Wildsight friends and members in 2000 perched on Ripple Mountain overlooking natural and manmade habitats.

Wildsight friends and members in 2000 perched on Ripple Mountain overlooking natural and manmade habitats.

Out There: Creston branch of Wildsight celebrating 25 years

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The Creston branch of Wildsight celebrates its 25th anniversary today, well, this year, 2015! Wildsight’s Creston branch had its beginnings a way back prior to 1980. Wow, that’s a long time ago! A lot of changes have taken place since then.

Creston Wildsight had its roots in a small group of people that included some “tree huggers” who came out of the forest where the air was clean, and concerned citizens from east and west and north and south. On getting together in Creston, they noticed there was, at times, a lot of bad air.

Perhaps, they may have been roaming around town after dark and discovered some foul smelling breezes. “What’s that smell ?” “Oh, that’s coming from someone burning garbage when the smoke isn’t so easily seen.” There was a need to alert some of Creston’s “upright” citizens of how toxic it was to burn plastics and what they can do about it. Also a program was introduced to encourage people to install efficient wood stoves.

Then it was discovered a lot of people were forced to take up “stubble smoking”. The practice of burning stubble on the flats caused a lot of serious breathing problems for some people and was a general hazard to everyone who was down wind from the smoke. A local warrior for the cause of clean air even went south of the border and, with the company of another down there, advocate for clean air, campaigned amongst the farmers, groups and government to take to alternative means for dealing with the stubble. With this and other environmental issues, Creston’s very own East Kootenay Environmental Society (EKES) became a reality.

Other early issues included the burning of garbage elsewhere and hauling the ashes to Creston for “burial”. Having clean water and protecting the watersheds from which most of the drinking water came was a deep concern. A significant threat of the time was a 26-mile road with 16 creek crossings with subsequent degrading of the water supply.

There has been more than one attempt to divert the Kootenay, a river flowing with “milk”, but I am not sure about honey. Glacial waters joining the Kootenay, in its upper reaches, give it a greenish, milky tint. EKES was instrumental, along with other groups, in discouraging a second attempt to redirect its waters.

There was (and still is) a need to upgrade timber harvest (logging) practices. Out of this was born the Creston Valley Forest Corporation (Creston Community Forest), which has implemented better ways to log, reducing erosion, among other benefits, in the watercourses. The plan was for it not only to be viable, but also to return profits into the community and the environment to benefit its citizens, both human and wild. Part of that benefit has resulted in the community forest taking trails into their jurisdiction, under their wing. Today, Wildsight’s Creston branch is still a vital part of the Creston Valley Forest Corporation.

EKES members agreed that a main avenue to protecting our environment was to educate and create awareness of our natural surroundings, of how a healthy environment was (and still is) vital to our well-being. Besides putting on programs like slide shows and reports of wildlife research, EKES also sought to create appreciation and awareness of our natural heritage by co-operating in the establishing of local trails, some of them self-guiding with pamphlets on the natural history along the route. Over the years many volunteers have helped to keep these trails maintained.

Joining together with other similar organizations, the Creston environmental society got a new branding — Wildsight (Creston) — joining in with other Wildsight branches, including Kimberley and Golden.

A big thrust of Wildsight at Creston has been education through support of hiking and through creating awareness, with presentations on wolverines, grizzly bears, water, geology, mining history and various individuals’ trips into the wild, both near and far, from Iceland to Antartica and from the top of Sphinx Mountain to the cool waters of the Kootenay River. Over those years, something like 85 programs and presentations were put on at the Creston Valley Seniors Centre, Rotacrest Hall and at the Tivoli Theatre. Sixty-five speakers, including college professors, research biologists, photographers, mountain climbers, hikers, botanists and naturalists, graced our hallways. Sometimes attendance topped near 100.

The Creston branch of Wildsight launches into its 26th year continuing on the trail of creating awareness, appreciation and in educating our community in wild ways, in being custodians of our wild places (loss of habitat is the greatest cause in the degrading of the dynamic balance in nature) and acting on it!

Ed McMackin is a biologist by profession but a naturalist and hiker by nature. He can be reached at 250-866-5747.