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The Stoltmann Wilderness

The name of this (as yet) mythical 260,000-hectare national park will have a familiar ring to many British Columbians. After all, the name has been widely touted by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee since 1995, and has been a rallying cry in protests against logging in the Elaho, Sims and Upper Lillooet valleys.

The name is a tribute to former WCWC director Randy Stoltmann, who was killed in an avalanche while ski traversing west of the Kitlope River in 1994. Stoltmann first formally proposed preserving the Elaho-Upper Lillooet wilderness under the provincial government’s Protected Areas Strategy that same year. Under his vision, the area set aside would span the headwaters of the Squamish and Lillooet River systems encompassing the Sims, Clendenning, Upper Elaho and Upper Lillooet valleys. Of these three watersheds, only the Clendenning and parts of the Upper Lillooet have gained protected status.

Joe Foy, WCWC campaign co-ordinator, says it’s a slow fight, but he believes Stoltmann would be proud of the progress made so far.

"He was an ecologist and accomplished wilderness traveller, an artist with camera and pen, and a writer," Foy says. "He died a young man at the age of 31 and it’s kind of neat that his actions still ripple today in 2001 as we fight to protect the Elaho and Sims valleys."

Surprisingly perhaps, Foy says the WCWC would be willing to drop its Stoltmann Wilderness proposal in favour of the Squamish Nation’s Land Use Plan, which encompasses the southern portion of the Stoltmann boundaries. He says the Squamish Nation Land Use Plan is a compromise in that in some respects it doesn’t go as far as the Stoltmann Wilderness proposal, but in other ways it goes further.

"They have granted protected area status to the key critical areas – the Upper Elaho from Lava Creek north and all of Sims Creek. We proposed protecting the Lower Elaho from Sims Valley up but they have chosen to allow some logging there. We can accept that."

Under the Stoltmann Wilderness Plan, protection would also be extended beyond the Squamish Nation-claimed territory into the Meager Creek valley, which has already seen substantial logging, and up over the Pemberton Ice Cap into the Callaghan. Both plans include protection of the Upper Soo River. Foy adds: "The area they did better in is in proposing protection of the west side of the Squamish River for fishing and habitat protection. This safeguards an important dry form of hemlock forest, one of the most rare forest types in our area. They have also proposed protecting the west side of the Callaghan Valley – that’s a good move too."

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