Environment

Return to Wright Lake

Wright Lake, circa 1995 Photo by Myron Kozak

Back in the early 1990s, the diminutive Wright Lake was at the centre of the controversy surrounding the effort to protect the Anstey Arm, Hunakwa Lake area as a provincial park. The logging company, Federated Co-op, had plans to log there and build a road nearby to access more timber on the peninsula. Shuswap Environmental Action Society (SEAS) worked hard to raise public support for protection by slashing a trail, sponsoring ecological inventories and making presentations to both the government and local groups.
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Bear time in the Shuswap

As the fruit ripens in the fall and the berries in the backcountry dry up, black bears become a regular sight in our backyards. Over the past 47 years of living in the woods above Shuswap Lake, I have had many encounters, including often chasing them out of our plum and apple trees. Only one bear ended up getting shot after it attacked a dog, and it was very old, undernourished and quite mean.
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The glaciers are melting

It appears as if the earth is entering a new phase of global warming, as temperature records are continuously being broken and impacts are increasing, including storms, floods, droughts and fires. In the Shuswap, spring arrived very early and many seasonal events are two to three weeks ahead, including the lake level, the emergence of natural vegetation and the ripening of fruits and vegetables. Another climate change impact not often considered is the melting of local glaciers.
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Fisheries report provides useful information

The 2010 Adams River Salmon Run  had the largest return in nearly 100 years

The Fraser Basin Council recently released a comprehensive report that analyzes the condition of the local salmon habitat management area. Given that the Shuswap Lakes region is considered to be the “most socially, economically and ecologically important” large aquatic ecosystem in the province, high quality resource management should be required, yet the report indicates that problems abound.

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Impediments to solutions for agricultural pollution

 

 

 

 

 

     Manure sprayer at Hullcar, photo by Al Price

There are significant parallels between the groundwater contamination crisis in nearby Hullcar and the decline in Shuswap Lake water quality due to increasing amounts of phosphorus. Both problems stem from how large, industrial dairy farms deal with manure, which is commonly stored in sewage lagoons and then sprayed on fields. In Hullcar the excess nitrates are seeping into the groundwater, while in the Shuswap and Salmon River valleys, the excess phosphorus is leaching into the rivers and lakes.

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Chronicling Shuswap’s astounding diversity

Westwold – the old Grande Prairie

After over ten years of research and writing, my book Everything Shuswap goes into production this week. I had always thought that sourcing the images needed to showcase Shuswap’s amazing geography would be easy compared to the efforts required to produce the text, however while many Shuswap photographers were keen to support the project, many of the needed photos were not available. Consequently I took advantage of some clear days in September to travel around the watershed taking photos and in doing so; my appreciation for our region’s diversity was reinforced and more knowledge was gained.
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The Shuswap River needs protection


Environmentally conscious Shuswap River residents have been advocating for improved boating regulations since 1994, when the first application was made to the federal government for a 10 horsepower motor restriction. The regional district initially supported the restriction, but they capitulated soon after the powerboat community began lobbying for no changes. Since then, the problems have swelled with an estimated 2 metres or more of riverbank in some areas lost to erosion, as the number and size of speed boats continues to increase.
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The tip of the melting iceberg

Early in the spring, an expert on the radio explained how this summer would resemble what the near future will be like due to climate change. So far, his prediction has rung true, with smoking hot temperatures throughout the province, an early and pervasive forest fire season and now severe drought. So far, the Shuswap has been relatively unscathed, but we have two months to go before the fire season is over and there is uncontrolled fire near Falkland.

            Bolean Lake wildfire, photo from BC Forest Service
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Watershed protection must move forward

                                        2010 algae bloom in Mara Lake

We cannot afford to go backwards. The current debate within local governments about how to fund the ongoing work of the Shuswap Watershed Council is almost too painful to observe. So much good work has been done, particularly the latest report that looks at farming practices, it would be absurd to lose the Council now because our local politicians cannot agree on where the funding should come from. The new report outlines a work plan that will lead to improvements, but the Council needs continued commitment, collaboration, and secure funding.

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New Year’s crystal ball

      Valley fog and lack of snow in December may become the new normal

Looking forward to the New Year can spark us to ponder about what the future holds for the Shuswap. Certainly the old adage, “be careful about what you wish for” rings true with this week’s “snowmaggedon” when many skiers yearned for snow after our green solstice. Will we face more extreme weather patterns that trigger damaging erosion events? Will the unanticipated drop in oil prices impact the flow of Alberta money into our economy? And will we once again avoid destructive wildfires or massive algae blooms?

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