Demand cleanup of abandoned telegraph wire that is killing wildlife in Pacific Northwest

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The First Two Weeks

I am very heartened by the response so far: people who know about this problem are coming together, and educating those who do not yet know. Since this petition was launched almost two weeks ago, I was contacted by, and spoke with, John Streicker, MLA for Mt Lorne-Southern Lakes in the Yukon, who is working to get a cleanup organized in the White Pass area. I have rekindled my contact with Yukon Wildlife Enhancement Trust who also support this petition and have organized cleanup of specific areas over the years. And it was an honour to receive the support of Norman Yakeleya of the Sahtu Nation; his longtime calls for cleanup finally paid off with the Canol Trail project supported by the Federal government and successfully completed in January. Here in British Columbia, I have heard from grassroots activists who simply use heavy cutters on the wire where they can; this does not remove it, but makes the segments short enough that a moose can slip out if he snags the wire. For all my love for this Best Place on Earth, we are well behind the Yukon and Northwest Territories in both awareness and cleanup efforts. When last summer I contacted a Conservation Officer here is BC, I was taken aback by this reply: "From the pictures you sent I didn’t get the impression it was a big risk to wildlife, given that the forest is full of obstacles and hazards." I expect more concern from a government official entrusted with protecting wildlife, certainly a better understanding of the difference between natural dangers and something a moose is entirely unequipped to deal with. (This is *not* the same Conservation Officer who is currently looking into the illegal snares in the Kitimat river valley.) And how big does a risk need to be before we take it seriously? To me as a veterinarian, and to the Conservation Officer in the Yukon who had to put down a young moose caught in the wire, one animal is already one too many. One might ask, Why not simply organize a widespread grassroots campaign instead of waiting for the government to respond? Two main reasons. First, I believe it is important for the government to acknowledge its responsibility for a project that was launched by its predecessor, the Dominion Government of Canada. It owes such acknowledgement to the animals who are affected by the wire, and to the people who for centuries have depended on these animals for their survival and sustenance. Secondly, the scope and logistics involved in a full and complete cleanup are beyond the capacity of even the most dedicated grassroots volunteers. Going into a heavily overgrown wilderness, outside of established and maintained trails, requires special training, equipment, and logistical support. This *should* be regarded not as a financial liability for the federal government, but as a much-needed employment and skills-training opportunity for northern communities, just as it was with the Canol Trail cleanup. Recent media coverage has helped bring attention to this issue. These articles, both presenting important background information, contain parts of interviews I gave to Quinn Bender of the Terrace Standard, and to CBC reporters in the Yukon. Together with much interest from the public, their feedback has helped me understand why the issue might have been neglected for so long. People assume, reasonably if mistakenly, that this wire is made of copper. If this were the case, the problem would likely have taken care of itself long ago. Unfortunately, this wire is not copper; it is made of galvanized iron, a material of comparatively low economic value and limited practical use. Still, I find it hard to believe that such strong and well-made wire has not found better use than to be repurposed for fences. Maybe the engineers and inventors among us can come up with practical solutions that would make this material live up to the benign purpose it was meant for. Many people believe and hope that after all this time the wire is mostly on the ground where it can do no more harm. Parts of it are indeed on, or close to, the ground. Other parts are affixed to poles that are still standing firm, with the wire suspended well above the ground (see photo). Even if all the poles were to fall, the geography of BC and the Yukon is such that sections of wire would remain in the air, stretched from one bank of a ravine or one outcropping of terrain to the other. Thank you to everyone who has signed and shared this petition. Please keep up the effort, re-share, tell people about it, help educate those who might be interested. I will keep posting updates, especially closer to summer when we will likely organize a localized cleanup of the area in the picture (in the Nass Valley). And please feel free to email me with any information or ideas: I will not share your information with anyone without your permission. Dr Veronica

Veronica Gventsadze
3 years ago