Protecting a ‘marvel of nature’ on one hand, tearing down old-growth on the other

In this week’s newsletter, we talk to reporter Sarah Cox — yes, she’s back! — about her stories on B.C.’s brand new conservancy and a seven-year-old lawsuit against Site C opponents

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Photo of reporter Sarah Cox in the woods
When Narwhal reporter Sarah Cox saw B.C. Premier David Eby was going to announce a new conservancy this Wednesday, she knew it was going to be a big deal.

“That almost never happens, and I was immediately intrigued,” Sarah told me. 

The announcement? A new protected area the size of 150 Stanley Parks in the Incomappleux Valley in southeast B.C. Set to help at-risk species like lichens, grizzly bears and wolverines, it will mark the end of logging, mining and major hydroelectric developments in a swath of a rare, imperilled inland temperate rainforest.

Decades of such projects have devastated the rainforest, leaving less than five per cent of this magical place intact. Just how magical? It’s the only inland temperate rainforest in the world outside of Russia and Siberia. 

“It’s a marvel of nature,” Sarah said. “Species normally found only in coastal regions grow far from the sea: cedar trees more than 1,000 years old and, in some cases, closer to 2,000 years old, incredible lichens with crazy names, old-growth hemlocks and more.”

B.C.’s pledge comes on the heels of a promise to protect 30 per cent of land by 2030, a target the province is still far from meeting.

“Conservationists and scientists have been calling for inland temperate rainforest protections for decades … so it’s a big deal that the B.C. government is at long last taking action to protect an important piece of what little is left,” Sarah said.
Overhead view of the Incomappleux Valley
But the irony in B.C.’s environmental policy is not lost on Sarah, especially as the Site C dam nears completion; construction of the most expensive hydroelectric project in Canadian history has involved tearing down old-growth forests. What’s more, Site C will destroy the habitat of more than 100 species vulnerable to extinction.

That irony also rings true for the First Nations members and farmers in the Peace Valley who are still facing a BC Hydro lawsuit seven years after peacefully protesting the province’s $16 billion project.

“Are you telling me that I can be sued for $400 million for feeding 28 people [at] a traditional camp?” one resident told Sarah.

Experts have likened the lawsuit to a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (also known as a SLAPP suit) — one that burdens critics with financial and emotional costs of legal action in an effort to silence them. 

“I’ve been wanting to write this story for two years,” said Sarah, who is back and breaking stories at The Narwhal after a yearlong book leave.

“When the B.C. NDP came to power in 2017, I thought for sure the suit would be dropped, but it wasn’t. Then they passed anti-SLAPP suit legislation in 2019. I thought the suit would be dropped then. But it wasn’t.”

Back wearing her Narwhal hat, Sarah’s watching closely as B.C. attempts to meet its “30 by 30” goal. She’s ready, as always, to hold the government and corporations to account — and share stories you won’t find anywhere else. 

Take care and go someplace magical,

Karan Saxena
Audience fellow

Stream Appetite for Construction

As The Narwhal’s Ontario bureau went through reader-submitted questions this morning before our special Greenbelt event, they noticed a whole lot wondering about what the federal government had to say about the push to build housing on Greenbelt land. 

Quite a bit, it turns out. Reporter Emma McIntosh was out at a press conference where Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault announced an $8 million investment to protect three natural spaces in Ontario. Then Emma managed to ask him about Ontario’s cuts.

The push to develop Greenbelt land, Guilbeault said, “flies in the face of everything we’re trying to do in terms of being better prepared for the impacts of climate change.” Ottawa “will be looking at the potential use of federal tools to stop some of these projects.”

This is just one of the latest developments in the Greenbelt saga, a week after watchdogs launched investigations into the Ford government’s actions. 

Don’t worry if you missed out on our Ontario team making sense of it all. You can watch the whole event here — and drop us a note if you have any more questions!


This week in The Narwhal

Via rail train sits outside the Port of Churchill in winter
Pipe dreams: decoding the political debate on shipping oil through Manitoba’s Arctic port
By Julia-Simone Rutgers
Pierre Poilievre is eyeing the Port of Churchill as a way to increase fossil fuel exports. Here’s what you need to know about the complicated reality of his plan.

A wood bison looking directly at the camera
Logging is imminent in an area home to a threatened bison herd in northern Alberta
By Drew Anderson
Two wine glasses
How oil lobbyists could become more influential in Canada
By Carl Meyer

An overhead view of Blueberry River First Nations territory.
Blueberry River First Nations beat B.C. in court. Now everything’s changing
By Matt Simmons


What we’re reading

How new fishing technology could help save North Atlantic right whales
The Tyee: ‘Once You’ve Clear Cut It, That’s It’
Our entire pod last year, patiently waiting for Sarah to come back. We can’t wait to read her new book — tell your friends to sign up for our newsletter so they know when it’s out!
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The Narwhal’s reporters are telling environment stories you won’t read about anywhere else. Stay in the loop by signing up for a weekly dose of independent journalism.