Monday, December 10, 2007

New blog on the block: Chilcotin Ark - by Dave Neads

A special welcome to Dave Neads and his blog, Chilcotin Ark. Dave has been a guest writer in this blog on a few occasions:
. . . and now he's out there on his own. No stranger to writing, Dave has written many articles for, amongst others, the Williams Lake Tribune and the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.

Drop over and visit him in his new milieu. I think you'll like what you find.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bear rescue - not on BC bridge but in California

This bear found its way onto the new bridge near Golden. We can only imagine how disruptive our great construction achievements are to wild animals. This worked out OK for the bear, thanks to highway people who used their time and experience to bring off a remarkable rescue.

I wasn't able to find out who took these pictures. If you or someone you know took them, please let me know so I can give credit (or remove them, if you prefer).

UPDATE Nov.5/07: Thanks to a comment from Gary (see below), I've learned that this bear rescue was in fact near Lake Tahoe in California. I recommend you go to the article at where you'll find the full story and a much more extensive slide-show of this remarkable rescue - which loses none of its impressiveness through not being in British Columbia! I'll leave the images below as a sampler.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Corky Evans speaks up on BC's dysfunctional meat slaughter regulations

No pictures this time . . .
I want give a little more exposure to an issue that's been around a long time. A couple of years ago new slaughtering regulations were tabled for B.C. Now they are being out into effect and the insanity of it all is becoming apparent. In the BC legislature, Corky Evans has been prominent among those attempting to restore sanity. Here's what he had to say a few days ago - with a response in the middle from the woman who chaired the government's agriculture committee on this matter:


October 22, Private Member's statements


C. Evans: I rise today to speak on the subject of the meat regulations that came into effect three weeks ago in British Columbia, making it a criminal act for a farmer to kill his chicken and sell it to me or to kill her cow, cut it up, and sell it to me or to you, hon. Speaker, or to anybody else in the province.

For those folks at home who may be unaware of the history, or those urban members whose mailbag may not be full on this particular subject, let me just help you with what we are experiencing, both on the back benches on the government side and the opposition.

Rural people are incensed. They woke up three week ago and found out that what their family had been doing for three centuries is now a criminal act. Raising cattle or poultry or pigs and selling it to the community in which you live makes you a lawbreaker.

Before I carry on to say what I think about this legislation, I would like to say, on the record, thank you. I mean, this is a haywire, silly, ridiculous, over-burdensome, unnecessary regulation brought in by the Minister of Health, who couldn't, at the time, cite a single example of a person getting sick or dying by buying their neighbour's meat. It's a completely unnecessary, indefensible law with no backup to prove that we needed it.

But I would like to start by saying thank you to all the wonderful people in the Ministry of Agriculture and those hired by the minister and working out there in the communities and the consultants, Kathleen Gibson and her folks. Everybody is working to try to make this really stupid law work, and thank you to those folks who are working so hard.

Why the citizens find this law so difficult to comprehend is because it's so counterintuitive. This is, after all, the government of deregulation. Statistically, we know that photo radar saved lives. But in the interest of deregulation, to get the government off people's backs, the government came in and wiped out photo radar. Everybody got that. That was deregulation.

This is the same government that said: "The forest companies are burdened by the Forest Practices Code. It's too big; it's a bit of a cookbook. Let's go to" — what do they call it? —"performance-based forestry." Deregulate the forest industry. Right, everybody gets that. That's what the government is about.

The people cannot comprehend why a government that believes in deregulation would do the opposite to farmers as what they do to the forest industry. Why say that the forest industry should be deregulated, the entire criminal justice system should be deregulated, get rid of photo radar — even though it saves lives — and then impose on agriculture a criminal act for doing what you have always done — raising animals and selling it to your…? People don't get it.

I've been to dozens of public meetings in the Cariboo, in Quesnel and in Comox. In Duncan — on a sunny summer day when people should be making hay — with 24 hours' notice, the hall was filled with a hundred people, every single one of them engaged in the agriculture industry, and everyone against this legislation.

