Province announces new nature conservancy in BC’s interior

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      The provincial government has announced a new 58,654-hectare nature conservancy in interior BC, part of its ongoing commitment to the federal 30 by 30 conservation initiative that aims to protect 30 per cent of Canada’s land and oceans by 2030.

      Incomappleux Valley, located southeast of Revelstoke in the Kootenay region, is part of BC’s 1.43-million-hectare inland temperate rainforest. Separate from the West Coast rainforest, BC’s inland rainforest—scattered through the moist valleys between the Cariboo Mountains and the Rockies—is one of only three in the world, the others being located in far eastern Russia and southern Siberia.

      “The rich and unique biodiversity of the Incomappleux Valley makes this one of the most-significant protected areas established in the province in a decade,” said George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy, in a statement.

      In 2019, The Narwhal reported that the inland rainforest was being “clear-cut as fast as the Amazon,” with huge chunks of the primary forest being levelled. 

      Incomappleux Valley was one of the nine areas where logging was paused in 2020, following the 2020 Old-Growth Strategic Review’s promise of “a new future for old forests.” The 14 recommendations laid out included increasing Indigenous Nations’ involvement in forestry stewardship, prioritizing ecosystems’ health and resilience, and protecting or deferring old forests from development. 

      Last September, two years after the report was released, conservation charities Ancient Forest Alliance, Sierra Club BC, and Wilderness Committee, released a joint statement that said the government had “so far complet[ed] none of the panel’s 14 recommendations two-thirds of the way through the three-year timeline laid out in the report.” 

      Even after the 2020 logging deferral, ecosystem collapse was still a major concern in 2021. A study from American, Canadian, and Australian researchers concluded that “core area collapse” could happen within “9 to 18 years” if similar logging levels were continued.

      By naming Incomappleux Valley as a nature conservancy, and protecting an additional 17,000 hectares from logging, the provincial government hopes to protect at least a part of the rare rainforest. The conservancy was agreed in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Interfor Corporation, and local First Nations, and resulted in Interfor releasing ownership over 75,000 of its forest tenure in the area. 

      “Shuswap appreciates that other important considerations are emerging in the forest sector other than fibre. We feel that stewardship of the lands and resources is long overdue and that this transfer is a step in the right direction,” said Shuswap Band Chief and Council. 

      The valley’s unique ecosystem, which includes massive old-growth cedars and hemlocks, hundreds of lichen species, and a variety of endangered plants and funguses, is also home to grizzly and black bears, which are often forced from their habitats when areas are logged.  

      “The Incomappleux Valley is a precious old-growth forest, which our Sinixt ancestors protected and sustained since time immemorial. It is now our job to ensure that the land and habitat are preserved for the benefit of future generations,” said Jarred-Michael Erickson, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the Sn̓ʕaýckstx (Sinixt) Confederacy.

      Torrance Coste, national campaign director at Wilderness Committee, said the move was “a hopeful model that should be implemented across the land base.”