Valhalla Wilderness Society
January 26, 2023
THANKS TO MASSIVE PUBLIC SUPPORT THE INCOMAPPLEUX FOREST IS PROTECTED AT LAST!
WEST KOOTENAY — The Valhalla Wilderness Society (VWS) would like to thank the huge number of people who have poured out volunteer services, letters and donations for over twenty years to help save the Society’s Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal. The fabled “jewel in the crown” of that park proposal was the primeval forest of the Incomappleux Valley, with trees up to 1,800 years old.
The campaign for the Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park proposal began around 2002. On Wednesday, Minister of Environment George Heyman announced creation of a new Conservancy under BC Parks; it will cover the entirety of the Incomappleux unit of the VWS park proposal. At the announcement, Minister Heyman mentioned that letters in support of the Incomappleux had never stopped flowing in. Minister of Finance Katrine Conroy credited the VWS’s years of working for the park proposal.
The story begins around 2002 when leaders of the Valhalla Wilderness Society, the Wilderness Committee, and the Purcell Alliance for Wilderness visited the Incomappleux, agreed on a park proposal, and immediately intervened with government to stop the logging. Key support was provided by the local autonomous Sinixt First Nation who reside in the Slocan Valley and whose traditional territory includes the Incomappleux. Thereafter VWS did field work to design the boundaries, undertook 20 years of research and an extensive public campaign, and also took our proposal to the provincial government where deputy ministers called it a “gold standard” proposal.
Most pivotal were biologists Dr. Toby Spribille, Curtis Björk and Trevor Goward who identified 300 species of lichens, seven of which were new to science, as well as rare plants in the Incomappleux. This played an indispensible role in stopping the imminent logging. Thereafter the news of an untouched Inland Temperate Rainforest drew scientists from as far away as France, the Czech Republic and the United States.
Much credit also goes to local residents of the Slocan Valley, several of whom stood on the road and held off logging trucks until, in a very real miracle, a massive rockfall blocked the only access road just as logging trucks were moving in. Thereafter numerous VWS supporters put in hard labour every year slashing the brush from the road so that scientists, government representatives, film crews, and supporters could have access by ATV and foot.
With generous help from VWS’s funders, in 2015 VWS was able to recruit award-winning filmmaker Damien Gillis to document the Incomappleux forest. His film, Primeval: Enter the Incomappleux, toured the province and has received well over 100,000 views online. The letters to government never stopped.
“At 58,000 hectares, the promised new Incomappleux Conservancy is relatively large,” says Pettitt. “VWS is pleased that it takes in the entirety of the Incomappleux unit of our park proposal. The Conservancy is close to twice as large as the Incomappleux unit of VWS’s park proposal; but the extra is mostly clearcuts, inoperable terrain, rock and ice.
It is good news that the Incomappleux unit is to be protected under BC Parks. However, we would have preferred a Class A Park, which is the highest protection possible, instead of a Conservancy. Conservancies allow some development as long as it is compatible with criteria such as biodiversity; but it is customary for developers to claim that helicopter-accessed lodges are “sustainable” for the ecosystem. However, that is false: this development can kill or displace grizzly bears, mountain caribou, mountain goats and wolverines.
BC’s Conservation Data Base lists 184 Species at Risk that are native to our Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park proposal, and not all of them are in the Incomappleux. Known species include Endangered Mountain Caribou. The Mountain Caribou do not use the Incomappleux Valley any longer because of the heavy clearcutting. They use Goat Range Provincial Park, but they need more habitat outside the park to survive. This is why protecting the rest of the proposal is so important, as it would connect the new Incomappleux Conservancy and Glacier National Park with Goat Range and Bugaboo Provincial Parks.
Another important part of the Selkirk Mountain park proposal can be viewed in a new VWS film, Walking Among Giants, by Damien Gillis. It can be seen at www.vws.org/action . Unfortunately this part of the proposal is being logged by BC Timber Sales.
The new Conservancy is the result of mostly secret negotiations between the government, Interfor logging company and The Nature Conservancy (NCC). It is our understanding that NCC compensated Interfor $3.75 million, with Teck Cominco providing a large chunk of the money. This deal has greatly relieved our concern for the Incomappleux forest, but it has increased our concern for the future of expanding our park system.
The BC government has committed to double the park system by 2030, from 14% to 30% of BC, but how will this happen if environmental groups have to ask companies like Teck-Cominco and Foundations for the money to buy out logging companies, even when the land has already been heavily clearcut? Environment Minister Heyman and Finance Minister Conroy rightly acknowledged the public role in demanding protection for the Incomappleux, but the full significance of this massive and persistent public mandate needs to be recognized. Caribou, old-growth forests and biodiversity cannot wait, and the public cannot afford to buy protection from corporations; nor should they have to.
Contact: Craig Pettitt, 250-265-7224