Meetings in Metchosin, meetings in Creston, meetings in Nelson and hundreds of letters from people who don't get it. Why would this government impose on them a regulatory regime that is completely unnecessary and that they don't need? In the meeting in Nelson, farmer after farmer after farmer got up and said: "Show me one person who ever got sick or died from buying what I raise with love and sell to my neighbour. No antibiotics in it. It's fed organic food. We treat it and sell it to our neighbour, who wants to buy local food. Show me one example."

Finally, the civil servants got kind of annoyed because everybody was beating on them, saying: "Show me why." So the civil servants — wonderful people, great people — said: "Look, it's not about safety. It's about BSE and international trade. We had to do this to make Japan and the United States and the European Common Market buy our food."

The farmers all said: "Well, we want you to solve BSE. We want to resolve the trade crisis. But how come, while you were trying to do something for the United States and Japan, you said that what I do for a living here in British Columbia is illegal?" In 130 communities in B.C., where the municipality borders on ALR land it's now against the law for the farmer to sell food to the people in the city.

That's just the municipalities. What about all the unincorporated areas like Tlell, for example? We have hundreds. People, farmers, farm groups wrote in for two years. The B.C. Food Systems Network wrote in with eight wonderful examples of how to make this work, because farmers don't want to just make it go away. If it's solving trade crises, they want to make it work.

I've talked to hundreds of people, and probably only two, three, four have ever said: "Make it go away." The others said: "Make it work." People write in with good examples of how to make this work, and the government ignores them — for two years.

Hon. Speaker, even if you believe this is important public policy, this is the worst enforcement regime, regulatory regime and most mismanaged piece of government-forced policy I know of since the federal gun act — and imposed on the same rural people.

Maybe it's a good idea. Maybe it's important public policy, and they just completely botched the implementation so it is offensive to people.

The most wonderful suggestion I know, out of the hundreds, to make this work comes from a farmer in Tlell who farms on the land that his family has been farming for 88 years. He says: "All I ask is for the ability to continue our family's 88-year tradition. Please allow my farm to sell to my neighbours until such time as I have reasonable access to one of the many licensed facilities that the minister is so proud of." There are 71 people who are trying to become a licensed facility — probably hundreds that we need.

What this fellow is saying is: "Given that they are not anywhere near my home, allow me farm-gate sales, freezer sales, until the government can put a legal, licensed abattoir close to my house." It is simple, it is doable, it would make it work, it would get the people off the government's back, and it would stop killing the businesses — the real business that farming is. If you kill those businesses, they can't participate in the farm income. They will no longer be legal farms, and you know what will happen to them, hon. Speaker? Every single one of them is going to say: "Let me out of the ALR. You made my business a criminal act. Let me out of the ALR, and I'll become a subdivision."

Government, please, move to common sense in order to make the regulation work now, or see the farms go down and the ALR die.

[C Evans continues below]

V. Roddick: I'm pleased to respond to my colleague from Nelson-Creston on the issue of meat regulations, because despite what the member may think, the provincial government is enhancing food safety in British Columbia with this new meat inspection regulation. Supported by the B.C. Cattlemen's Association, the meat inspection regulation under the B.C. Food Safety Act, 2004, will strengthen the province's meat surveillance and inspection system.

The act supports the rapid identification, tracking and elimination at source of food-borne risks to public health and promotes public confidence in the province's $22-billion-a-year agrifood industry. The Ministries of Health and Agriculture and Lands continue to work closely with the small producers and processors in rural and remote areas to support the viability of local food production. The regulatory system has remained flexible to accommodate small-plant operations while ensuring that B.C.'s food safety standards are now consistent across the province and are in line with other jurisdictions in Canada.

The member opposite should note that provinces including Alberta, Ontario and Quebec have meat inspection systems in place similar to what has recently been implemented here in B.C. The few provinces lacking a complete meat inspection system are also re-evaluating their meat safety systems in light of concerns over the safety of the meat supply, including mad cow disease and avian influenza outbreaks.

