The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy is the largest protected area in southeastern B.C. Photo: B.C. Parks

The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy is the largest protected area in southeastern B.C. Photo: B.C. Parks

Province adds land to Valhalla and Purcell parks

Both additions enhance the parks’ ecological values, the province says

The B.C. government has just added land to two Kootenay provincial parks.

The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Protected Area will grow by 18 hectares on the waterfront at Birchdale, south of Johnsons Landing, and 32 hectares will be added to Valhalla Provincial Park west of Slocan.

Eddie Petryshen of Wildsight says the Purcell addition will provide wildlife passage between the mountains and the shoreline.

“In that particular area, the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy doesn’t go down to the shore. A lot of that shoreline is dominated by cliff, making it difficult for wildlife to reach the lake. And so protecting this parcel will make sure wildlife can can access the lake.”

The Purcell Wilderness Conservancy is the largest park in southeastern B.C., with three drainages flowing into Kootenay Lake and six into the Columbia River.

The land was purchased for $640,800.

This 18 ha addition is not related to a much larger area (6,200 ha), locally known as the Argenta Johnsons Landing Face, which for several years the Mt. Willet Wilderness Forever group has been lobbying the province for inclusion in the park.

The Valhalla Provincial Park addition was purchased for $175,000.

Craig Pettitt of the Valhalla Wilderness Society says it was a piece of private land that was excluded from the park when it was formed in 1983.

“We urged government at the time to pick up those private pieces because in those days those properties could have been picked up for pennies on the dollar that they are paying today.”

He called the purchase a step in the right direction.

“This is quite an important piece for access, and to keep that the front end at Gwillim Creek open to the public.”

In announcing these additions, along with a dozen others in the province, the Ministry of the Environment did not give details as to the specific reasons for each addition, and did not respond when the Nelson Star asked for that information about the Valhalla and Purcell additions.

Petryshen calls both additions small but meaningful.

“Those low elevation valley bottom habitats are super-important, and they’re underrepresented in the park system,” he says. “And they’re the most important for both humans and wildlife because they are the most productive land.”

At the same time he thinks it’s not enough.

“We are in the middle of both of a biodiversity and a climate crisis. And we need to make some big changes to the way we’re doing things.”

He cites the federal government’s recent commitment to protect 25 per cent of Canada’s land and oceans by 2030, and points out that the country is now at 16 per cent.

In a third local park enhancement, the province has purchased a trapline tenure in Valhalla Provincial Park.

“Acquisition of the trapline tenure eliminates the harvesting of fur bearing animals in a large portion of the park, as recommended in the park management plan,” according to a news release from the province.

The trapline tenure covered 33,000 ha of the 50,000 ha park and was purchased for $50,000.

Related: Group wants Argenta Johnsons Landing face protected

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