Hiking in the Yukon. Image: Pat Morrow
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"I left inspired to protect the special places in my own backyard."
Sara Renner, Y2Y supporter

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Collecting Species in BC's Peace Valley

Scientists catalogue natural specimens from B.C.’s Peace River Valley that could be lost if Site C in built.

To be truly passionate about protecting something, we need a full appreciation of what could be lost if no action is taken.

That was the impetus for an unprecedented bioblitz in B.C.’s Peace River Valley, an area threatened by increasing industrial development and possible construction of the Site C Dam.

For a week in late June, more than 30 scientists from a range of disciplines and institutions converged on the valley to collect specimens to increase our understanding of the region’s biodiversity—from freshwater invertebrates to insects, plants, mosses and birds.

Aquatic entomologist Erica Smith inspects this unique rock face--called a limestone tufa seep--a unique feature in the Peace River Valley and an important habitat for a diverse flora and insect larvae. Photo: Tristan Brand.

Spearheaded by the Biological Survey of Canada, Royal BC Museum and Y2Y, the bioblitz focused on a 5,550-hectare region that will be flooded if the Site C Dam is built.

Scientists explored remote sections of the river ecosystem, including the proposed Peace Boudreau Protected Area, an ecologically significant region that Y2Y and others have argued should be protected before further development occurs.

Royal BC Museum spider expert Darren Copley collects insects and arachnids using an aspirator, which allows scientists to retrieve fragile organisms without damaging them. Photo: Tristan Brand.

As part of the bioblitz, Y2Y helped to connect scientists with local First Nations guides and Elders, who provided local expertise and traditional ecological knowledge to enrich the data.

At a Y2Y-hosted open house, the science team shared their collections with people from the community, who were able to gaze through microscopes at freshwater molluscs and spiders and watch as entomologists pin and tag insect specimens.

Royal BC Museum biologist Heidi Gartner showcases aquatic invertebrates and tiny crustaceans found in the Peace River to local kids at the bioblitz open house in nearby Hudson’s Hope. Photo: Tristan Brand.

The open house was capped off with a presentation by noted wildlife photographer Ron Long on the unique biodiversity of Pink Mountain, an alpine region north of the Peace River that Y2Y is also working to protect.

Although the Peace River Valley is biologically unique, it is one of the least catalogued regions in the province, making up less than 1 percent of the Royal BC Museum’s natural history collection. Beyond its significance for natural history buffs, the region is also a critical section within the larger Yellowstone to Yukon region, as the narrowest point along this continental north-south corridor.

A stunning view of the Peace River Valley from a ridge above Bear Flats, with the proposed Peace-Boudreau Protected Area visible across the river. Photo: Tristan Brand.

If construction of the Site C Dam proceeds, an 80-kilometer stretch of this river valley will undergo major environmental changes, not just in the flood zone but in surrounding and downstream areas as well; areas that have already been pushed to the ecological limit due to extensive development.

How You Can Help

Join the Circle to support First Nations and landowners as they battle in court against the Site C Dam, and seek to preserve this unique valley and species and specimens within it.