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.
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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
VWS PROPOSES A MODEST COMPROMISE FOR EXPANDED WINTER RECREATION CLOSURES
Only 24 Central Selkirk caribou have survived. These are the Deep-snow Caribou that range between Nakusp, New Denver and Kaslo. What humans do this winter could decide their fate forever. Every year BC biologists have been reporting that these 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 3.3% OF THE WINTER RANGE (UWR) HAS BEEN PROTECTED FROM SNOWMOBILING
The area that the BC government set aside in 2007 for the Central Selkirk caribou, called Caribou Ungulate Winter Range (UWR), is insufficient for their protection and has left out known occupied habitat. 96.7% of the Central Selkirk UWR is still open for snowmobiling and cat-skiing, and part of that is on steep slopes tracked by avalanches. Multiple overlapping heli-skiing tenures cover approximately half of the range of the Central Selkirk herd.
VWS WANTS TO EXPAND THE SNOWMOBILE CLOSURES TO 6.5% OF THE UWR
Some snowmobilers say they want to save the caribou and they are willing to limit where they ride. Others are unwilling to have any further restrictions. 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.
Government is considering an experiment with temporary, mobile snowmobile closures that follow the caribou. But mobile closures will not return the high-quality feeding areas that people have taken away from the caribou. The caribou need some winter sanctuaries that stay put.
to support the proposed expansions and send 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.
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.
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 classified them as genetically distinct, different from all other caribou in their habits, endangered and irreplaceable.
Environmental groups, wildlife biologists and conservationists
denounce BC’s refusal to protect more habitat for the mountain caribou.
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 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 and maps, read on. (more…)
At the same time that the government announced its refusal to increase habitat protection for 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. The Valhalla Wilderness Society (VWS) and numerous other environmental groups strongly oppose these wolf culls. See the Valhalla Wilderness Society’s submission to government.
Killing predators is now a standard prescription by both provincial and federal government biologists for saving caribou. But the federal government admits that predator killing must be combined with adequate habitat protection. If not, the destruction of habitat will reach levels where it is impossible to ever achieve a self-sustaining caribou herd. The existence of the herd will then be dependent upon permanent extermination of large carnivores and maternity pens, both of which are very expensive. To call this “recovery” is extremely dishonest. The federal government has warned that, without adequate habitat, if the predator killing and maternity pens ever stop, the caribou will simply continue to decline and die out.
The reality is that BC is logging, and building roads and pipelines at a level that is driving caribou and many other species extinct. Government and industry adamantly refuse to make any significant sacrifices to stem the loss of species. Faced with Canada’s Species at Risk Act and citizen protest, they are figuratively pointing a gun at everyone’s head, demanding that we must give up either our predators or our caribou so that unsustainable logging can go on. But the truth is that through ongoing habitat loss we are losing both our large carnivores and our predators.
Not your average mustangs — dominant Spanish Barb blood has given the wild horses of the Chilcotin their unusual strength and beauty. They are national treasures.
Besides killing wolves and cougars to increase west Chilcotin caribou herds, the government also proposes reducing moose, elk, deer and even wild horses. Essentially, these animals would suffer culls because they are wolf and cougar food, and if the predators are exterminated, their primary prey will have to be culled too, to prevent a population explosion and overgrazing of the range. While there are moose, deer and elk in many places across Canada, wild horses are relatively rare.
The horse evolved in North America but apparently went extinct after the last Ice Age. They were brought back to the Americas by the Spaniards in the early 1500s, and some horse scientists and evolutionary biologists consider today’s wild horses a returned native species, not alien. Fossil remains of an earlier species of horse have even been discovered in the BC interior. They have been wild in the Chilcotin since about 1750. Genetic studies sponsored in part by VWS have determined that the wild horses north of the Chilko-Chilcotin River carry the dominant bloodlines of Spanish Barb horses brought to the Chilcotin by aboriginal peoples.
The caribou of the west Chilcotin belong to the Northern Group of Mountain Caribou. Their recent rate of decline is frightful. The Itcha-Ilgachuz herd had 2,000 animals in 2002. By 2016 there were only 841 animals. The amount and kind of habitat disturbance or protection, winter recreation closures, and hunting mortalities should be considered before we blame wolves and cougars.
The federal government’s 2014 Recovery Strategy cited as threats to the Itcha-Ilgachuz herd: “expected expansion of roads due to logging and mountain pine beetle salvage logging” and snowmobiling, saying “Increased levels of use are expected with an increased level of access created by industrial development, particularly mountain pine beetle salvage harvesting.” There is licensed hunting of the Itcha-Ilgachuz herd, as well as a likely significant First Nations hunt. The recent leaked government document offered no information on existence of these activities or their impacts on the caribou populations, yet the proposed predator-prey culls threaten a wide swathe of killing wildlife across the Chilcotin.