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Preserving Wild! Sanctuary Part III -- Khutzeymateen Inlet & Marine Provincial Park

Bear on the Beach! Khutzeymateen Inlet, British Columbia. 2023

“No one belongs here more than you.”

Brené Brown

Wilderness is rare and beautiful. It is worth preserving as it benefits all creatures in so many ways (humans included). I hope my blog, website and images show just how much bears, wolves and nature’s landscapes reflect the value of wilderness and wild places for me.

Bear Stare 3! Khutzeymateen Inlet, British Columbia. 2023

During those times when I can’t get far away, I try to find something wild in my life every day. That means sometimes I look close to home – spending time observing the quiet beauty of trees in the park next to our home, the sound of nearby streams flowing over rock, and the occasional wildlife visitor travelling through our backyard. Appreciating each sunset and sunrise. I feel that this must be true for everyone who values nature and the outdoors.

“To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”

Terry Tempest Williams

Sunshine on My Shoulder! Khutzeymateen Inlet, British Columbia. 2023

When I was with the Whatcom Land Trust, the vison was to protect those places wild and special to those who lived, worked, and visited Whatcom County – predominantly the roughly 350,000 acre Cascades to Chuckanuts (C2C) corridor, the last relatively undeveloped corridor connecting the foothills of the Cascade Mountains to the shores of the Salish Sea.

Scratchin Tree! Khutzeymateen Inlet, British Columbia. 2023

When with American Whitewater for several decades (a lifetime member and supporter), the wild was found in diverse ways. You can find our wildest rivers listed on the nation’s Wild and Scenic Rivers List and highly visible as they course, rumble, and flow through many of our National Parks (special places in themselves). You can find wild rivers elsewhere; you just need to look for them.

Swim! Khutzeymateen Inlet, British Columbia. 2023

While wilderness and wild places can be very personal and mean different things to each of us, sometimes we find ourselves in a place that just screams wilderness because of its beauty, wildlife, and scenic vistas. Or just extremely pristine conditions that whisper “wild” over and over in our sight, hearing, and mind. One of those places is British Columbia’s Khutzeymateen Inlet.

Sanctuaries like the Khutzeymateen cannot save the species, but as anyone who meets the inhabitants of this wild valley will tell you, they remind us of why the great bears must be saved.

Dan Wakeman, Fortress of the Grizzly

Bear & Lupine! Khutzeymateen Inlet, British Columbia. 2023

Early interest in the Khutzeymateen area as a sanctuary began in the 1970’s when scientists working on a United Nations study on the northern coastal bear population discovered the high concentration of bears in this area. And just as the threat of logging came to this so-far nearly untouched valley.

Snack Time! Khutzeymateen Inlet, British Columbia. 2023

The scientists recommended the provincial government set up an ecological reserve, but like so many conservation efforts at that time, it ran into logging interests and BC’s Ministry of Forests. As with other environmental successes, it wasn’t until 1982 when a small cadre of bear biologists and enthusiasts started bringing people in to see the area and bears, that protection started to get real. Wayne McCrory, Tom Ellison, Grant Copeland, Charlie Russell, Dan Wakeman and Wendy Shymanski are a few, and they brought in David Suzuki and his show The Nature of Things, the Discovery Channel, World Wildlife Fund, and, perhaps most effectively, organized a fishing trip in the Khutzeymateen for then BC Environment Minister Bruce Strachan who secured a three-year moratorium on logging while the area was studied.

Shake It Off! Khutzeymateen Inlet, British Columbia. 2023

Around 1982, a hunting ban was established around the inlet and the province commissioned a study that determined the area could not be logged without harming grizzlies. Finally, in 1994, the Khutzeymateen Valley and Park was designated as BC's only grizzly bear sanctuary. Khutzeymateen Provincial Park is the first in Canada created specifically to protect grizzly bears and their habitat. Later on in 2008, The Khutzeymateen Inlet Conservancy was established to enhance and ensure the protection of important grizzly bear intertidal and foreshore habitats throughout the inlet.

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest! Devils Club in Khutzeymateen Inlet, British Columbia. 2023


· At the time conservationists were looking to protect the Khutzeymateen, here in the United States we were addressing concerns over logging by creating the North Cascades National Park Complex (1968) and passing strong environmental protections including the National Environmental Policy Act (1971), Clean Water Act (1972), and the Endangered Species Act (1973) which would play a large role in the Timber Wars of the 80’s and 90’s (spotted owl v logging).

· In the United States, only five-percent of the U.S. landmass remains as wilderness, and half of this acreage is in one state, Alaska. Twenty -three percent of Canada remains wilderness, about the same as the planet’s remaining wilderness outside Antarctica and representing nearly a ten-percent decline over the past twenty years. A bit better off, nearly fifty percent of British Columbia remains wilderness. September is National Wilderness Month.

· As with so many environmental issues, protection doesn’t always deter new threats and impacts. In 2013, a plan was formed to build a natural gas pipeline through the Khutzeymateen coastal grizzly conservancy. In Canada, under the 2004 Provincial Park Boundary Adjustment Policy, resource developments can be built in parks with the proper permits. A huge public outcry halted this pipeline plan, although at least six other provincial parks and protected areas remain threatened by pipelines.

· Photography and conservation can go hand in hand. Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s Safeguarding Coastal Carnivores Campaign.

· For more information on bears and the Khutzeymateen history, look at Dan Wakeman & Wendy Shymanski’s Fortress of the Grizzlies and Grizzly Heart by Charlie Russell & Maureen Enns. Both are hard to find and Grizzly Heart is out of print. The best way is to go to Amazon, links on the titles. I used both of these, and other sources, on writing about the Khutzeymateen.

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