In which the writer proposes:

Splitting conventional wisdoms and inspecting for rot.
Wrestling with the status quo.
Weighing environmental and economic absurdities.
Disentangling metaphors.

Monday 7 December 2015

Our Fencing Project on Nature Trust Land: Revisited


 As told in an earlier article July 2015:      

 A portion of damaged Nature Trust property in the Gilpin Grasslands has been fenced by volunteers to protect a spring and riparian area. This will be the first time since the property was acquired by Nature Trust in 1973, that this piece, approximately 6 acres, will be protected from range cows and off-roaders.

The fence was proposed at meetings of the Committee for the Enhancement of the Gilpin. Work began late 2014 and was completed June 2015.

Approximately 6 acres of Nature Trust land is now protected by wildlife friendly fencing as per recommendations of Montana State Wildlife Friendly Fencing Brochure. See details on Lost Lake blog of Nov 2014.
For more on that story see the link above.

Volunteers returned to the newly fenced area Oct 2015 to remove the dysfunctional fence installed a few years earlier by Range Branch, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
That Range Branch fence deserves further comment as it was a non-wildlife friendly fence installed too close to a spring and seasonal flow to provide any worthwhile setback or protection from range cows. The Range Branch fence was constructed in a U shape, open at the North end where it was apparently assumed that dense brush would prevent cattle access. The assumption was wrong, cattle pushed into the supposed enclosure and having done so, exited through the wire, damaging the fence. The fence did not extend into the headwaters area of the spring which remained open to cattle damage. In order to construct that fence, Range Branch or designates felled numerous trees in the area and left them where they fell. That fence and the damage were done on Nature Trust property without permission or notice to Nature Trust.

Other examples of Range Branch’s work can be found in the Gilpin and elsewhere in the Boundary. Poorly planned, poorly executed, non-wildlife friendly fencing and fencing along the edge of riparian zones that are hazardous to wildlife. See more on that in our Nov 2014 article:

The following YouTube video shows the new fence construction and the take down of the older Range Branch dysfunctional fence.



 If your device and download speed allow, select up to 1080 high definition video.




It is our hope that this initiative will:

  • Allow recovery of the Nature Trust Spring and surrounding area.
  • Demonstrate improved natural values in the absence of cattle grazing and off-roading.
  • Demonstrate the effectiveness of wildlife friendly fencing in the face of Range Branch’s reluctance to use same.

On the latter point we are less than optimistic. Range Branch has shown no ability or inclination to change their practices for the benefit of anything other than cattle grazing.

This article and video link are also available as a printable pdf at

Friday 27 November 2015


The following is a guest article, Declaration of Support…….produced and signed by 26 scientists. The article is a response to the B.C. Gov’ts recent request for comments for reactivated proposals for a South Okanagan Park.

Boundary Alliance made its own separate submission online and in the format requested by Gov’t. That online process made no provision for identifying whether the submission came from an individual or group/organization. Unlike similar processes, e.g. submission of comments re Water Act changes, comments/submissions are not being published online. This lack of transparency can hide any public awareness of “stacking” of responses by so called stakeholders. 

While we largely support the following Declaration by scientists we do have concerns over a “balanced” approach to cattle grazing in any Park unless that “balanced” approach incorporates an honest assessment of the public and environmental costs of cattle grazing on public land. The absence of any honest “costs” assessment to date has resulted in misleading claims of positive economic values to grazing. See our articles covering this topic at:


Al Grant for Boundary Alliance.





We the undersigned, as members of BC's scientific community, join with Parks Canada, the Province of BC, the Okanagan Nation Alliance, and a majority of local residents in supporting enhanced protection for the ecosystems of the South Okanagan and Lower Similkameen. We encourage the government of British Columbia. Parks Canada and the Okanagan Nation Alliance to initiate formal negotiations to finalize boundaries, relationships, and commitments for the creation of a National Park Reserve (NPR) and for the long term protection and management of this remarkable area....

for full text, maps and list of signatures see:

Tuesday 22 September 2015


A guest piece this time from John & Mary Theberge,  biologist’s from Oliver B.C.

John & Mary’s recent book, The Ptarmigans Dilemma expands on grasslands issues in North America. We recommend the book and the opinions contained in their letter below that first appeared in the Oliver Chronicle September 11 2015. That book and Wolf Country: Eleven Years Tracking the Algonquin Wolves are available at


National Park Reasons for Concern - The Position of 2 of the Proposals Initiators

                                                        John and Mary Theberge


    We are 2 of 4 biologists who initiated the South Okanagan national park proposal back in 2002.  

