MORE THAN JUST A PRETTY FACE . . .
“The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Park is one of the most significant wilderness areas in southern British Columbia, recognized for its scenery and wilderness recreation opportunities. Its special status emphasizes the significance of it being the largest remaining block of wilderness in southeast B.C. It was created to preserve natural features and ecosystems and provide for wilderness recreation.” ~ PWC Master Plan
At the north end of Kootenay Lake lies a unique, virtually intact wilderness mountainside that
reaches from lakeshore to mountain peaks. It is bordered on three sides by the Purcell Wilderness
Conservancy Provincial Park (the Conservancy). Mt Willet (2740m), the highest mountain on
Kootenay Lake, presides over this west facing slope from the historic Earl Grey Pass Trail in the north
to the spectacular Fry Creek Canyon Trail in the south. In the forming of the Conservancy in 1974 and
the subsequent boundary revision in 1995, this slope known locally as the Argenta‐Johnsons Landing
Face (AJL Face) was not included.
The B.C. Parks annual reports for 2013, 2014 and 2015, all note:
“An important focus of protected areas management in future years will be in maintaining
functioning ecosystems and facilitating the movement of species within and across
boundaries. Large landscape level processes have always played an important role in
sustaining ecosystems; these processes are now recognized as being critical in maintaining the
resilience of the natural world. One of the key ways that BC’s protected areas system can
address these processes is by focusing on protecting large landscapes.”
We think the “future years” have arrived. The time to incorporate this significant low to mid‐
elevation system into the Conservancy is now.
Some of the ecological benefits of this 3% (6200 hectare) increase in the park area are the following:
- It is well established that the Conservancy is lacking in low to mid‐elevation forest. The
inclusion of the AJL Face will help remedy that deficit.
- It will add significantly to the resilience, viability and long term sustainability of the
- It will preserve existing habitat and viewscapes by affording the legal protection that the park
- It will more than double the length of invaluable Kootenay Lake shoreline within the
Conservancy bringing the total length of protection to 9.4 km.
- It will incorporate noteworthy, documented caves, karst deposits and travertine flows.
- It will maintain wildlife connectivity between the Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges, across
the Nature Trust Lands at the head of Kootenay Lake.
- It will protect a valuable and essential north‐south wildlife corridor.
- It will establish a link from the height of land to the valley bottom and the lake within the
- It will provide the Hamill Creek special feature zone of old growth Cedar and Hemlock with a
protective buffer and add rare old growth Western Larch and ancient Alpine Larch to the
- It will add Interior Douglas Fir which is currently under‐represented in the B.C. Parks system.
- This inclusion will make a contribution toward the Federal and Provincial Government
commitments to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of conserving at least 17 percent of terrestrial
areas and inland water, and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020.
Some of the socio‐economic benefits of this inclusion are the following:
- It will preserve the significant, spectacular and unbroken forested mountain landscape within
full view from Hwy 31 which is part of The International Selkirk Loop Scenic Drive route.
- It will protect the viewscape of two well attended Kootenay Lake Provincial Park
campgrounds at Davis Creek and Lost Ledge on the west side of the lake. These campgrounds
deliver those promised, Super Natural B.C, million dollar views. The stunning peaks and
lakeside slopes of Mts. Willet, Comb, Sawtooth and Kootenay Joe, can be seen all the way from
Balfour to Meadow Creek. A good example of how impressive the preservation of lakeshore to
mountain peaks can be is the Valhalla Provincial Park, in the Slocan Valley, visible from Hwy 6.
- It will protect some of the existing recreational opportunities such as: exploring the limestone
caves, access to alpine lakes and will bring three already established trails to the park: A
cairned route between Kootenay Joe Ridge and Mt. Willet, one to Heart Lake and Mt. Willet
and one to the top of Mt. Willet from Argenta.
