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Wells Gray Park nominated as UNESCO World Heritage site

There can be few areas anywhere that combine so many diverse features of international importance
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Wells Gray Provincial Park has been formally nominated to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, members of the organizing committee report.

“Wells Gray is a shoo-in for four of the 10 World Heritage criteria,” said volcanologist Dr. Catherine Hickson, one of the main proponents of the application and a director of the Wells Gray Wilderness Society Centre.

“Only two hours north of Kamloops, this 540,000 ha park abounds in: (1) superlative natural beauty; (2) outstanding examples of Earth’s history; (3) significant ecological and biological processes; and (4) international conservation value, including threatened species,” she said.

Upper Clearwater naturalist and lichenologist Trevor Goward agreed.

“There can be few areas anywhere that combine so many diverse features of international importance,” he said.

Goward listed these features as including:

• large tracts of the globally rare inland temperate rainforest, ancient beyond reckoning;

• the world’s most diverse lichen flora, with 435 species;

• the world’s two largest rivers (by volume) to occur entirely within a protected area;

• the valley of fire and ice: an internationally significant showcase of ice-contact volcanoes, lava flows and canyons;

• some of the lushest, most extensive subalpine flower meadows in all of North America;

• one of the world’s great whitewater kayak rivers, the Clearwater, known far and wide;

• a final southern stronghold for the endangered, uniquely Canadian mountain caribou;

• the “waterfall park,” with more major waterfalls than any other locality in North America; and

• apparently the largest lake in the world out of bounds to motorboats – a canoeists’ paradise.

“Thompson Rivers University has had a teaching residence near Wells Gray Park for more than two decades,” said Tom Dickinson, dean of science at TRU. “This project is important to us because it builds international recognition for this area’s globally significant biodiversity and tremendous opportunities for outdoor education – a wilderness classroom.”

B.C.’s Minster of Environment Mary Polak said, “The consideration of this area to become an UNESCO World Heritage Site represents a significant opportunity for First Nations, the province, the residents of British Columbia and visitors to the area.”

The nomination came in response to a call by federal Minister of Environment Catharine McKenna for World Heritage Site nominations as part of Canada’s celebrations during its 150th year since Confederation.

Successful bids will be announced in December and placed on Canada’s tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage status.