As part of a commitment to help small producers make the transition, the province has been allowing temporary transitional licences to be issued — that will expire after six months — to processors whose facility upgrades to the new standards are already in process. This is in addition to a one-year extension of the original 2006 deadline, plus a $5-million meat transition assistance program. Government has allocated this $5 million to assist small meat-processors to make the transition to the new standards — $50,000 and up for individual plant owners, and up to $100,000 for community-based projects to develop regional slaughter capacity, including mobile abattoirs.

Government has also agreed to cover the costs of all inspections of these small facilities until 2012. As of Friday, October 19, there were 44 licensed slaughter plants in B.C., including three transitionally licensed plants. There is prospect for another ten to become transitionally licensed in the next few weeks.

There was a total of only 25 licensed plants, both federal and provincial, in B.C. when these announcements were made in 2004. The meat industry enhancement strategy and the MTAP program will continue to work with small producers and processors to help them adapt to the new regulatory environment.

One innovative example is in Fort St. John, where a mobile abattoir for the slaughter and processing of red meat will travel to several docking stations to serve the area's meat producers. Lars from Ladner, a first-class chef at La Belle Auberge in beautiful downtown Ladner, is the spearhead of this mobile abattoir.

We have not forgotten about small producers and processors in the development of these new meat regulations. I feel the government is doing everything in its power to make this transition as smooth as possible. No one, no matter what jurisdiction, does business the way they did 30, ten or even five years ago. I know that from my own agribusiness. The majority of all those required upgrades and improvements have been funded by the private sector.

Let's not forget that if, heaven forbid, in the future there were to be an instance of contaminated meat due to poor meat regulations, it would be the members opposite that would be asking why the government hadn't implemented protections to ensure a safe food supply for British Columbians.

This is about public safety. The Public Health Agency of Canada issued a report titled Provincial-Territorial Enteric Outbreaks in Canada, 1996 to 2003." In this eight-year period nearly 180,000 cases…

Deputy Speaker: Thank you, Member.

V. Roddick: …of enteric or intestinal diseases were reported across Canada. B.C. was significantly higher than any other province in Canada.

Deputy Speaker: Order, Member.

V. Roddick: This is concerning, and we should do everything we can to promote public safety.

Deputy Speaker: Your time has expired, Member.

C. Evans: I actually quite enjoyed the member's discourse, including the extra time. I would say it proves my point. I was arguing that the government imposed a stupid regulatory act that they didn't need and then didn't do a darned thing to make it work for two years because they didn't care and didn't pay attention. The hon. member proves the case in point.

This is the hon. member that chaired the government's agriculture committee, travelled all over the province and heard the farmers say that it doesn't work and explain to her the regulatory regime. Then two weeks ago, after ignoring their complaints, she went on the radio and said, "Oh, it's perfectly legal for a farmer to sell to their neighbour," and then later found out she was incorrect and had to retract.

She's a lovely person, a wonderful person, an intelligent person, and it proves that the government did not consider this issue for the entire two years that they had to fix it.

Now there is an argument that we have to deal with this in order to solve BSE, and I agree with that. I agree with the trade issues. But if we have to make it against the law to do on-farm sales in British Columbia, how come Nova Scotia gets to do it while Canada claims that all of the meat is trackable? Why wouldn't our government, our Minister of Agriculture, stand up for farmers here the same as the Minister of Agriculture in Nova Scotia? Why are there two kinds of equality in Canada?

The speaker could only name two provinces where they imposed a regulatory regime like ours. Why can't we be like the other places that say that farming is a good idea and producing healthy, organic food in the community is a good idea? What is the government's real agenda in wanting to make what we do for a living where we live against the law? Why is raising chickens starting to look like raising marijuana?

Why doesn't the government say: "Okay, we want it all to be gone through a legal processing facility, and so we'll see to it that they get built, and until there's one within 50 kilometres of your farm, you can do farm-gate sales"? Then you win.

Then the Minister of Health gets what he wants — every piece of meat inspected — but it forces the government that brought in the regulatory regime to see this job through, to actually put an abattoir within 50 kilometres of every farmer's door, or until it gets there, they can sell to their neighbours like they want to and always have done.


