We know that if we want to deal with the climate crisis and its impacts, we need to take significant steps right now. But not all of those steps are about switching from coal to solar or wind power. We also need to take big, bold steps to provide wildlife room to roam in order to help them survive rapidly changing conditions.
One place we can take such a step is in the Muskwa-Kechika — a spectacularly wild region of rugged mountains, verdant valleys, glaciers and boreal forests in north-central British Columbia. The Muskwa-Kechika is one of the most intact wild areas remaining on the planet. Four times the size of Vancouver Island, it is an area with few roads (98 per cent roadless) and little resource development. The result is intact forests, clean water, and healthy wildlife populations. Caribou, for example, are thriving there, unlike in southern B.C. where almost every caribou population is skidding toward extinction.
In addition to its namesake rivers, the Muskwa and the Kechika, the area contains the unprotected headwaters of the mighty Liard and Peace Rivers. The 300-kilometre stretch of the Rocky Mountain Trench (which is so prominent it can be seen from space) that bisects the Muskwa-Kechika is the last wild section of this amazing geologic feature left in B.C.
It’s not just its very light human footprint that makes the Muskwa-Kechika unique. It also has a high level of habitat diversity due to its varied topography, different landforms, and many lakes and wetlands — all of which provide options for plants and animals to adapt as climate heating accelerates. In particular, this diversity offers wildlife important “climate ramps” — the ability to move to higher elevations along slopes leading up to the Continental Divide or along river valleys from mouth to headwaters.