A road map for 2018

The Bulkley Valley Research ‘Centre of Excellence’ was founded 15 years ago by Jim Pojar and Irving Fox (among others), and although the natural and political landscapes have changed, the original concepts are still relevant today. A reflection on the original concepts, combined with the new strategic plan, offers an exciting road map for 2018 and beyond.

The Centre plays a unique role in our region as a research bridging organization connecting “actors across sectors and scales to solve problems neither would be able to on their own. Recent empirical studies have shown that these organizations provide platforms for communication, relationship building, stakeholder engagement, learning and coordination” (Berdej, Samantha. Bridging Organizations to Improve Conservation Fit in the Coral Triangle. PhD Thesis. University of Waterloo, 2017. Web link

Our strength is in the people supporting the Centre, and I continue to be impressed with the breadth and depth of research expertise in the Valley. I am excited to re-engage the core researchers associated with the Centre through the RAD (Research ADvisory) Team—how rad is that? I am also excited that we have substantially increased our individual membership base since starting our membership campaign in November. I look forward to implementing new ways to serve our membership this year, as the membership base is vital to the Centre’s operations. A big thanks to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development - Skeena Region for their generous donation through our supporting members program.

Throughout 2018, I will be cultivating partnerships and funding opportunities with the provincial government, private sector, academia, and First Nations, as well as local non-profit organizations, members, and the public. I look forward to creating outreach opportunities with the public and youth in order to elevate science as part of our everyday lives.

Please feel free to contact me with your ideas anytime. I look forward to working with you on projects that promote the Centre’s values of excellence, community, collaboration, objectivity, relevance, and sustainability.

—Leigh-Ann Fenwick, Executive Director

The BVRC's AGM will be held on February 27th

The BVRC's annual general meeting will be held on the evening of Tuesday, February 27, 2018 at the Aspen Inn's Riverhouse Lounge, preceded by an informal dinner and social. A formal invitation with a full agenda and menu options will be emailed to members shortly.

In the meantime, save the date and consider nominating your colleagues for one of the awards outlined below.


We are calling for nominations for the Irving Fox Award, the Jim Pojar Award, and the Volunteer Distinction Award, which recognize researchers, writers, activists, volunteers, or organizations that have made an outstanding contribution to sustainability in northwest BC. For more information and full eligibility criteria for each of these awards, CLICK HERE.

Any BVRC member can nominate candidates for these awards (you can even nominate yourself). If you have an idea for a nomination, please contact us at info@bvcentre.ca.

Deadline for all award nominations: February 9, 2018.

Seminar Series: Erica Lilles

The BVRC Seminar Series returns on Wednesday, January 24th at 12:00 p.m. with a presentation from Erica Lilles on the understory plant community as an indicator of ecological recovery after logging at the Date Creek Research Forest. This seminar is free and open to the public. Bring your lunch!

Visit our event page for more information about this seminar: Seminar Series with Erica Lilles

WHEN: Wednesday, January 24th at 12:00 p.m.
WHERE: The Old Church (corner of First Avenue & King Street)

Call for Applications: Irving Fox Memorial Scholarship

We are now seeking applications for the Irving Fox Memorial Scholarship for Natural and Cultural Resources Research and Management. This scholarship is awarded to a student from northwestern British Columbia, or a student enrolled in or entering studies in natural and cultural resources research and/or management in northwestern British Columbia. The value of the award is $750 - $1000.

For information on eligibility, how to apply, and a list of past recipients, visit our website: BVRC Irving Fox Memorial Scholarship

The deadline for applications is May 31, 2018.

We are always looking for community donations to the Scholarship Fund so we can continue to offer this worthwhile scholarship. If you would like to contribute, please send your donation to: Bulkley Valley Research Centre (Attn: Scholarship Fund), Box 4274, Smithers, BC V0J 2N0.

Founding member profile: Jim Pojar

In 2002, the Bulkley Valley Research Centre was established as part of a local, grassroots effort to address the challenges of sustainability and community well-being during a time of rapid and unprecedented change. Fifteen years ago, the newly elected Gordon Campbell government was implementing its vision for the province, which included fiscal austerity, privatisation, deregulation of resource industries, a reduced civil service, and the closing of government offices in some areas. According to Jim Pojar, one of the founding directors of the BVRC, this had a dispiriting effect on the vibrant community of public- and private-sector researchers and resource professionals (foresters, biologists, ecologists, earth scientists, educators) that had developed in the Bulkley Valley since the 1970s. Talented people were leaving the community, and prospects for young researchers were not great. "It was unfortunate because the need for good information and knowledgeable people hadn’t gone away," Jim recalls. "In addition to traditional issues like harvest rates, inventory, and monitoring, global warming was upon us, as was the mountain pine beetle outbreak."

So a group of concerned citizens—which initially included Jim Pojar, Irving Fox, Brian Edmison, and Liz Osborn—came up with a plan to try and keep good people in the Northwest and attract more of them. The Bulkley Valley Research Centre was established in order to address the challenges of natural resource sustainability and community well-being by drawing on the region’s favourable geography and collaborative social capital. The founding directors of the BVRC included: Brian Edmison, Irving Fox, Rosemary Fox, Tom Buri, Sybille Haeussler, Kevin Kriese, Anne Harfenist, Paul Sanborn, Carl vanderMark, Frank Doyle, and Jim Pojar.

