When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
– Aldo Leopold –
The Chilcotin Ark is a 2.5 million hectare ecosystem complex in the rain shadow of the coastal mountains in British Columbia. It contains 12 of 16 biogeoclimatic zones and you can find 11 of 29 of North America’s big game species within the Ark. The Ark is home to the healthiest white bark pine populations in Canada and is the largest water storage in western North America. It also includes 17 parks and protected areas such as Tweedsmuir Park, one of British Columbia’s largest parks. All of that results in a unique biodiversity on every level with ecosystems like rainforest, grassland and alpine tundras.
All the wildlife is migrating seasonally between the higher altitudes in summer and lower altitudes in winter. Mainly summer habitats (of endangered species) are protected in the Chilcotin Ark with the help of protected areas. There are no management plans in the areas between the protected areas, although they are often winter habitats for the unique wildlife. Disruptions in ecosystem functions such as migration patterns, mismatched breeding and birthing times and food availability due to man made disturbances within habitats and habitat destruction reduce the health and security of wildlife populations. More frequent extreme weather conditions due to climate change will disrupt ecosystem functions and services even further. With the rapid climate warming it requires species to evolve faster and if they cannot adapt fast enough, they will become extinct.
The vision of the Chilcotin Ark is to manage winter habitats and ensure habitat connectivity to allow higher abundance of wildlife like California Bighorn Sheep, Mule deer, Woodland caribou and Canadian moose. This will help sustain viable populations within the Ark and increases their survival when facing the impacts of climate change. Land and Resource Management Plans are used as the basis for the management strategy of the area. Studies to determine the carrying capacity of the area are needed to fully understand the area and create a holistic management plan.
At the same time, the focus is on having fully functioning ecosystems and managing the area for maximum wildlife populations – based on maximum carrying capacity of the wildlife habitats, while ensuring locals can continue working and making a living in the Ark and working hand in hand with all the stakeholders in the region by following environmental, social, governance (ESG) – principles.
Educating the public and resource users about the importance of the Ark to increase awareness and interest for its protection is also vital for the long-term viability of the Chilcotin Ark.