“We had bought time….”
In 1998 I was told about huge cedar trees in the Fish or Incomappleax River by a Kaslo logger. The following summer (1999) I was thrilled to be asked by Colleen McCory a director of Valhalla Wilderness Society to be part of a Kootenay “old growth” mapping project they had embarked on.
I told Colleen about the big cedars in the Fish. She had been informed that the valley had been completely logged. Luckily I was stubborn and insisted on hiking into the Fish. She arranged for a Sinixt man, Robert Watt to hike into the Incomappleax with me, we also had a camera person.
We met at the front end (west) of the valley where the river confluences with Arrow Lake in the north east reach. After 4 wheeling along on the south side for 20 kms or so through many cedar old growth clear cuts, the narrow abandon logging road became over grown with alder and we could no further on the road.
We put on our packs and thrashed another 3 or 5 kms east to the last clear cut. We found a wide Grizzly trail and started across the clear cut of “many berries” and Grizzly berry piles. You could smell Griz.
After crossing a small raging creek that was the east border of the last clear cut, we dropped into towering devils club and came face to face with an ancient red cedar grove of 3 giants.
An hour or so later on the Griz trail passing more ancient cedar/hemlock we arrived at the confluence of Battle Brook and the Fish. It is a narrow confluence gorged out of granite that boils with steaming water. A misting river, nourishing life.There was no safe way across Battle Brook, so we followed the Grizzly trail up BB through ancient groves of cedar/hemlock and wide thick nearly impassable green slide that sweep down off the Selkirks.
For 2 days we slowly hiked and filmed the majestic ancient forest. On the way out we met a Magic Mouse. (Another Story)
I gave the footage to VWS and Western Canada Wilderness Society that in turn brought it to the attention of lichenologists at UBC. They saw what they believed to be oceanic lichens in the footage. A month later they came and VWS escorted them for a day or two of research that indeed revealed that there were oceanic lichens and other exotic plant life in this misting hidden river valley, 800kms from the Pacific ocean.
Pope/Talbot had plans to rebuild the old road and blast a new road into the BB confluence and clear cut this ancient ecosystem. We, managed with Western Canada Wilderness funding to produce several thousand colourful brochures of the Ancient ecosystem, hoping to raise public awareness of this remote valley and stop the destruction. Pope/Talbot would have none of it. Finally the UBC PHD lichen folks were able to convince the M.o. F in Kamloops to ask P/T for a temporary moratorium. P/T agreed.
The moratorium held until 2005.
That summer I received a call from a VWS supporter asking me to go stop a P/T road building crew that was getting ready to end the moratorium and blast more road into the alpine of a major tributary of the Fish called Boyd creek.
The summer before I had hiked for 3 days up Boyd through majestic ancient cedar and huge Engleman spruce into the headwaters of the Westfall River. It was a rough 3 days of West Kootenay mountain game trails. There was Grizzly sign everywhere. Coming face to face with a huge sow Griz and 2 cubs was thrilling. Witnessing the powerful sow and 2 cubs effortlessly loping away up a slope “steeper than God’s Head” on a huckleberry blue mountain slope, over dead fall was awe inspiring.
I was desperate to stop the logging road extension up to the Boyd creek alpine; I knew the vibrant Grizzly population in the area would be wiped out by the spring Grizzly hunting season. On the way out of Boyd I had a spiritual experience in a huge green slide with a dozen small creeks gushing down the steep banks below the glacier into a Hazelnut/Willow/Alder bowl. There was wildlife sign everywhere between the numerous little creeks that slipped into a large swamp above Boyd proper.
I was exhausted from the 3 days of bush whacking up and down when I spotted the road ribbons flapping in the breeze above the bowl on the east slope of Boyd. I just started weeping, thinking about road hunters sitting on their tailgate sighting powerful rifles on the hungry Grizzlies and blasting them into extinction.
I called my Metis friend Eloise Charet and asked if she could get up the Fish and get in front of the road crew; as I was not able to get up until the following day. She and another courageous woman in an old van made it up to the Boyd creek bridge and parked the old van on the bridge, a few hours before road building crew arrived.
The following day our trusted friend Henry arrived and we set up a “peaceful occupation” to protect Sanity.For 2 months our blockade held until P/T foreman faked an assault charge against Henry and P/T was able to procure a court injunction from Justice McKwen to destroy the old growth forest. Even Justice McKwen was surprised and not pleased when he asked P/T expensive Vancouver lawyer how he would get the RCMP ready to go and remove a blockade way up in the Fish river.
“ There are 4 RCMP trucks and a half dozen officers waiting for a fax at the Nakusp RCMP detachment, your honour.”
“How did you know I would grant the injunction?” The lawyer just smiled. Justice McKwen was not happy but none the less granted the court order.
Our crew of 3 protesters was broken up bad. We argued and cried that evening, when the RCMP left as dark clouds of a torrential rain storm brewed up in the Rockies.
That night under a tarp flapping in the wind and rain, I drank tequila and smoked camels trying to find the courage to defy the court order. Earlier Eloise and I had fought as I foolishly wanted to play cat and mouse with the machinery. The flat decks rolled into our camp at 5am in the pouring dark rain, they unloaded huge road building machines. I lite another camel and sucked back more tequila. Eloise was right: “they will kill you dude if you go up the mountain and jump in front of their bulldozers.
