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Restoration in the Wild Harts

Y2Y and community groups partner to clean up pollution in the sensitive alpine tundra of the Wild Hart ranges in NE British Columbia.

August 25, 2016

Y2Y and community groups partner to clean up pollution in the alpine

Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia – The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), in partnership with the Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark Society (TRUGGS) and helicopter operator Ridge Rotors, is pleased to announce the first phase of a major cleanup project in the sensitive alpine tundra of the Wild Hart ranges in northeastern British Columbia. Twenty-two industrial batteries were removed from high meadows as part of a community initiative to restore this delicate ecosystem to its previously pristine status.

The Wild Hart ranges are a critical wildlife connection within the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor, and the sensitive alpine tundra is an important habitat for endangered caribou and other species. During the building of the two long railway tunnels decades ago through this section of the northern Rockies, two large towers were erected on each of the summit ridges. The origins of these survey towers is murky at best, but years of wind and winter storms shredded the materials that made them up, and scattered Styrofoam blocks, sheet metal, and large battery arrays across the alpine meadows.

Hart Ranges Alpine Debris Sites
Hart Ranges Alpine Debris Sites

Dr. Charles Helm, Tumbler Ridge resident with the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society (WNMS), wrote in his book Exploring Tumbler Ridge: “Who put them there, when, or why, is not known. But their effects are plain to see: scorched earth in the surrounding tundra. And who knows how deep into the earth the chemicals in question have leached? This sad and irresponsible state of affairs was reported to the appropriate authorities, with little effect.”

For over a decade concerned citizens of Tumbler Ridge and the outdoor-lovers of the WNMS have tried to address this issue of industrial alpine pollution. Community leaders tried to identify those responsible, and address the problem through official channels, all without success. Now, with Y2Y’s support and partnership, the TRUGGS and WNMS have taken matters into their own hands.

“Lamentably, when all else fails you just have to go out and do the job yourself,” says Dr. Helm. “It does raise the question of the role and performance of some industry players in cleaning up after themselves.”

Cleanup in Hart Ranges
Photo: Charles Helm

On a sunny day in July, TRUGGS manager Sarah Waters flew up to several sites by helicopter and, with the help of community volunteers, gathered up the batteries and flew them off the alpine for proper disposal.

“The alpine environment within the Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark (TRUGG) is a fragile, important ecosystem to be treated with great care,” says Waters, “Our organization has been aware of these alpine pollution sites for many years, and we are very happy to have worked with Northern BC Tourism and Ridge Rotors to remove the industrial garbage left behind decades ago. We will continue to work with Y2Y to reclaim and maintain the critical ecosystems found within our Geopark.”

Cleanup in Hart Ranges2
Photo: Charles Helm

For Y2Y, cleaning up this pollution in sensitive caribou habitat along one of the last intact wild corridors in the Peace River Break is an opportunity to maintain connectivity in these mountains. Restoration increases the amount of available habitat, restores the ability of fish and wildlife populations to remain connected, and protects ecological function.

Community collaborations such as this are the force behind the Yellowstone to Yukon vision, because we know that together we can achieve what none of us can accomplish alone.


For interviews or further comment, contact:
Tim Burkhart
Peace River Break Coordinator
Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
250-719-9614 | tim@y2y.net