On the map, Wells Gray Provincial Park is a large green spot centred on the Clearwater Valley of east-central British Columbia. On the ground, at 540,000 ha, it is as large as, or larger than, one in every five nations on earth.
Even if you have never heard of Wells Gray Park, which is likely, chances are nevertheless good to excellent that you’re familiar with its iconic beating heart, which is Helmcken Falls.
What’s truly exceptional about Wells Gray – what enticed me to settle next to it, and what keeps me here – is the outline its boundary describes, and how this outline, except in the south, perfectly coincides with the drainage of an entire watershed. To my way of thinking this gives Wells Gray a form almost like the form of a living animal: a living ecosystem, let’s say, complete with internal circulatory system: the almost perfect park.
The watershed the park coincides with is that of the Clearwater River. The Clearwater River rises in glaciers in the park’s northern head, then flows southward 140 km to its southern outlet, there at the confluence with the North Thompson River.
In future blogs I’ll have much more to tell you about Wells Gray Park and the many natural values it sustains. But for now there’s something else I need you to know, something of a rather urgent nature:
Wells Gray Park is at a crossroad. Sometime next year, possibly sooner, the government of British Columbia is set to make a decision that will send the park skittering into one of two futures. These futures are very unlike and profoundly incompatible. In the first of these futures, Wells Gray Park continues to deepen in recognition and renown until such time as Canadians put it forward as candidate for World Heritage Site status. In the other future, the park will simply subside to an eroding wilderness set-aside embedded within an industrializing landscape. Both futures are, I believe, achievable, but they are not compatible.
If you’d like to have a hand in guiding the B.C. Government toward the better of these two options, please stay tuned. I’ll have the facts and figures of the case in a bit.
|Seasons repeat themselves but the tree
shading the yard keeps growing.
I write in support of wild places, here specifically Wells Gray Provincial Park in east-central British Columbia; but that’s just a for instance.
This blog is dedicated to the proposition that wilderness strongholds like Wells Gray are sacred ground, places of rejuvenation, places of heritage, even world heritage.
Wild places writ large are wilderness. According to the laws of supply and demand, wilderness in a shrinking world has been increasing in value since the opening days of the industrial revolution, perhaps earlier. Though hard to measure, it seems indisputable that wilderness carries more inherent value today than it did, say, fifty years ago – and that it will be much more valuable fifty years hence than it is today. Whether everybody alive today simultaneously and to the degree understands this is not relevant to the case.
To come at this another way: In the act of depleting the world’s wild places of their essential wildness, of making them over into resource ghettos for our convenience, we have effectively been bracketing the designated wilderness preserve, causing it to stand out in high relief in a widening ocean of human effect.
Wilderness preserves alone are made to last. Museums, galleries, archives aside, wilderness preserves are unique in a period of deepening human dominion - the "anthropocene" - a time when the only common currency is human-mediated change.
Only in this one remarkable case, the designated wilderness preserve, has society solemnly undertaken to cherish what we have received from the past and transmit it, undiminished, to the future.
We are born, we live, we die. In the interim, we spend our life energy engaged with the transient things of this world: home, hearth, family, country, fame and fortune, the hungers of the soul. But we also, I would argue, have responsibility to sustain the many intransient things as well: the golden rule, temperance, our own transmitted history, beauty. However you look at these, they are prerequisite to all cilvilized human existence.I would also argue that designated wilderness belongs in this latter category, if only as a latter-day remnant of a world order that generated human existence in the first place. To wilderness, our responsibilities are three in number: (1) to absorb what it has to teach us: biological literacy, humility, deep connection to the green living planet, transcendence. (2) to refrain from transforming it into byproducts of our own intention. (3) as required, to speak out for its intact transmission to the next generation rising.