After the machine disappeared up the old Boyd creek road, I stoked our Sacred Fire and waited for Eloise and Henry to join me. It was so miserable thinking about my Grizzly family loosing the protection of the rugged terrain.It was not long before Eloise and Henry joined me. We sat together around our Fire, we boosted our desperate mood with talk of an international boycott campaign against P/T and the BC government. We needed something to hold back our tears.
About noon the sun broke through. We all turned as a large road grader slowly came down the Boyd road stopped and the elderly gentleman stepped down on to the road smiling. Eloise immediately told me to bring him a coffee and cookies. She was always adamant that we treat the local contractor crew with respect as they were just trying to feed their families. They had not in any way been threatening toward us.
I approached the smiling logger: “ So I guess those old trees don’t want to be cut down aye buddy?!!!?”
“Fk no, I answered!!!”
“Well I guess you have not heard but a big rock slide came down on the bridge pinned to the canyon down there. An hour ago I received a call on the satellite phone, the engineers have examined the bridge and it has been determined the bridge is not up to standard. We have been ordered to take our machines out of here. No logging this year buddy.” He as well did not want to log Boyd.
I was dancing and singing as he got back in the grader smiling.
“Can I keep the cup?”
“Yes, yes keep the cup Eloise was streaming with tears. We hugged we danced, we laughed, we rolled a big joint.
We had bought time for our Prayers to be answered.
Tommy Tree Hugger (me) Water Woman Eloise Charet and Mountain Man Mick continued our efforts to protect. Our greatest contribution to the Canadian/BC environmental movement was our 2 year blockade that defeated STOPPED BC Liberals (Gordy Scrambles) BC Hydro/Enron and various national and international corporations from damming and privatizing most or all of BC’s rivers and creeks for “ruin of river” hydro scams. Called Independent Power Projects. Our 2 year peaceful assembly on Glacier Creek inspired other concerned active citizens to take action against the moronic surrender on all of BC waterways to corporate ownership.
Please see BC Water Wars also on YouTube see “Howser In Peril”.
The summer before last (2021) Water Woman and Mountain Man were asked by active folks for help to protect a pristine Ancient Red Cedar/hemlock drainage 120 kms north of Revel stoke called Argonaut creek in the Big Mouth drainage. The three was packed up some camping gear and drove to BM creek and met a dozen folks from Revel stoke on the logging road just west of the still pristine Argonaut Creek.
None of these folks had ever liberated a BC wilderness ecosystem from destruction before. For a decade they had organized letter writing campaigns, they had raised money for research and expeditions into the wilderness drainage with many reports of Mountain Caribou, Wolverine, Grizzly and other endangered species in the area. They forwarded this important research to all levels of Canada’s government in hopes of some protection for the small amount of viable old growth ecosystem remaining.
BC Timber Sales and Downie logging ignored the well meaning citizens pleas for Sanity in the massive wilderness area north of Revel stoke; until 3 active Metis arrived and in a couple hours were parked on a bridge over Big Mouth Creek in front of 2 young road builders camped nearby.
On the bridge we had a meeting with the worried looking folks from Revel stoke to decide how to proceed with the Sanity revolution. Should would tell the 2 hard working young men that they would be blockaded the next morning or wait until they found us on the bridge at 4 am.
Eloise and I encouraged them to go talk to the men as they may not want to stay in remote bug invested wilderness but return to their friends and families in Revel stoke.
Three young Women courageously walked back to the camper to tell the young men about the “peaceful assembly” on the bridge that separated them from their road building machinery that was up the mountain behind us. They were trying to build a road in very steep wet green slide into Argonaut proper. BC loggers/road builders call it “drunken soil”.
They told the young Women it was the 3rd time a road had failed in that slide, they also thought it was stupid. An hour or so later the Women returned smiling with a requested from the young men that we allow them through our “Sanity Assembly” that evening to pick some up personal tools and gear from the work site.
Eloise and I had to get Mountain Man Mick into line as he at first did want to let the young Men pass.
We removed our “peaceful assembly” from the bridge. The Men smiled as slowly past us and went to fetch their tools.
The active folks from Revel stoke were astonished and bewildered, they had just STOPPED the destruction of a precious pristine wilderness drainage in their back yard.
Please see Old Growth Revylution for up to date information on the status of our Sanity campaign north of Revel stoke.
Also next month I will post our campaign that STOPPED an industrial destruction road (for now) into Asher creek, This a very important very ancient old growth drainage into the northwest corner of Trout Lake. This a more or less intact Ancient Red/Cedar/Hemlock ecosystem right to the shores of Trout Lake. Probably the last intact wilderness drainage to TL. Easy access for school children/older folk and tourist to experience an intact Ancient Drainage. Not just a token old growth trail beside massive clear-cuts as BC Timber Sales or the Ministry Of Force ( M.oF.) brags about up the 12 mile forestry road to Kokanee Glacier Park.
Go to Asher creek hike over to the Halfway river drainage. There are still likely Mountain Caribou not captured and caged yet by our local snowmobiling club and heli-skiing folks.