went on to successfully spearhead campaigns for the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, Goat Range Provincial Park, and the Spirit Bear Conservancies on Princess Royal Island. The charitable organization also played one of the key roles in the protection of South Moresby National Park Reserve. Its Endangered Wilderness Map of 1988 initiated the movement to double BC’s park system to 12% of the province. VWS has led park campaigns that now protect over 560,000 hectares. The work resulted in numerous national and international conservation awards received by Chairperson Colleen McCrory.
The Valhalla Wilderness Society
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Two Proposals for New Parks to Protect Ancient Forest,
Mountain Caribou, Grizzly Bears and Other Species at Risk
Today BC needs a dramatic increase in the percent of parks. Clearcut logging, mines, pipelines and other development have occurred far out of balance with protected lands. BC now has 1,500 species at risk. A large mammal — the mountain caribou, found nowhere else in the world — is in serious danger of extinction. Watch Primeval to explore our Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park proposal. Click here to see maps and photos of the proposals.
Click here to take action!
This photo symbolizes a natural inheritance disappearing before our eyes — a bull of the South Selkirk herd that is now gone forever. Photo by Steve Forrest.
Thousands of scientists are warning: loss of biodiversity and climate change threaten the future survival of huma-nity. The disappearance of Mountain Caribou is part of both of these crises. Protecting them is British Columbia’s responsibility to the world.
Mountain Caribou exist nowhere else in the world but in eastern British Columbia and a small part of Alberta. Their survival depends on old-growth forest. They are disappearing because too much forest has been destroyed and fragmented by logging, and by oil and gas exploration and development.
Scientists also say that saving old-growth forest is critical for mitigating climate change. And we know that the oil, tar sands and fracking industries are worsening climate change. So it turns out that by protecting the habitat of the Mountain Caribou, we are helping to protect ourselves and the rest of humanity.
Old-growth forest harbours many other species. There are at least 40 known species at risk in forests used by Mountain Caribou in the Interior Wetbelt alone. The loss of Mountain Caribou herds is a symptom, not the disease. The disease is rampant corporate exploitation of natural resources, and it is annihilating whole swathes of species. This is why many scientists are urgently warning humanity to protect 30-50% of the planet.
Caribou issues are also wolf, cougar, bear, moose, deer and elk issues. The BC government slaughters predators, and sometimes their main prey, in the hopes of increasing caribou; but this only covers up the harm done to caribou — in loss of food, stress, and inability to cope with weather and snowpack conditions — until it is too late to do much about it. Large carnivores are not only important parts of biodiversity themselves, but their reduction or elimination of predators is devastating to ecosystems.
Can we really save the Mountain Caribou? No one knows. But by protecting old-growth forest, and by protecting the animals from snowmobiles and heli-skiing, we can give them their best chance to survive; and by doing so we can save much more. This is why VWS has three park proposals to protect remaining intact Inland Temperate Rainforest-Mountain Caribou ecosystems.
More posts below:
Central Selkirk herd plunges to 24 while BC logs its habitat.
Snowmobilers and heli-skiers contribute to the decline of Central Selkirk herd
BC Minister refuses new habitat for Deep-snow Mountain Caribou
Log the caribou habitat—shoot the wolves
Chilcotin wild horses at risk in Chilcotin predator-prey reduction
Photo: R Summerfield
Thanks to the Edmonton Community Foundation
and many other donors
The VWS caribou conservation campaign was funded for 2019 by an anonymous donor through the Edmonton Community Foundation, and by a second funder who wishes to remain anonymous. These donations funded the research and activism noted in the posts below, and much more that cannot be told here: working for the Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal, monitoring of caribou habitat logging in the field, public education, legal services and more. Fortunately these donations have been renewed for another year. In addition, VWS works with a number of expert biologists who donate services of inestimable value. VWS extends fervent thanks to all the caribou angels who have supported our campaign, including hundreds of small and not-so-small donors.
Exploratory research in 2017 has led to the identification of the fourth known, major biodiversity hotspot of BC’s rare Inland Temperate Rainforest ecosystem. Almost 20 years passed since Valhalla’s research led us to the Incomappleux ancient rainforest, and it was thought that the last of the truly intact and ancient Inland Rainforest ecosystem had already been documented.