If you would like to add your voice, contacting your MLA might be the most effective way.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bear viewing in the Bella Coola Valley

Autumn is fishing time for bears. Chris Czajkowski (of Nuk Tessli fame) and a friend went to look for bears in the Bella Coola Valley. They didn't have to look for long:

The grizzly came ashore:

Soon after the grizzly left, a black bear came a-fishing:

and came pretty close too:

The grizzly, who hadn't gone that far must have picked up black bear scent (supper?) and stood up:

It wasn't long before they saw a black bear taking refuge high up in a cottonwood tree:

A little later, an uncomfortably close view of a mother and cubs:

A final comment from Chris:
There is some concern about the number of bear watchers and bears in such close proximity, especially the "watchers" who yell or throw stones towards the bears (not at them) in order to make them look up and be more interesting for the photos. I saw a group from a drift boat do just that. The bear was between us and the boat. If the bear had got angry she would have come up the bank to us in a bad mood. Bears don't recognise people in boats as being human, even if they make a noise. But people on land are people!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

British Columbia Grasslands book

BC photographer and author, Chris Harris, is launching his next book: Spirit in the Grass - The Cariboo Chilcotin's Forgotten Landscape.

Spirit in the Grass - The Cariboo Chilcotin's Forgotten Landscape

The Cariboo Chilcotin grasslands are one of the ecological wonders of the world and British Columbia's most endangered ecosystem. It covers less than 1% of the province yet supports over 30% of its threatened or endangered plant and animal species.
The book will be launched in Chris' home town of 100 Mile House on October 19th and then the promotional tour will move on to locations around BC.
The travelling Grasslands Gala multimedia presentation will include slide-sound sequences in combination with stories behind the images and how they and the book were created. As a photographer, I will speak from the creative visual arts perspective rather than the science perspective. In this way I hope to provide a new and fresh avenue to appreciate our beautiful British Columbia grasslands.
Spirit in the Grass - The Cariboo Chilcotin's Forgotten Landscape

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Birds From a Cariboo Deck No.6 - Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker is a favourite of mine: beautiful and a little shy, it enjoys the usual woodpecker favourites - bugs and suet - and also likes to pick off a few ants on a nearby berm.
Apparently many years ago the flickers got separated into two populations: west and east. The eastern flickers developed a yellow wing colour and we in the west can enjoy the more dramatic orange.

More Birds from A Cariboo Deck

Monday, July 16, 2007

Wildcrafting Strawberries

For a few years now I've been giving a little help (occasional watering and weeding) to a patch of especially large wild strawberries. Each year they reward me with a special harvest - not large but very sweet. This year's gift was substantially greater than last year's:

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Foxes in the Cariboo and London

This is an image of a fox, fairly common around here (the South Cariboo):

For contrasting lifestyle and season, here's a picture, from a friend, of a fox making itself at home in a London garden. Apparently this is not uncommon, especially around Hampstead Heath:

Monday, July 09, 2007

Chris Czajkowski's Chilcotin Photo-journal

Chris Czajkowski, author of Wildfire in the Wilderness, The Cabin at Singing River and other books, is back home at Nuk Tessli, hiking and paddling "her" piece of Chilcotin wilderness. Join Chris, as the early summer sun begins to melt last winter's heavy snows and she records in words and pictures the spectacular scenery and fascinating plant and animal life of this beautiful corner of British Columbia.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The pine beetle aftermath requires a fundamental culture change

Dave Neads writes from knowledge and experience about the forestry industry in BC. After hoping it would go away or some miracle cure would appear, the reality of the pine beetle aftermath is beginning to set in. This is going to require a deep, cultural change from those of us in affected areas, whether we are involved with forestry or not. Dave's article provides a welcome perspective. (The photo is mine - taken today in my backyard).


"Why can't they just fix it, spray the trees or something?" This question came from a European traveler visiting the Chilcotin Cariboo, but it may have just as easily been posed by someone from the lower mainland or even from Williams Lake.

Even though this person had driven from Williams Lake to Anahim Lake, had done a flightsee over the West Chilcotin, had spent a lot of time on back roads, and had seen the size and extent of the beetle kill, the scale of the problem was still incomprehensible. The question still came "Why can't they fix it?"

