BC Parks Foundation buys key section along ‘heart of the Fraser River’

Click to play video: 'BC Parks Foundation moves to preserve part of the ‘heart of the Fraser’'
BC Parks Foundation moves to preserve part of the ‘heart of the Fraser’
The BC Parks Foundation has purchased a small parcel of land that makes up the 'heart of the Fraser.' Paul Johnson explains why it's a critical move towards conservation – Dec 29, 2022

Conservationists are celebrating the news that one of the most critical sections of B.C.’s most important river will be preserved.

The BC Parks Foundation purchased a section along an area known as “the heart of the Fraser River.”

River advocate Mark Angelo has spent 50 years persuading British Columbians to recognize the heart – an 80-kilometre stretch of the river between Mission and Hope that is some of the world’s best remaining riverine habitat and critical to B.C.’s salmon run.

“This is a critical property and a critical area and to see it now protected by the BC Parks Foundation, that’s an incredible gift to salmon, wildlife and to all British Columbians,” Angelo said. “This property was a riverside farm. I had often seen it from the river and I was looking at it and thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day it could be acquired and protected and restored back to what it once was?”

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Click to play video: '‘Heart of the Fraser’ named B.C.’s most endangered river of 2022'
‘Heart of the Fraser’ named B.C.’s most endangered river of 2022

The heart of the Fraser River supports close to 30 species of fish, Angelo says, including sturgeon and the largest salmon spawning run.

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While there’s little dispute among scientists about their value, some of the river’s most sensitive areas are privately owned and difficult to protect.

This week, however, the BC Parks Foundation showed one way of working around the problem. Using money from its network of donors, the organization put in the winning bid to buy the 35-hectare property on the river near Agassiz.

“When we see a property like this in such an important area, we move very quickly … and we were very fortunate,” foundation CEO Andy Day said.

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With two kilometres of riverfront, it’s one of the single largest conservation events on the river in years.

“In this particular property there will be an effort to restore it, rewild it, and bring it back to what it once was,” Angelo said. “When I look at the heart of the Fraser, I think we have to do everything possible not only to protect habitats that remain in good shape, but to restore those that have been damaged in past and this in particular is a wonderful example of that.”

Earlier this year, conservationists declared the Fraser River B.C.’s most endangered river. Angelo says the heart of the Fraser faces several threats, including agricultural expansion and urban and industrial development.

Click to play video: 'Test fisheries for salmon in the Fraser River are abysmal this season'
Test fisheries for salmon in the Fraser River are abysmal this season

Even with this latest purchase, Angelo has been calling for a collaborative conservation strategy for the area between all levels of government.

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“Certainly, there’s a role there for governments to do much more,” he said. “But in addition to that, there’s also a role for foundations and trust, to try and acquire key private properties that have exceptional environmental values that may be under threat. I think we have to do both.”

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