In the intervening fifteen years, northwestern BC has seen significant changes in climate, streamflows, forest cover, insect outbreaks, fish and wildlife populations, networks of roads and other linear infrastructure, impacts of invasive species, shutdown sawmills, population trends, and occupations in urban centres. We now have access to Smartphones, 3-D printing, Google Earth, drones, digital cameras, GPS units, LIDAR, CRISPR, and desktop genetic engineering. "Given the amount and pace of change, the importance of natural resources, and the abundance of raw data (vis à vis the shortage of analysis and experienced judgement), the knowledge business can only increase in this region," Jim says.

While Jim believes the Centre continues to provide reliable, useful information and analysis, he notes that in recent years its role in providing a forum for interdisciplinary collaboration seems to have diminished somewhat. He hypothesizes that a changing demographic, chronic underfunding of bigger-picture research, more DIY projects, and skepticism about the benefits of membership and the advantages of teamwork may all have played a part in this shift. Jim anticipates continued rapid change and more upheaval over the next fifteen years, but knows "critical thinking never goes out of style." Amidst the current global political climate, he notes that information is "the currency of democracy" (Ralph Nader), and that broad-based knowledge and evidence-based assessment are more important now than ever before.

Jim has several ideas about how the BVRC and local researchers can contribute in the years ahead, including the need to update most LRMPs (land use plans), focus on carbon stewardship, and prioritize the maintenance of clean air and water. "The Centre could help with applied research, timely communications, collaborative workshops, training and mentoring," Jim says. He also thinks that a State of the Northwest report and a Regional Environmental Assessment are long overdue and fundamental to any meaningful analysis of cumulative impacts.

Jim is hopeful about where the BVRC is headed, and acknowledges that the current community of researchers in the valley represent a good mix of gender, age, field experience, technical savvy, familiarity with the literature, management skills, and links with academia. "This community has survived even as the regional workforce squeezed through institutional bottlenecks and neglect, but the present talented assemblage won’t persist indefinitely."

Fifteen years after helping to establish the BVRC, Jim hopes to pass the mantle onto the next generation of researchers, students, professionals, and engaged citizens. "We need new opportunities, new faces, and more young people."

Project profile: Shared Histories

The Shared Histories project examines the history of relationships between Witsuwit'en and settlers in Smithers. While it is widely recognized that Smithers is on Witsuwit'en territory, the experiences of the Witsuwit'en in Smithers are not well known. While Witsuwit'en people have always been living in Smithers, making key contributions to the development of the Bulkley Valley, they have struggled with marginalization and discrimination. The Shared Histories project was initiated as a research collaboration between the Town of Smithers, the Office of the Wet'suwet'en, and a university-based research team to examine this history.

The research team, led by Dr. Tyler McCreary, has completed the process of collecting oral histories and archival records for the project. They are currently preparing a book for publication with Creekstone Press. As it is important to ensure that the book accurately reflects local history, the research team asked a group of informed locals from both the Witsuwit'en and settler communities to provide feedback on the draft chapters. The Bulkley Valley Research Centre partnered with the research team to help facilitate this process.

The primary aim of the project is to help build understanding of our shared history in the Bulkley Valley. McCreary explains that the project was "inspired by conversations that are occurring across the province and indeed the country about how to address the difficult legacies we inherit and build better relationships between the descendants of the original peoples and settlers on this land." He points out that the dialogues around residential schools in particular have showcased the importance of recognizing the trauma of that experience to advancing reconciliation. The research team hopes by sharing the history of Witsuwit'en in Smithers, they can help build both an understanding of the contributions and struggles of Witsuwit'en in our community. Everyone involved in the Shared Histories project hopes that through recognizing history, people can learn from it and ultimately build a fairer and more just future.

While the aim of the Shared Histories project was to build a broader understanding in the community writ large, the research team notes that a secondary outcome was to build relationships through the project itself. The research involved many people and institutions representing both Witsuwit'en and settler communities. Often there has been tension between these communities, and through dialogues around our shared histories, people have begun to develop stronger individual and institutional relationships. "I certainly feel closer to many of the elders from whom I have learned as a product of the research," McCreary says.

The research team encourages everyone in the community to read the interim project report, as well as share and discuss it with others. Click HERE to access a PDF version of the report, which was published in June 2017. Community members can also find hard copies of the report at the Bulkley Valley Museum and Smithers Public Library. McCreary intends for people to use the report to start broader conversations about the different experiences that residents have had in Smithers, and even begin to rethink who we are as residents of this town and territory.

Keep an eye out for news of the upcoming book publication and launch. In the meantime, if anyone has further questions or would like to contact a member of the Shared Histories project team, send an email to smitherssharedhistories@gmail.com.

Upcoming Conferences

COFI Convention 2018
April 4–6, 2018
Prince George Civic Centre

From April 4-6, 2018, the BC Council of Forest Industries will hold its Annual Convention, the largest gathering of the forest sector in Western Canada. This year the COFI Annual Convention returns to the heart of the Canadian forest industry, at the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre in Prince George, BC. With the industry in a significant period of change and development, the convention program will cover all the critical topics to the industry, including innovation, trade, international markets, climate change and sustainability, and land-based issues and opportunities.

CMI Conference
Interdisciplinary Approaches to Managing Health of Fish and Wildlife
May 1–2, 2018
Kimberley Conference Centre

To ensure proactive conservation of wildlife populations, there is a need for cross-discipline sharing of information on current disease issues by governments, communities, scientists, wildlife managers, the agriculture industries, public health, and stakeholders from all sides.

This upcoming conference will provide an opportunity for improved dialogue among experts, such as First Nations, veterinarians, academics, epidemiologists, wildlife biologists, stakeholders, managers, stewardship groups, and the public. Experiences with successful citizen science and disease-reporting tools will be shared. New research on the role of climate change and variables that help predict disease outbreaks will be of interest to species-specific disease monitoring and management efforts.

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