David Zirnhelt. Photo submitted

Zirnhelt: A trip down memory lane

Regular columnist David Zirnhelt returns with his column Ranch Musings

There was no doubt about what I was going to write about this week. The grasslands of the Cariboo-Chilcotin and the rest of the interior of B.C. are a treasure of nature.

As I drove south towards Big Bar Guest Ranch, I recalled vividly the visit there to its official opening in the mid-nineties. A nice touch was that once on the road west from the highway at 59 Mile, everyone waved!

That doesn’t happen everywhere. In fact, it is less frequent as neighbours and travelers know less about each other.

It still offends me when, on a quiet rural road, a passerby does not wave back.

I digress. I was attending a field day and road trip with the students at Thompson Rivers University, their instructors and other experts on grasslands and their care.

This is the 20th anniversary of the Grasslands Council of BC (GCC) which held its inaugural meeting at Big Bar in 1999. Later this month there will be a full celebration of the work of scientists, ranchers, and government managers of the grasslands.

As late as 2007, many in this part of the country really didn’t know much about these special areas along the rivers and the valleys of the dry interior.

This was the year that Chris Harris of 108 Mile along with contributors and science advisors, Ordell Steen of Williams Lake and Kristi Iverson of Lac La Hache, produced an amazing book, ”The Spirit in the Grass.”

Chris Harris still talks about how, when he was producing his remarkable photographs of the grasslands and speaking about his book, most people had no idea about the uniqueness of these areas.

The subtitle of the book is “The Cariboo Chilcotin’s Forgotten Landscape.” I grew up in the grasslands around 150 Mile House, never realizing the importance of this landscape except for its values for grazing cattle and horses.

The First Nations of course had kept the openness vital with frequent low intensity burning which was part of their stewardship of the land, its plants and animals.

Today, some 32% of the endangered species of this part of BC live in the grasslands which covers only 1% of the land base.

The students of TRU, as part of a learning module on grazing and range management, were treated to Chris’ slide show set to music written especially for his photographs. If you haven’t seen this production visit his website and get the Blue Ray disk.

A day trip to the Churn Creek protected area with members of Friends of Churn Creek including Peter Opie, president, and Rancher John Holmes of Empire Valley Ranch was exciting. We heard of the progress towards better condition of the ecology of the grass region.

The grasslands are in better condition than when the protected areas was created in the late nineties.

This is not without the considerable efforts of the dedicated members of the Friends of Churn Creek who volunteer to assist with prescribed burns and the management of invasive plants in the area.

I spent some years on the Grassland Council and celebrate the role it plays in the near absence of the provincial government in stewarding these special places.

The GCC of BC is dedicated to ensuring two main things: the preservation of this unique landscape which in the Cariboo Chilcotin is in 95% “natural” condition and to the preservation of the working ranches that along with the First Nations are the private owners of about half the grasslands.

The absence of stewardship will further threaten this gift of Creation.

A walk in this green paradise in June is one of the most uplifting things one can do.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake.

READ MORE: Cyclical nature of Canada/ USA lumber markets


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

New staff housing camp opens at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

The ATCO trailer at the Forest Rose Campground offers 26 housing units

Quesnel boxers earn praise for performance in Williams Lake

Connor Clancy earns first win, Evan Lee lands fight of the night and James Mott is a gentleman

’This is our way to give back to somebody’

Quesnel couple’s TeamTanya “The Breast Ride” raising money to help people going through breast cancer

Quesnel business associations collaborate to host dinner on the bridge

The first event on the walking bridge, the Shore to Shore Dinner on the Bridge, sold out quickly

Grads will be celebrated at Quesnel’s National Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration

Event planned for Friday, June 21 includes dancing, children’s activities, food and music

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

B.C. teen killed by falling tree near Victoria

Second youth also injured in freak incident during field trip at Camp Barnard near Sooke

Commercial fishers in B.C. now required to wear life-jackets on deck: WorkSafeBC

WorkSafeBC reports 24 work-related deaths in the commercial fishing industry between 2007 and 2018

Beekeeping Rossland boy finds human kindness sweet as honey

Family overwhelmed by kind offerings of strangers

B.C. files second legal challenge against Alberta over turn-off-taps law

B.C. government filed a second lawsuit against Alberta on June 14

Tax credits, penalizing big polluters, key to Conservative climate plan

Canada’s commitment is to cut emissions to 70 per cent of what they were in 2005 before 2030

Victoria double murder trial: Blood splatter analyst found no shoe prints on scene

RCMP analyst testifies to smears, fingermarks, ‘swipe and wipe’ patterns around apartment

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

Most Read