For the Love of the Valley
Recently I had the opportunity to take a tour of the Chilliwack River Valley with a few of the major stakeholder organizations, and I discovered anew the beauty of the Valley. Our goal for the day, as we drove the roads, walked some of the trails, and experienced the forest and river, was to reflect on the future of the Valley. My perception going into our tour was that the track that we are on, and the future that could be for this beautiful piece of backcountry were vastly different. I wish I could say that my opening notion was entirely wrong, however these contrasting futures were not as far apart as I had feared.
Representatives from Tourism Chilliwack, the FVRD, as well as myself were toured by Ts’elxweyeqw Tribe chief and operating officer Matt Wealick, who holds both cultural and economic interests in the valley. Matt has a unique perspective on things as his office is somewhat of a clearing house for many of the industrial operations applications put forth for the valley, everything from Independent Power Projects (IPP’s) to logging and mining. However he also wears the responsibility of protecting First Nations heritage throughout the area and making sure that sacred places are protected both for historic purposes as well as ongoing cultural practices such as winter dances and cedar bark stripping.
As we drove the rough logging roads that wind throughout the valley I could not help but think of the rivers that feed the Chilliwack River being dammed and the huge cedars, firs and hemlocks that are at the core of the ecstatic experience I was having, being harvested.
Currently there are only 14 “official” hiking trails in the valley however, as many of us are aware, there are many more trails that simply lack official designation. The lack of status can lead to industrial activities taking place right over top of the trail with no legal obligation to take this social resource into consideration.
What is more, the endangered species list that calls these habitats home is long and diverse. Among the endangered are the Pacific Water Shrew, Northern Spotted Owl, Trowbridge’s Shrew, Pacific Giant Salamander, North Cascades Grizzly, Mountain Beaver, Tall Bugbane, Cascade Parsley Fern, Cliff Paintbrush, Alpine Anemone, and the Phantom Orchid to name only a few.
This April the Chilliwack River Valley Cleanup Society,( CVRCS) held a cleanup event for the river and its shorelines and with the help of 250 volunteers pulled over 4,370kg of garbage out of the area. This cleanup takes place a couple of times a year and this yield is nothing out of the ordinary. (more info on CVRCS @ http://www.cleanrivers.ca/)
My wish is that we preserve what we have, that we expand the protected areas, build habitat to allow endangered species to flourish, and expand the scope of the user base of this vast and beautiful wilderness place. Let us look back in 20 years with smiles broadly stretched across our faces as we stroll through old growth and reflect on a vision well implemented and interests appropriately balanced. We are early enough on in the time-scape of this place that we have much room for good and lasting decision making to take place if only level heads and visionaries can prevail.
The changes we make in the Chilliwack River Basin today are not the same as a poorly constructed building that will someday come down and hopefully be rebuilt with better execution, the mistakes we make on our natural and wild lands are lasting and scaring.
– Sam Waddington – Owner of Mt. Waddington’s Outdoors : Equipping you for Rock, Water, Snow, Sand, Wind and anything else the Outdoors can throw at you!
Published in The Chilliwack Progress “Alive Outside” – September 5th 2013