At the same time, for many, nothing appears to need fixing right now. Times are good. Everyone is working, the economy is robust, investors and speculators are buying properties, building big box stores and playing the real estate market, looking for future gain.

The problem is that these seeming good times hide the reality that we are facing two radically different visions of the future: one built on the dream of a continuing working class community, closely knit and vibrant, and the other built on land speculation and expected demographic shifts.

One future is driven by the aging baby-boomer population which is selling up in the south and moving farther north. They have income, they don't need forestry jobs, they are retired or semi-retired and looking for a more rural, small town lifestyle. It is this future that the land speculators and the big box store owners are betting on, the new economy driven by investment, retirees and land price increases. For example, recently, a helicopter load of speculators from the western US dropped out of the sky in the Tatla area, just checking to see what was for sale, what the country looked like. Lakefront property is at an all time high, house prices are rising, and speculation is rampant.

On the other hand, the future based on traditional forest economy is in trouble and faces two possible outcomes. To give you an idea of the scale of the forestry problem consider the Chilcotin, an area the size of Switzerland, predominantly forested with lodgepole pine. By 2010 it is estimated that the MPB will have killed roughly half a billion trees in the Chilcotin. Half a billion. That would represent 25 years of logging at current rates. All gone in the next few years.

Even if it were possible to harvest these trees while they are still useful for the industry, say in the next five years, you would need five times as many mills, five times as many logging roads, five times as many logging contractors, five times as many rail cars, five times as much market space in the U.S, five times as many mill workers and on and on. And even if that were possible, what happens at the end of the five years? The trees are gone, and a crash much bigger than the one we face implodes the local economy.

We can't fix the tree supply problem. There will be a drastic reduction in harvest levels in the near future. There is nothing we do can about this. If we don't accept these facts and adopt a new strategy the working class economy in the forest industry as we know it will come to the end of an era.

That is the more negative outcome, but there is an alternative. In the past we have logged more and more to maintain jobs. That option is no longer possible. The cut levels will be reduced drastically in the next few years. The only way to compensate for this is to increase the number of jobs for the trees cut. In other words, we need to reverse our thinking and get more jobs from fewer trees.

We all know log home builders achieve several times more jobs per tree than dimension lumber mills. But we can't stop there. For example, there is a small business in the West Kootenay that restores vintage bi-planes. They employ only four people year round, but they use just a few spruce trees. That is true value-added - and there are probably many more possibilities out there for those who are willing to think about things in a new and different way.

To achieve a new economy for forest workers we really need to spend a lot of time and energy thinking of new products, processes, markets and ideas. Not biofuels, not pellets; these still depend on a huge supply of saw logs, the very commodity that will shortly disappear. No, we need truly innovative and sustainable ideas to carry us forward. We also need things like government policy shifts and tenure re-arrangements to make more wood available for non-traditional products and services.

So don't be fooled. If you are in the forest resource sector, your future is very different than if you are in the service, retail or land business. How well the working-class families that depend upon these jobs will fare in the next decade will depend on a lot of things like innovation, new products and markets but, in the end, there will be a sharp change in the community and lifestyle of the Chilcotin Cariboo as we have come to know and understand it.

Like the European tourist who doesn't understand that we can't fix it, those who think that traditional forest employment will still be the backbone of the region just don't understand the scope, scale and size of the inevitable change we are facing. They need to face the facts and prepare for a future that is filled with new and unfamiliar experiences.

-Dave Neads-

Dave Neads is coordinating the regional conservation campaign in response to the Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic. In this capacity he is a director on the Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition and is a member of the Premier's Mountain Pine Beetle Provincial Task Force.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Birds from a Cariboo Deck No.5 - American Robin

A pair of robins have honoured us with setting up a nest nearby. They join others in the neighbourhood in their sweet evening singing. Aside from singing, the most popular visible activity of robins is their flamboyant bathing:

Monday, June 11, 2007

Kamloops/Thompson School District gets free software

Some interesting news on the computing front:

Kamloops school district gets an education in free software
Tuesday June 05, 2007
By: Bruce Byfield

The Kamloops/Thompson School District in British Columbia, Canada, is a free software success story. Gregg Ferrie, manager of information technology for the district, believes its infrastructure may be "the largest Linux on-the-desktop implementation in Western Canada" in public education. According to Ferrie, hardly a week goes by without another of British Columbia's more than 60 school districts consulting Kamloops. Currently, five other districts are considering or planning to implement the Kamloops district's custom-built thin client solution, and the department of education at the University of British Columbia is also investigating the possibility.

