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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Y2Y in the Peace River Break: Here to stay

Moving forward with conservation in northern British Columbia.

Like many of you, we were heartbroken with the new British Columbia government’s December announcement to proceed with the Site C megadam in the Peace River region, an area tucked into the Canadian Rockies of northeastern British Columbia (B.C.).

Development is necessary, but like you, we believe in development that respects nature, which makes the government’s announcement to proceed with constructing the environmentally destructive Site C especially disappointing.

Not only does flooding 66 miles (107 kilometers) of the Peace River valley threaten wildlife connectivity while submerging culturally important Indigenous sites and prime farmland, it also deals a blow to reconciliation with First Nations.

In addition to the dams, the Peace Break region suffers immense other developments. One of the greatest threats to wildlife in the Peace Break — named so because it’s a huge east-west corridor through the Rockies — is lost or fragmented habitat.

It may come as a surprise, but the pace of development in the Peace River Break rivals that of the Alberta oil sands. To date, more than 65 percent of the Peace region has been impacted by natural resource extraction, two large dams and other industrial infrastructure.

There is such a large network of pipelines, roads and seismic lines here that if strung together, these lines on the landscape would wrap around the world more than four times. Each project acts as barriers to wildlife movement, isolating animals and preventing already threatened or endangered populations from reaching their breeding and wintering grounds.

What makes the work of Y2Y here so vitally important is that the Peace River Break is the narrowest point in the entire Yellowstone to Yukon region, one that serves as a crucial corridor for the caribou, grizzly bears and other wildlife that move between protected areas to the north and to the south.

For long-time Y2Y supporter Bob Fedderly, the significance of the Peace is in speaking up for the wildlife who rely on it.

“Animals have been using this corridor for millennia, and Y2Y is very good at educating and raising awareness about the importance of keeping this wild habitat intact,” he says.

As B.C. Program Director Candace Batycki says, Y2Y’s role is to look at the functionality of the entire landscape. That is why we are steadfast in our commitment to protect what intact landscape does exist and restore other vital areas.

Despite our dismay with the outcome, the Site C controversy shone a spotlight on the region, raising global awareness of the challenges that this land, its wildlife and its communities face. We are grateful to all of you — our donors, volunteers and advocates for conservation — who have supported our efforts throughout the Site C campaign. We remain hopeful that this terrible decision can somehow be stopped, including through First Nations' legal challenges.

Nature needs connections, and so do we. Your support is key as we continue efforts to restore the Peace River Break with our partners, including First Nations, local landowners, government and industry. Y2Y is dedicated to the whole Peace River region for the long term, and this critical wildlife corridor along the spine of the Rockies presents significant opportunities to restore balance to the landscape.

Clean up in caribou habitat

Photo: Charles Helm

Last year, for example, Y2Y staff and volunteers helped to restore caribou habitat through a partnership with the Tumbler Ridge Global UNESCO Geopark, by removing industrial batteries and debris from abandoned sites in the Hart Ranges. (Photo above.) 

We have also been working collaboratively with First Nations and government biologists to identify key habitat for grizzly bears to support the designation of new grizzly habitat areas. We support this critical work as only an estimated 76 bears remain in the local Moberly grizzly population.

One significant emerging opportunity is in the Hart Ranges, the most intact region left here. We think it should be protected as the Wild Harts. The Wild Harts is a sensitive system of intact forest ecosystems and mountain ranges that acts as a crucial wildlife connection within the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor. It also happens to be the only remaining home for the last herds of mountain caribou.

The recently signed Canada-B.C. conservation agreement to recover mountain caribou herds in the Peace region under the federal Species at Risk Act, gives us the policy context within which to advocate for critical habitat protection.

Thanks to your generous contributions, Y2Y will continue to work to rebalance the Peace River Break region from one of resource extraction to one of conservation. Together with donors, supporters, partners and communities we can heal the Peace to achieve what none of us can accomplish alone. We have an opportunity to protect a unique yet threatened area in the Yellowstone to Yukon region, in one earth’s remaining intact mountain ecosystems.

We know that you are standing with us for the Peace and we thank you.