LAST STAND FOR A BROKEN WILDERNESS: SQUEEZING WHAT’S LEFT FROM NORTH AMERICA’S LAST LARGE INTACT FORESTS
By ROBIN KLEIN
The last century of the millennium witnessed the retreat of a great North American wilderness - the massive trees, teeming salmon runs and healthy grizzly bear populations that once ruled the continent - and reduced much of it to what remains today in the far Northwest. Soaring growth, development, and fuel consumption depleted resources, exhausting lands across the U.S. to the Canadian border, except for some relatively small intact remnants in the lower 48.
However, vast wilderness harboring large wildlife remains north of the border, with little protection. In the coming decade, decisions will be made in British Columbia that will determine its fate. The decisions could heal some of the broken wilderness, possibly even foster grizzly re-habitation of the North Cascades in Washington. Or ravage U.S.-style southern B.C.'s wilderness forever.
Today the road from Squamish to Lillooet, Highway 99, marks the frontline in a face-off that holds the future of that wilderness. At odds are First Nations, ski resort developers, environmental protectionists, and logging companies. Efforts to protect the land clash with the logging that presses into lush groves of 1,000 year-old trees, and with development plans for a new megaresort. Environmental organizations like the Western Canada Wilderness Committee want the B.C. government to designate two large adjacent wilderness areas on the northwest side of Highway 99 as national parks to protect them from exploitation: the proposed Stoltmann (near the world famous Whistler resort) and Lillooet areas.