The Valhalla Wilderness Society is a registered charity that was founded in 1975, in the small village of New Denver, British Columbia, Canada. The village sits on Slocan Lake, with a grand view of Valhalla Provincial Park, achieved by the Society in 1983. 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. VWS 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. Valhalla 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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Today British Columbia has over 1,500 species at risk, and that’s only the ones that have been formally recognized. Scientists around the world have said that the loss of biodiversity is a global crisis that threatens the survival of humans. At its home base in the town of New Denver, across from the Valhalla Mountains on Slocan Lake, VWS remains dedicated to the role of fully protected areas in maintaining biodiversity; it is working on park proposals in BC’s Inland Rainforest Region, on the coast, and in the Chilcotin region. However, there are many environmental impacts today that have no borders, such as climate change, or pollution from a mine, or the threat of an oil spill from tankers on the coast, or threats to wildlife. VWS has been involved in many activities trying to stop such impacts.
A trail groomer used to pack snowmobile trails from valley bottoms up into sulalpine winter caribou habitat
BC GOVERNMENT CARIBOU MANAGERS REPORT
DECLINING HERDS DISPLACED BY SNOWMOBILERS
Top government managers of B.C.’s Mountain Caribou Recovery Plan (MCRIP) have reported that the plan is failing to keep snowmobiles out of caribou’s winter habitat, even as caribou herds race towards extinction. In their 2015 briefing report to the MCRIP Progress Board (1), the government managers said that caribou are being displaced from winter feeding grounds by snowmobilers, some of whom are riding in areas legally closed to snowmobiling. The BC Government's own Mountain Caribou Progress Board has called for voluntary snowmobile closures to become legal closures. But meanwhile the government is allowing a booming industry of groomed snowmobile trails into mountain caribou habitat, where snowmobile clubs are charging $25 per sled to use the trails. And the website of BC's own Ministry of Environment provides a handy list BC snowmobile dealers and their phone numbers, in case you want a snowmobile to ride in mountain caribou habitat: a chilling example of the government's double-faced policies, in claiming such concern for saving caribou as to require shooting wolves from helicopters, yet ignoring the packed-snow highways that snowmobiles make for wolves and cougars to have easy access to caribou in winter.
Read the full Press Release
Download the backgrounder
Summer 2015 logging of old growth hemlock forests by BCTimber Sales in unprotected mountain caribou habitat on the west side of Trout Lake
MOUNTAIN CARIBOU PLAN FAILED TO PROTECT
ADEQUATE INLAND TEMPERATE RAINFOREST
While the Province doles out tax dollars to kill wolves and pen caribou, logging
continues to destroy the caribou’s habitat, putting many other species at risk.
Ten environmental groups have sent a letter to BC Premier Christy Clark, urging the creation of new parks in the Interior Wetbelt. The groups say the parks would be for mountain caribou and for all species associated with Inland Temperate Rainforest. BC's Conservation Data Centre website shows 40 red- and blue-listed species in the humid/wet cedar-hemlock forests where the mountain caribou range. The proposals are the Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal, the Quesnel Lake Wilderness and the Walker Wilderness in the Robson Valley. These areas have some of the highest biodiversity in the Interior Wetbelt, and they have formerly been recognized by the BC government as having high values for old-growth Inland Temperate Rainforest and Mountain Caribou. Instead the government is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on experimental techniques to kill wolves and pen pregnant mountain caribou. If the caribou are lost, all the habitat protected under the recovery plan could revert to logging and other industrial use. The BC taxpayers could be left with nothing to show for millions of dollars spent on years of caribou conservation: no caribou and no new parks to help other species at risk, while the caribou conservation zones revert to logging and other industrial use.
Download the full text of the press release
Download the letter to Premier Christy Clark
Fact Sheet on the Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal
Fact Sheet on the Quesnel Lake Wilderness Area Proposal
VALHALLA WILDERNESS SOCIETY CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF CARIBOU DEATHS IN MATERNITY PENNING PROJECTS
September 1, 2015
The Valhalla Wilderness Society (VWS) is calling for an independent review of two maternity penning projects for BC’s endangered mountain caribou, after seven caribou died in the pens this summer. One adult cow and four newborn calves died in a pen near Revelstoke; and in a similar project near Chetwynd, one calf was stillborn and one died of unknown causes. In addition, two cows in the Chetwynd pen may have aborted. VWS is calling for a panel of academic caribou experts not connected in any way with the projects or with government, saying that the projects are failing and may even be doing more harm than good. The VWS press release points out that a long line of industrial and recreational green-washers is sponsoring the programs, which shift attention away from desperately needed new habitat protection, and the need for expanded closures to snowmobiling and heli-skiing.Full Text
Download the Backgrounder
May 11, 2015
NEW RESEARCH SHOWS HABITAT LOSS DRIVING
SOUTH PEACE CARIBOU TOWARDS EXTINCTION
Eight environmental groups, Valhalla Wilderness Society, Pacific Wild, Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Wilderness Committee, Wildlife Defence League, The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals, Wolf Awareness Inc., and Bears Matter, applaud a recently published scientific report that reveals how much habitat the caribou in the South Peace region have lost. The title of the report says it all: ‘Witnessing Extinction - Cumulative impacts across landscapes and the future loss of an evolutionarily significant unit of woodland caribou in Canada’ (Johnson et al., 2015).
