Private property in remote Tweedsmuir Provincial Park bought for conservation

An 80-hectare swath of land within Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, northeast of Bella Coola, B.C., will be added to the park after a successful fundraising campaign by the B.C. Parks Foundation.

The foundation announced on Tuesday that more than 100 contributors, including one major anonymous donor, had given nearly $700,000, enough to buy the property and fund its management.

The land at the south end of Lonesome Lake was a homestead, going back to the early 1900s, when Ralph and Ethel Edwards, along with their family, settled there before the surrounding area became Tweedsmuir Provincial Park.

“The Lonesome Lake property is really important because this is where trumpeter swans were saved from extinction in British Columbia, and the world, really, back in the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s,” said Ric Careless, vice chair of the foundation.

The property acquired by the B.C. Parks Foundation is shown at the south end of Lonesome Lake. (LandQuest Realty Corporation)

According to Careless, the Edwards family basically saved the species over three decades beginning in the 1920s. They lugged bags of barley into the area on horseback to feed the swans — a species that may have dropped to fewer than 100 birds after it was over-hunted for its brilliant white plumage.

By the 1950s, the swans were far more numerous, and Careless says four of the stunning birds from Lonesome Lake were given to then Princess Elizabeth after a visit to British Columbia.

The newly acquired property is near towering Hunlen Falls at the north end of Lonesome Lake, as well as other majestic natural features.

“This was a very high-priority property. I’ve known about it for a couple decades, but it just became available,” he said.

Careless’s fear was that the land would be purchased by someone with the intention of turning it — and its waterways filled with sockeye salmon and steelhead trout — into a tourist fishing destination.

Hunlen Falls is in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near the property that has been bought by the B.C. Parks Foundation. (Ric Careless)

He was worried the helicopter and float plane traffic would have an impact on the trumpeter swans, the grizzly bears, the fish, and other creatures relying on the habitat.

“It really would have been a major loss,” said Careless, thinking of the scenario that has been avoided by the foundation’s successful campaign.

Though he didn’t like the prospect of motorized visitors flocking to the lake, Careless suggests people who want a taste of rugged wilderness should check it out. He recommends a 30-kilometre trail up the grizzly-infested Atnarko River from the Bella Coola Highway.

“This is serious backcountry. If you really want to experience what wilderness feels like, and the very best — I mean this is world class,” said Careless.

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