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‘We owe it to our children’: 75,000 hectares of old growth forest conserved east of Revelstoke

The Incomappleux Valley is home to the globally rare inland temperate rainforests

After a large conservation effort led by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), more than 70,000 hectares of forest in the Incomappleux Valley east of Revelstoke will be protected.

“We owe it to our children,” said British Columbia Premier David Eby at the press conference on Jan. 25.

The announcement was made at the BC Legislature Hall of Honour in Victoria with Premier Eby and other provincial ministers in attendance. Premier Eby called the Incomeppleux Valley ‘one of BC’s greatest treasures’, and went on to add that the protection of the area is ‘one of the most significant’ of its kind in the last decade.

The NCC worked with local First Nations, Interfor Corporation, and the provincial government to find a way to conserve the massive swathe of land. The result was Interfor agreeing to release 75,000 hectares of land – an area bigger than a number of countries, like Singapore – extinguishing their forest tenure.

The Incomappleux Valley is a diverse region that hosts several ecosystems, and according to Wildsight Revelstoke, is home to cedar trees that are up to 1,800 years old. The valley includes the top of the Selkirks, which is an alpine ecosystem, and near the bottom, there are streams, wetlands, and lakes. It also contains rare inland temperate rainforests that local ambassadors have advocated protecting for years because of its rarity on a global scale.

“Making this announcement is quite an honour,” said Chief James Tomma of the Little Shuswap Lake Band in the announcement. “Old growth used to be seen as a dollar value, but now people can actually go look at it.”

The NCC started working on the project three years ago. The B.C. regional vice president of the NCC, Nancy Newhouse, discussed how although the NCC has been involved for the past three years, the effort to conserve the land extends well beyond that.

“From an Indigenous perspective, the [First] Nations have stewarded the land from time immemorial. More recently than that, there’s been many individuals and organizations that have recognized the importance of the Incomappleux Valley and called for its protection,” said Newhouse.

To get the agreement to protect the land, the NCC operated as a “facilitator” between the various donors, which included Teck Resources, Wyss Foundation, Wilburforce Foundation, private donors, and both the provincial and federal government. Overall, the fundraising effort resulted in $4 million raised to help conserve the land. Newhouse said it’s a role she enjoyed, and one she’s looking forward to the NCC doing in the future.

“We also hope that this marks a turning point for the trajectory of the inland temperate rainforest,” said Eddie Petryshen of Wildsight Revelstoke. He hopes that the conservancy in the Incomappleux Valley can act as a stepping stone towards protecting other significant areas near Revelstoke like Frisby Creek and the forest along the Seymour River.

The inland temperate rainforest has been assessed as a red listed ecosystem on the brink of ecosystem collapse.

Locally, Petryshen says he hopes residents of Revelstoke appreciate the forest that is being protected, as it is ‘right in their backyard’

“It’s critically important to connect to those places and to know they’re there and also fight for those places,” added Petryshen.

Newhouse discussed how partnering with Interfor Corporation helped bridge the gap between the conservation effort and the forestry industry.

“We really believe there’s no space for us and them. We need to take all of us approach, and find those spaces where we can have sustainable forestry, where we can have conservation, and have a landscape level approach where we can still have both people and nature thrive,” said Newhouse.

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