“The findings of the report are shocking, but this is the very first time that, for a rapidly disappearing caribou population, we’ve had actual measurements of the amount and kind of habitat they’ve lost,” says Anne Sherrod, spokesperson for the Valhalla Wilderness Society. “Now that we know the habitat loss is severe, it puts a heavy responsibility on government to do something about it.” Full Text
OVER SIXTY CANADIAN AND INTERNATIONAL SIGNATORIES VOICE OPPOSITION TO THE B.C. WOLF KILL IN AN OPEN LETTER TO THE B.C. GOVERNMENT*
“B.C. Government scapegoats wolves for its failure to protect caribou habitat.”
February 25, 2015: For Immediate Release More than sixty organizations and concerned citizens not only from British Columbia, but also from around the globe have signed an open letter addressed to Premier Clark opposing the B.C. government’s ongoing wolf slaughter. The government has inhumanely slaughtered at least 24 wolves by helicopter in the South Selkirk Mountains and another 160 wolves either have been or are about to be killed from helicopters in the South Peace region by the end of this month. Furthermore, we have learned that that the B.C. government actually plans to continue the aerial killing of wolves for at least four more years, and it is willing to spend millions of tax dollars doing it. This means it won’t be hundreds of wolves that die because of government’s refusal to protect adequate habitat for caribou; thousands of wild wolves will be inhumanely shot from helicopters. The B.C. government claims that the wolf slaughter will “protect” the imperiled caribou in these areas from extinction, even though there is no scientific basis to its claim. For years, the B.C. government has sterilized and/or killed wolves while the caribou populations have continued to crash.Full Text of Press Release,80 Signature Open Letter80 Signature Open Letter
* Signators have since increased to 80
HEARTLAND OF THE KHUTZEYMATEEN GRIZZLY BEAR SANCTUARY THREATENED BY PROPOSED PRINCE RUPERT GAS LNG ROUTE
Trans Canada Pipeline Company has been contracted by Petronas, a state company owned by the Malaysian government, to plan and build Canada's biggest natural gas pipeline through two provincially protected conservancies that adjoin the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary on the BC North Coast. Survey work has already started for a major 200 foot-wide right-of-way that will include a major industrial road and compressor station needed for the 4-foot diameter pipeline.
According to VWS bear biologist Wayne McCrory “The survey is apparently being carried out with no park use permit, but with endorsement from the Premier's office. However, a permit will be required for the next stage of creating drilling pads, and may soon be issued by the government; yet the public has been kept totally in the dark, only learning of the surveys from commercial bear viewing operators in the Khutzeymateen Inlet. Any permits issued in the protected conservancies will be in violation of the Park Act”.
If allowed, the roaded pipeline corridor through the wilderness parks will set a bad precedent and allow for more pipelines or transmission lines to follow. According to McCrory the pipeline corridor will shatter the ecological integrity of the whole area, and is a threat to every grizzly bear for miles around. People are urged to write Premier Christie Clark and Environment Minister Mary Polack to ask that the surveys be stopped immediately and the pipeline not be allowed in parks and conservancies (See Take Action). See also links to VWS press release and map below.
Download Sept. 5/13 Press Release
Download Map of pipeline route through area
VWS report to Enbridge Pipeline Review:
ONE MAJOR SPILL COULD WIPE OUT A CORE SPIRIT BEAR POPULATION
Gribbell Island lies in one of the most treacherous marine passages on the BC north where hundreds of huge tankers would carry Enbridge’s deadly tarsands bitumen to China and other markets. In 2012 VWS biologist Wayne McCrory completed a report on the threat of a oil tanker spill to the bears of Gribbell Island and other coastal wildlife. A comparison of the claims made by the Enbridge environmental impact assessment with the facts of what actually happened in the Exxon Valdez oil spill shows that Enbridge enormously under-estimates the risks and impacts of a spill. Since all of the 100-150 black and white-phase Kermode bears would use the marine shoreline of Gribbell for travel and feeding on marine life, a major tanker spill would cause irreparable and long-term harm to this genetically unique “mother island of the white bears”.