Read on

Monday, May 21, 2007

Fairyslipper / Calypso Orchid - spring beauty

Here in central BC it's the season. Fairyslippers are still fairly common, despite significant loss of habitat and being very fragile. For those who express their appreciation for flowers by picking them, these flowers are vulnerable because of their beauty and because picking a bloom can easily uproot the whole plant. Join me in a salute to the Calypso orchid (I prefer that name - more dignified).

And, yes, that is a little insect crawling up our beauty's face.

More on Wild BC.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Birds from a Cariboo Deck No.4 - Dark-eyed Junco

Once the Varied Thrush invasion subsided, the Dark-eyed Juncos started arriving in numbers. These birds enliven our back yard with their cheerful twitting and the little flashes of white as they fly around.

More Birds from A Cariboo Deck

I've just heard from our neighbour that he is planning to take down most of his trees - essentially the continuation of our bit of forest.

Part of our forest at dusk

This will of course have a direct impact on the fauna and flora on his property and, I suspect, a smaller but significant impact on the life on our little acre. It was only a few weeks ago that I photographed a couple of deer on his land.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Birds from a Cariboo Deck No.3 - Varied Thrush

It's been a while but spring has sprung and definitely time to feature another bird seen from my back deck. This time the honour falls to the Varied Thrush who this spring arrived in unprecedented numbers and stayed longer than ever (there are still a couple around). It's the males who arrive first so I will feature a male varied thrush here:

More Birds from A Cariboo Deck

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Earth Day 2007

As the birds come north . . .

For Earth Day - Birds in formation, returning north

. . . celebrating the day, the birds and the air we breathe.

Photo: April 21. Birds over the Cariboo. Photo Jeffrey Newman.

More British Columbia birds

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Canadian Architect magazine praises new Osoyoos museum

For some time I've been hearing and reading about this beautiful new museum in Osoyoos. The Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre is set on the Osoyoos Indian Reserve and is part of a larger resort destination being developed for the band. I came a across this substantial and generously-illustrated introduction to the museum in Canadian Architect.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Don't bring apples - and the apple maggot - home with you.

If we who who live in the Interior and visit the Lower Mainland and points south, are very careful, we can play a part in delaying the arrival of the apple maggot in the Okanagan. The simple request of vulnerable apple farmers in the Okanagan valley and other interior BC apple-growing areas is: Don't bring back any apples. This delay will, at least, give growers a little time to prepare. The little beast is already established in the Lower Mainland amongst the apples and crab apples. According to a Ministry of Agriculture entomologist, quoted in an article in the Vancouver Sun,

The southern Interior of B.C. is the only apple-growing region in North America that is currently free of apple maggots . . . It made its way [across North America] from the eastern U.S., where it originated. Once the insect establishes itself in the Okanagan, countries that import Okanagan fruit could impose trade restrictions.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Help Save Monarch Butterflies

Photographer made this available under a Creative Commons License

On this side of the continent, we have the western Monarch and it seems that both eastern and western varieties are under threat because of massive loss of habitat brought on by modern farming methods, especially the use of Roundup Ready corn and soybeans.

So, the call is out for individuals anywhere in the monarch range to provide what they can by way of "way stations" for these exceptional migrators.

Some Insects of the BC Interior: Text and pictures.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Kettle Valley farmer tries to stop radio-active mining on his land

A Rancher's Radioactive Hell

Joe Falkoski says he's being forced by bad laws to allow toxic mining on his land.
A special report By Kendyl Salcito
January 4, 2007

Falkoski with barite chunk at prospecting site left barren.

What do you do if you are a rancher told by a company -- and then the courts -- that there is nothing you can do to stop your rangeland from being dug up and further strewn with radiation?

Read on