B.C. valley of ancient trees, rare animals preserved in deal with forest firm

The Incomappleux Valley east of Revelstoke, B.C., is seen in this photo by Paul Zizka provided by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

A valley of giant trees, lakes and wetlands in southeastern British Columbia nearly 200 times the size of Vancouver's Stanley Park is being preserved in an agreement with governments, Indigenous groups, a forest company and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The partnership to protect the Incomappleux Valley east of Revelstoke, B.C., involves Interfor Corp. giving up about 75,000 hectares of its forest tenure.

The valley is a rare inland temperate rainforest with substantial areas of mature and old-growth trees, some ranging in age from 800 to 1,500 years.

The forest also supports hundreds of lichen species, some that are new to science. It provides habitat for grizzly and black bears, as well as a variety of endangered fungal and plant species, the government said.

The Nature Conservancy said in a statement that several species at risk are found in the valley, including two endangered bats and the threatened southern mountain caribou.

The northern edge of the project abuts Glacier National Park, which the Nature Conservancy says increases important habitat for wide-ranging animals across the southern Interior B.C. mountains.

The B.C. government said the conservancy covers almost 59,000 hectares, while another 17,000 hectares of forests in the southern part of the valley will be protected from logging.

Environment Minister George Heyman told a group gathered for the announcement on Wednesday at the legislature that the area is one of the few temperate rainforests in the world.

“It is a unique part of the province,” he said.

“The conservation community and people who live in the area understood and understand what an important and unique region this is and they've been calling for protection for many years.”

Heyman says the announcement supports the B.C. government's commitment to protect 30 per cent of the land base by 2030.

Premier David Eby said the valley is one of B.C.'s greatest treasures, home to old-growth cedars and hemlocks that are four metres in diameter.

“It's one example of how our province's landscape is a source of beauty, food and recreation and a source of great pride for all British Columbians.”

The environmental group Wildsight said it is celebrating the news.

“The protection comes after decades of threats to the Incomappleux River Valley, including an independent power project, and several attempts to log the remaining ancient forests. In 2005, a landslide occurred in the Incomappleux canyon halting logging operations and making the road impassable.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2023.