The city in which I was born in, Kitimat, has hit a grand old age of 50 years, with its neighbouring city, Terrace, reaching the fine age of 75.
On the other hand, the grizzly bear and the salmon have been here for well over a thousand years in complete harmony with nature. It seems, after observing these watersheds for over 30 years, I have found a common denominator in their values and also their demise – it’s called water hydraulics.
Water is necessary for all living things but can also sneak up and flood the lifeblood of rich nitrogen systems away. The water cycle is also changed when resources in the upper reaches of watersheds are extracted. We are the ones who can make decisions about what happens in those upper streams and rivers that feed the watersheds.
Growing up in a virtually untouched ecosystem was a godsend, with six pound sea-run cutthroat trout and as many salmon as you wanted to harvest. The bounties were infinite – or were they? Giant Sitka Spruce and Western Red Cedar did not develop here by accident, but because of the environment they were in. Understanding of the rainforest and its inhabitants were put on the back burner when the logging progress began.
The first loggers to arrive were with MacMillan Bloedel and then Crown Zellerbach, who took out the lower, easy-to-reach areas in less than twenty years. After removing the valley floor ecosystem, right away there was another company ready to take the game to the next level. They planned to log all the upper reaches of the watersheds where the giant trees still remained.
Before the new company could get all the way up the watershed to its tributaries, changes were taking place right before my very eyes. The small feeder streams began to fragment while complete spawning areas were silted over, and sometimes completely removed by water table changes. The once common Grizzly bear was pushed back to the headwaters of the tributaries and main stem systems.
Plentiful salmon that my family once enjoyed were gone, along with the monarch grizzly bear.
So who was it that said, "Go ahead, log those upper watersheds?" I was just a kid, no one asked me. It was then that I started questioning who gave the logging outfits the right to do this.
We now have the opportunity to have a say in how the largest tree farm licence holder in B.C. does business. It is called B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS), and it is operated by our government.
My upcoming slide show on Grizzly bears will demonstrate the ecological values of these upper watersheds and the changes that come to them and their inhabitants if disturbed. Remember – when you sit deep within an untouched forest you are in the heart of a living-breathing organism.
Whistler Naturalists Speaker Series Presents: "Seasons of the Grizzly", presented by Fred Seiler at Millennium Place, Wednesday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. Fred has spent the last twenty-five years observing Grizzly bears in their natural habitat. In his presentation, he will talk about the Grizzly’s life cycle and the overall health of their biodiversity.
Whistler Naturalists Organizational meeting – We hope to expand the activities of the Whistler Naturalists and we need all the help we can get! If you'd like to be more involved please join us for an organizational meeting on Sunday, March 13 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Public Works Yard on Nesters Road. Lunch will be included. .
Whether you’re a seasoned naturalist or a novice, have been in Whistler for long time or a short time, we could use your help.
Written by: Fred Seiler