- It will support the rapidly growing eco‐tourism industry at the north end of Kootenay Lake. Lardeau River Adventures, The Grizzly Bear Ranch, Selkirk Snowcat Skiing, White Grizzly Adventures, Meadow Creek Campground, Johnsons Landing Retreat Centre and a variety of tourist accommodations are some of the local enterprises that rely on the natural beauty of the area. The annual run of the Gerrard rainbow trout draws many visitors every May; it has become a Mother’s Day destination. The grizzly bears and eagles feasting on spawning Kokanee along the Lardeau River are a huge attraction in the fall. The scenery is world class: Sectacular peaks, intact forest, huge old trees and clear blue waters. This is destination tourism at its finest.
- It will end a very long‐standing, contentious issue between the communities and Ministry of Forests regarding the logging of local domestic watersheds and these, now proven to be, unstable slopes. After the fatalities of the catastrophic landslide in Johnsons Landing in 2012 it was established that the hillside composition is continuous between and beyond the communities of Argenta and Johnsons Landing, respectively situated near the northern and southern ends of the proposed inclusion area. In a talk given by Peter Jordan (Geomorphologist) titled “Geological Hazards on the Argenta‐Johnsons Landing Mountainside” he recommended that the residents “be vigilant” regarding disturbance on the AJL Face. Leaving this mountainside intact would greatly enhance the quality of life and peace of mind for area residents.
The historic wildfire year of 2017 raised concern about wildfire management and community
protection. BC Parks strives to ensure fires are managed to protect human safety and property and
when necessary encourages inter‐jurisdictional actions with other agencies who have long‐standing
expertise in fire management planning and decision‐making. BC Parks does strive to allow natural
processes (including wildfire) to proceed without intervention wherever and whenever possible;
however, all government bodies including BC Parks recognize that human life and private property
take precedence. Further, there is a Community Wildfire Protection Plan for RDCK Area D for the
AJL Face which addresses the community wildfire interface issue. This plan is possible in
conjunction with the AJL Face proposal. Concurrently, the RDCK recommends that residents “fire
smart” their own properties to maximize protection.
The operable forest in this proposal is a small fraction of the Crown forest land and represents only
.15% of the West Kootenay Boundary Planning area. As mentioned above, this area can no longer be
assumed to be safe to disturb. We are confident that the long term economics of this proposal
outweigh the short term economics of industrial forestry. Sustained economic benefits resulting from
the scenery and wilderness are already present here.
The PWC Master Plan is over 25 years old. During those years, pressure on wild lands and wildlife
has increased exponentially. The main features itemized above are consistent with the original intent
of the PWC. This inclusion provides a unique opportunity; the forest is primarily intact and adjacent
to the Conservancy. Today far more is known about the imperatives of large landscapes, connectivity
and diversity as they relate to the health and sustainability of natural systems. Legislating this
boundary expansion will add critical area and habitat to the park and contribute to its long‐term
vitality, resilience and sustainability.
This proposal also reflects the spirit of the “B.C. Parks Future Strategy”, which identifies the
Kootenays as one of the highest demand areas. It supports the mission of B.C. Parks and its legacy:
conservation, recreation, accessibility and bringing people together.
ʺOur parks are core to what it means to be British Columbian. World‐class in size and splendour,
they are arks for wildlife and ancient forests. The ʹsuperʹ in ‘Super, Natural B.C.’, they attract people
to visit, to settle, to invest in our economy and our lifestyle. Our parks are where youth, families,
First Nations, new Canadians ‐ all our citizens, can come together, to play, to discover and to
“So today, by investing in British Columbiaʹs parks, our government is re‐committing to take good
care of these special lands we love so much. And for that, I am deeply grateful.ʺ
~ Ric Careless, chair, Campaign for BC Parks ~ B.C. Parks Future Strategy
Our Mission Statement:
Our goal is the legislated inclusion of the Mt. Willet wilderness, from mountain top to lakeshore,
(excluding private land) within the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park. This will
permanently protect a disappearing essential wilderness and enhance the viability of the PWCPP.
We seek public and political support for this inclusion proposal.
Please feel free to circulate and/or copy this document in support of our goal. Proposal PDF
http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/purcell/nat_cul.html#conservation “All of the ungulates of
the Kootenay region, except bighorn sheep, are found within the conservancy …”