Canada: A tale of 10 Story Trees and Rivers of Salmon

The Land Conservancy

Heritage Conservation means many things and there is no ‘correct’ definition. I grew up on the coast of British Columbia, Canada, a land of forests and rugged coast. The oldest buildings are no more than 160 years. The focus of most conservation efforts have been on the protection of the large stands of old growth forests. These magnificent trees are often over 400 years and stand taller than 10 story buildings. My first exposure to conservation was in efforts to preserve stands of these huge trees, but in 1997 the Land Conservancy of British Columbia was formed.

My associate Nichola Walkden and I set out to conserve the endangered grasslands of the British Columbia interior. Our assignment was to find a way to engage the rural communities in their preservation. We began a process of ‘landowner contact’, essentially visiting cattle ranchers. Visiting a ranch involved driving for hours on dirt roads either engulfed in clouds of dust or pushing through mud 4 to 6 inches deep. The ranchers were always cautious about meeting with ‘environmentalists’ from the coast. But inevitably our visits turned into long sessions drinking tea and coffee around kitchen tables and talking about the history of their communities and their industry. We learned that these ranching families knew an immense amount about their land, its history and the wildlife that surrounded them. Nichola and I quickly learned that if we were to conserve the grasslands we had to conserve the rural population which maintained and protected them. Without ranchers, there would be no ranches and without ranches grasslands would be lost to development. Lost too would be the rich history of the people who had pioneered these places, the remains of their structures and even the meanings of the place names.

Talking Mountain Ranch, in British Colombia

Talking Mountain Ranch, in British Columbia

This was the beginning of our connection to agriculture. As we learned the importance of working with ranchers we realized it was necessary to become involved in the conservation of biodiversity on all types of agricultural land. We also learned of the need to educate urban populations about where their food comes from, why it is important to purchase good quality local foods. We established programs recognizing those farmers and ranchers who farm in harmony with nature.

TLC has protected nearly 80,000 acres of grasslands and farmland in BC. This protection has involved long stretches of some of BC’s most important salmon rearing rivers, which in turn support Grizzly Bear, Eagles and thriving riparian communities.

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