The last thing I want is to burn bridges. As a local chiropractor, I depend on good rapport with individuals who are on either side of the adventure tourism proposal (featured on the front page of the April 26th Advance). As Lorne mentioned in his column, this is the type of issue that often polarizes people and I naturally risk falling out with those who pick the other side. However, no matter how hard I try, I can’t keep quiet on this one.
I love the mountains. They are my home. Anyone who knows me knows this is no exaggeration or statement of ego. It’s just a matter of fact. Since moving to BC over 7 years ago I have stood on most the major peaks surrounding the valley. I have found my way up many others in the Selkirk, Purcell and Rocky ranges. I have also hiked in the area under a proposal a few times. I’m planning another hike in that area this summer (Snowcrest Mountain). Often these summits have been obtained after considerable physical effort. Often I’ll use logging roads to reach trailheads or access points. Often route finding and bushwhacking are involved. My point: The mountains are accessible to those who put in the effort. And I admit, I like it this way. You put in the effort, you have your reward. There are enough logging roads to access the remote if you really want to go there. Likewise, we already have a wonderful access point for backcountry skiing in the Kootenay Pass. For those who really want to ski backcountry, we have the terrain and there are endless lines and ridges far behind Baldy Rocks or Cornice Ridge that can be accessed within a day.
I backcountry ski, I mountain bike, I hike and scramble (a lot) and I feel there are still plenty of places to explore year round without affecting another 70,000 hectares of wilderness. I realize the impact sounds minimal and the proposal acknowledges issues like animal disturbances and other environmental factors and for a moment I think, is this really that big of a deal? But why bother with any of that if we don’t need it. Are we catering to a subsection of society that is affluent, active and environmentally indifferent? And if so, why are we changing the ecosystem just so they can experience it on their own terms? What will come next? Will the tenure set precedent for further development and impact in the future?
Two years ago my wife and I were hiking in a remote area near the Bugaboos in the Northern Purcells. We had just traversed a snow-covered glacier when a foreign noise was quickly identified as coming from a low-flying helicopter. I then remembered that Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) operated a lodge nearby and offered heli-hiking and other activities as excursions. I’m no scientist, but I can tell you it certainly impacted us and the feeling of the otherwise completely wild and pristine mountain world. It felt a little like exploiting nature. Did it ruin everything? Not really. But was it really needed? Not really.
We already have enough of this stuff. CMH’s Bugaboo Lodge is just one example. If the difference is jobs then let’s be more innovative in creating them. If the objective is profits than let’s reconsider our priorities and stewardship. If my editorial seems silly, maybe I’m being too idealistic! All I’m saying is that minimal impacts are still impacts and we don’t need more of them where access for recreating already exists.
I’ve only touched this topic from my perspective. For detailed information on Wildsight’s take visit wildsight.ca and read the article about Retallack’s proposal. You can also email your appropriate government representative by visiting secure.wildsight.ca/retalleckcomment. In the meantime, I’ll still plan my route up Snowcrest with or without outside interference. But I can guarantee both I and the rest of the natural world will be happier without it.
Jesse Moreton, Creston