Wild Insight

Submitted by Kat Graves
Wildsight Invermere

However arbitrary you think it is, it can be hard not to get swept up in the sentiment that the New Year represents a fresh start — the cosmic slate has been wiped clean and we have a chance to begin again — to be and do more and better. 

For my own part, I have to admit to not being much for resolutions; this is perhaps somewhat ironic, as most close friends and family would be quick to attest to my being “resolute” (a kindly euphemism for stubborn, I suspect). And, at least in one instance, I wear the mantle of resolute happily: Now, more than ever, our wild spaces and species need us to take action on their behalf. Of this, I could not be more certain. 

In our region, we’re spoiled with the riches of biodiversity; but that biodiversity is not impervious, and it cannot endure in the face of ever-increasing human exceptionalism and exploitation. The beloved Toby Canyon mountain goat herd, which rambles both the Canyon and the alpine slopes of Mounts Goldie, Taynton and Brewer, not so long ago numbered 80-strong. Today, it is estimated to be 16. Habitat loss, human disturbance and development, and misguided relocation are all, in part, to blame. In Radium, bighorn sheep — a species so synonymous with the area — are balanced on a knife’s edge; between 2001 and 2021, 203 sheep were killed on the highway alone. Meanwhile, a gargantuan ski resort development in the Central Selkirk mountains between Kaslo and New Denver has been proposed in the middle of critical wildlife habitat. The proposal offers no mitigation plan for the fragmentation of grizzly bear and wildlife corridors that would result, nor for the degradation of mountain goat habitat. Everywhere, it’s the proverbial, perilous death of a thousand cuts. 

At our Wild & Scenic Film Festival two years ago, we played a short, sharp film called See Animals, which begins with a cheerful animated portrayal of various critters going about their creaturely lives. In a moment, the ‘feed’ glitches and the camera zooms out; it’s suddenly apparent that the audience is inside a virtual reality simulation — the only way there is left to see animals. 

It’s quite the gut punch — and I think that’s because, on a not-so-good day, it seems we are careening toward this future with a hideous inevitability. We give ourselves leave to roam and consume and extract and despoil. But our stretching wetlands — a veritable oasis of aquatic flora and fauna — and our ancient forests and our glorious mountain landscapes are not “warehouses of resources” with infinite supply. We take too much, and there will be nothing leftover. Much has, in fact, already been lost. 

But, as ever, the New Year beckons. There are 350 odd days (depending, of course, on when this is published) before us to go forward in a different mode. To imagine another way we could coexist, peaceably, with the more-than-human world around us — and I am more resolute (re: stubborn) than ever that we must.  

Be stubborn with me; the wild is worth it, and so much more. 

Become a member at Wildsight.ca/Invermere. For those curious, you can view See Animals at vimeo.com/scottwenner/seeanimals.