Much to our excitement, satellite imagery analysis led the Valhalla Wilderness Society to a wilderness North of Revelstoke in 2017, in the traditional territory of the Sinixt, Ktunaxa, Okanagan and Secwépemc First Nations, where there were no records of previous scientific study. In this unfrequented wilderness, significant tracts of truly ancient and biodiverse Inland Rainforest and other rare ecosystem types have been growing undisturbed without roads or clearcut logging. Upon studying this wilderness, researchers found a mosaic of ecosystems including very ancient and young forest, deciduous forest, balch rockslides and avalanche paths, a rare elfin forest and various wetlands including a previously undocumented wetland ecosystem type. Hundreds of species were recorded upon the initial inventories, including many rare species and species indicative of the wettest and most biodiverse inland rainforest ecosystems.
This exciting find has since been mapped in an 8,408-hectare proposal encompassing the most significant tracts of remaining Ancient Inland Rainforest and other rare ecosystems, including monumental cedar trees over 3.5 meters in diameter, the oldest of which could be in the range of 1,500 years or older.
This crucial proposal has been named the Rainbow-Jordan Wilderness by Valhalla Wilderness Society and associated researchers who have studied it intimately over the past two years. The proposal encompasses one of so few remaining Ancient Inland Temperate Rainforest ecosystems in the world that its preservation is vital to maintaining biodiversity.
In addition to providing significant refuge for many rare and at-risk species, the Rainbow-Jordan Wilderness will, if preserved as a Class A provincial park, continue to provide wildlife with a refuge that is desperately needed from intensive motorized recreation and clearcut logging in the Revelstoke area.
As a major, resilient life-support system for British Columbia in a time of climate uncertainty, the Rainbow-Jordan Wilderness should be protected for the safety and health of future generations. Please see www.vws.org/action for ways you can support the proposal, and stay tuned through our website and Facebook for exciting updates on our findings in this rich biodiversity hotspot.
Photos: Douglas Noblet
Click here to download a summary of the initial ecological inventories of the proposal
Click here to download the official briefing document
The Central Selkirk caribou are Deep-snow Caribou that range between Nakusp, New Denver and Kaslo. Environment Canada has declared that all the Southern Mountain Caribou are under imminent threat to their recovery and must have immediate action that includes habitat protection. The Central Selkirk herd was listed as being particularly under threat.
Yet in September 2019, the Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development declared that no Deep-snow Mountain Caribou would have new habitat protection. And it is allowing federally-designated matrix habitat of the Central Selkirk herd to be logged at multiple points around Trout Lake and Duncan Lake. The Duncan Lake operation is clearcutting in the Valhalla Wilderness Society’s Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal. A $4.8 million dollar road has been pushed within 1-2 kilometres of an area used by the caribou every year. Matrix habitat is supposed to have only limited disturbance, but the photo at right shows what the logging near Duncan Lake is doing. It has already started a mass failure that could result in a landslide.
SNOWMOBILERS AND HELI-SKIERS CONTRIBUTE TO CENTRAL SELKIRK CARIBOU CRASH—VWS PROPOSES A COMPROMISE
For years BC government biologists have been reporting that the Central Selkirk caribou are abandoning their high-quality winter habitat due to heavy use by snowmobiles, and cat- and heli-skiing. They have been pushed into marginal habitat. This can mean steep slopes with low amounts of lichens they need for food. It can cause poor nutrition, excessive energy expenditure, and reproductive failures in spring: dead cows, stillborn calves, or calves too weak to run from predators. It can also mean increased risk of deaths by avalanches.
Only 2.5% of the Winter Range was protected from snowmobiling
The area that the BC government set aside in 2007 for the Central Selkirk herd, called Caribou Ungulate Winter Range (UWR), was insufficient for their protection and left out known occupied habitat. 97.5% of the Central Selkirk UWR remained open for snowmobiling and cat-skiing, and part of that was on steep slopes tracked by avalanches. Yes — the caribou’s 2.5% included avalanche tracks on Silvercup Ridge while the humans swarmed the gentle slopes with their loud machines! Apparently, the sooner the caribou were gone the better. Meanwhile multiple overlapping heli-skiing tenures cover approximately half of the range of the Central Selkirk herd.
Mobile versus fixed snowmobile closures
In 2019 the BC government revoked the meagre 2.5% snowmobile closures. It has replaced them with mobile closures that use transmissions from caribou radio-collars to track the caribou. Essentially, the closures follow the caribou around. In a classic case of doublespeak, the BC government now says that all caribou habitat for the Central Selkirk herd is closed to snowmobiling! But in reality the government has issued “exceptions” to the closure to two local snowmobile clubs. The exceptions open to these clubs any caribou habitat not currently covered by the mobile closures. Anyone who wants to ride in the rest of the area, whether they are from the local area, or from Alberta or the Okanagan, can join the clubs — sweetheart deal for the snowmobile clubs: they can have almost all their riding terrain and gain numerous new members too. Increasing memberships can (and do) buy snow-grooming machines. And build huts that attract more and more members. Under the guise of caribou conservation, the government is continuing to foster the growth of the snowmobile industry.