Click here to download Wayne McCrory's oral presentation of this VWS report, and more, to the Joint Review Panel on Enbridge, on January 28, 2013.
A Review of the Threats of an Oil Tanker Spill (38 pages)
Link to Vancouver Sun article
GRIBBELL ISLAND - MOTHER ISLAND OF THE WHITE SPIRIT BEAR – NEEDS TO BE PROTECTED
Small but rugged Gribbell Island (20,690 ha) sits astride two of BC’s central coast marine shipping lanes, the Inside Passage and Douglas Channel. A UBC genetics study headed by Dr. Kermit Ritland discovered that the island is evolutionarily significant as over 40% of its small isolated population of 100-150 Kermode bears, a subspecies of the North American black bear, are white. This represents Canada’s Galapagos. Evolutionary biologists believe that the gene for the white coat evolved on Gribbell and they call it the “mother island of the white bears”. A 2012 VWS cumulative effects study by Wayne McCrory showed that past over hunting and trapping and collection of white hides for museums combined with clearcut logging and declining salmon runs may be putting this unique bear gene pool on the edge. Climate change also will have an impact. The island needs to be protected by the province and the Gitga’at First Nation as a conservancy or park.
The VWS spirit bear project is supported by the Winton Foundation for the Welfare of Bears. See the spirit bear in their June Newsletter: wintonbearfoundation.org
Learn more about Dr. Ritland’s exciting spirit bear genetic studies: genetics.forestry.ubc.ca/Ritland
Article in Evolution (Volume 66. Issue 2) on population genetics of spirit bear: onlinelibrary.wiley.com › Evolution › Evolutionary Biology › Evolution
Download the reports SPIRIT BEARS UNDER SIEGE:
The Case for the Protection of Gribbell Island (58 pages)
Link to Vancouver Sun article
SELKIRK MOUNTAIN CARIBOU PARK PROPOSAL
A population of about 85 endangered mountain caribou, primeval Inland Temperate Rainforest with trees up to 1,800 years old, hundreds of species of lichens, rare plants, core habitat for blue-listed grizzly bears and wolverines, and spawning grounds of the bull trout of Kootenay Lake and the Arrow Lakes Reservoir: this is the Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal. The Valhalla Wilderness Society begins 2011 with the release of this 28-page report chock full of maps and colour photographs.
Download the Fact Sheet (2 pages)
Download the Proposal
A New Project Initiative for the Valhalla Wilderness Society
Wolves and Wild Horses, Secrets of the Brittany Triangle
The Valhalla Wilderness Society has teamed up with Friends of the Nemaiah Valley (FONV) and the Xeni Gwet'in community of the Tsilhqot'in First Nation to foster research surrounding the dietary habits of grey wolves, Canis lupus. The project area is in the unique wild horse region of BC's Chilcotin in and around the Brittany Triangle and the Nemaiah Valley. The groups are sponsoring graduate-level research by wolf biologist Sadie Parr to fill an important knowledge gap about predator-prey interactions among wolves, wild horses and domestic livestock. This knowledge will help us in our efforts to foster coexistence among wolves and people as we combine science with community-level outreach goals. Sadie has prepared a Rancher’s Toolkit for predator friendly practices.
Download VWS newsletter on Sadie’s Wolf Study
Download Toolkit for Predator Friendly Practices: www.wolfawarenessinc.org
DNA STUDY ON BC-BRITTANY TRIANGLE WILD HORSES CHALLENGES HISTORY
A soon to be released study of the genetics of wild horses in a remote corner of the province poses more questions than it answers. The study by world horse DNA expert Dr. Cothran and biologist Wayne McCrory was done at the Texas A & M University for VWS, FONV (Friends of Nemaiah Valley) and the Xeni First Nations. It is the first of its kind in western Canada. The Brittany Triangle is the remotest area left in western Canada where some 200 wild horses have roamed since before the coming of Europeans. The DNA study area is part of the Eagle Lake Henry Cayuse wild horse reserve created by the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations – the only wild horse preserve in western Canada. DNA was analyzed from blood samples taken from domestic horses captured in the wild as well as from hair samples collected from tree branches and bedding areas. Historic documentation indicates that Brittany horses most likely originated from horses of Spanish ancestry brought in to the area by Tsilhqot’in First Nations about 1740 along ancient trade routes from Plateau grasslands to the south. However, the DNA study found very little remaining Spanish ancestry. The origins were more from the Canadian Heritage Horse breed or its ancestors. The most intriguing result of the genetic study is the possibility that Yakut horses, an ancient horse of Russian heritage, also contributed to the origins of the herd. How these bloodlines got to the remote Chilcotin is a mystery since the Russians only ever brought a small number of horses across to their Pacific coast fur trading posts. The report will be released in several months.
Download Map of Chilcotin Wild Horses