There are serious problems with the mobile closures. For instance, they do not solve the problem of displacement from high quality habitat. They may protect the caribou only in low quality habitat to which they’ve been displaced. But there are also some assets to the mobile closures. VWS has launched a proposal to employ both:
540 people have signed a petition to maintain and expand fixed closures that would apply to all winter recreation
Some snowmobilers say they want to save the caribou and they are willing to limit where they ride. The caribou actually need all of their high-quality winter range. But a compromise to expand the closures from 3.3% to 6.5% might make an important difference if it is located in the highest quality winter habitat. Please sign VWS’s petition to give the Central Selkirk herd permanent, stable, expanded winter recreation closures.
Send the petition to Valhalla Wilderness Society/P.O. Box 329/New Denver, BC/V0G1S0. The total proposed, expanded closures shown below constitute 6.5% of the Caribou Winter Range for the Central Selkirk herd. Winter recreationists would have all the rest of the winter range plus areas outside of it. The purple colour on Silvercup Ridge shows open, high-elevation terrain for snowmobilers.
The Interior Wetbelt caribou are also called the “Deep-snow Mountain Caribou”. They are the only caribou in the world that live in steep mountains and spend winter in the deep snow of high-elevation subalpine areas, where they survive solely on a diet of tree lichens. Scientists have assessed them as genetically distinct, different from all other caribou in their habits, endangered and irreplaceable.
In September BC Forests Minister Doug Donaldson sent shock waves through the conservation community by announcing that only the Peace River region of BC will receive increased habitat protection for endangered Mountain Caribou. This denies additional protection to rapidly declining caribou herds of the Interior Wetbelt and Chilcotin regions. Instead, the government plans to boost caribou numbers for some of these herds by slaughtering more wolves from helicopters and killing cougars; this would expand wolf extermination over a vast area of BC.
Twenty-three environmental groups, animal protection organizations, wildlife biologists and photographers have sent a letter to BC Premier John Horgan and federal Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, protesting BC’s refusal to protect additional habitat for BC’s rare Deep-snow Mountain Caribou. The letter calls the Minister’s claim that the caribou don’t need more habitat “inexcusably erroneous”, and says the government should disavow it before further caribou recovery planning proceeds. The signators have called on Environment Canada to enforce the Species at Risk Act to increase habitat protection.
For details, read on. (more…)
At the same time that the BC government declared its refusal to increase habitat protection for any Mountain Caribou other than in the Peace River region, a leaked document reached the environmental community, revealing a plan to expand wolf extermination over a huge area of BC. The document was sent by the BC government to “selected stakeholders” in a secret consultation process. It plans helicopter wolf culls for the Hart Ranges caribou herd at the northern end of the Interior Wetbelt, and the Itcha-Ilgachuz and Tweedsmuir-Entiako herds of the west Chilcotin region. A separate plan was underway to slaughter wolves in the range of the Central Selkirk herd. The Valhalla Wilderness Society (VWS) and numerous other environmental groups strongly oppose these wolf culls.
Download submission to government on the Hart Ranges and Chilcotin wolf culls.
Download submission to government on the Central Kootenay wolf cull.
Wolf extermination is no substitute for habitat protection
The public is often given the impression that predator control and habitat protection are interchangeable; that killing wolves is an effective substitute for protecting habitat, or that killing more wolves means we can save caribou while protecting less forest. Killing wolves has been portrayed as wiping away the impacts on caribou of logging their habitat. This is why logging, heli-skiing and snowmobiling interests band together to lobby for killing wolves and building maternity pens: they have been misled to believe that they can avoid habitat protection and “save” the caribou at the same time, by killing and fencing out predators. But in a 2018 “Imminent Threat Assessment” by the federal government, Environment Canada scientists have stated that, once habitat disturbance reaches a certain level, it will be impossible to recover a herd to a self-sustaining level. Predator control from helicopters and maternity pens are very expensive. How long will the taxpayers want to continue them?
Old-growth forest and snowmobile closures as non-lethal wolf reduction
The serious long-term impacts of killing large carnivores