During the public feasibility study, we put in years of effort to inform the public about its high priority, ecological rationale, including staging a 2-day public science forum to explain the meaning and values of a national park in this area.    

   But a problem arose.  The BC government pushed Parks Canada into the untenable position of abandoning its foremost principle of maintaining ecological integrity.  With cattle grazing, the lands before and after national park establishment would look and feel very little different.

   National parks are meant to preserve and protect nature in as unimpeded a way as possible, to be places where we stand back, for ethical and moral reasons, and let nature have its way. 

pic from barlee
   Livestock grazing, along with commercial logging and mining are prohibited, by Act, Policy and Regulations.  While any legal or procedural changes to accommodate livestock grazing in a South Okanagan national park undoubtedly would be restricted to this particular park, a dangerous precedent would be set.  History has shown that once you entrench rights in any park, national or provincial, the legal prospects of removing them are in doubt. 

We have already made far more concessions to outside commercial interests than has the U.S. National Park system. 

   For decades we have championed national parks.  As a university teacher, John has helped train many of the Agencys senior employees in ecological park management, and chaired a national task force for the federal Minister of the Environment on finding ways to complete the national park system. The minister wanted to be able to make national parks without being held to ransom by the provinces, as had happened so often before.  Here, it has happened again. 

   As ecologists, we recognize that livestock grazing, even managed as well as possible, is invariably extremely destructive in the dry southern interior.  These lands never supported bison, which are roughly ecological equivalents to cattle, and so are not adapted to the presence of a 1,200 pound grazing and trampling herbivore.  Delicate soils that depend on cryptobiotic crusts for nitrogen, sensitive riparian habitats, and the ubiquitous presence of seed sources of invasive plants, all make livestock grazing and ecological integrity totally contradictory. 

Parks Canadas statement in 2011 that they would manage continued livestock grazing in the park concept area in a manner consistent with ecological objectives and park valuesis scientifically absurd.

   Now, however, the game has changed with the provinces recent press release of a proposed jurisdictional split into national park and provincial park/conservancy lands, and its call for public comment by Oct. 12.   Taking a big chunk out of the national park proposal, BC would likely continue to despoil the lands it manages, but it may withdraw the offending caveat on provincial crown lands it hands over to Parks Canada.  A real national park, not a bastardized one, could happen.  Similar to Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan, it would accumulate gradually, probably over decades, assembled only as ranchers willingly decide to sell.  But no land included in a national park would remain cattle pasture.  The Act, Policy and Regulations, and the whole ideal of national parks, would stay intact.

   Unhappily, we do not know if that is in the cards.  Far too little information was provided in the provinces press release.  If a real national park without grazing is in the offing, we support it.  If not, we continue our objections and hope that people concerned with protecting and restoring the wild beauty of an intact ecosystem, will object too.

   With the current ambiguity, and especially after the years of unresolved debate over appropriate land uses, this request for public comment is almost insulting.  Ideally, BC together with First Nations, should make clear what land uses they foresee, and extend the period of public comment.  But related to a national park, at a minimum, Parks Canada should exploit the opportunity, right now, to determine if the province has backed away from the livestock grazing ransom, and issue a press release reassuring Canadians that it will not entertain commercial ranching in any lands that may become a national park.

John and Mary Theberge,                                                                                    Oliver B.C.

  This article and other background info on the park proposal can be found at




Monday 21 September 2015


AGRI WASTE CONTROL REGS REVIEW:   Our comment….  Sept 2015

While there are multiple sources of waste contamination our submission focuses on an area that receives little attention as per the following:

Submission to Agricultural Waste Control Regulation Review by: Al Grant for Boundary Environmental Alliance Org.   September 14 2015.


This writer approaches this process with great skepticism informed by 40 years of farming and 30 years as an active environmentalist (particularly in stream protection) in the Fraser Valley and here in the Boundary area for the last 20 years. Having been a participant in numerous exercises promoted by Government to address myriad environmental concerns, one constant has been Government reluctance to do what is necessary to protect the environment.

Twenty five years ago I wrote a report for the Langley Township Council’s Environment Committee on Water Quality and Preservation of Natural Resources. That report led to an Environmentally Sensitive Areas Study by UBC. Both reports documented farm and other waste problems affecting streams and large aquifers in the Fraser Valley. There was nothing new in this information as the various sources of degradation had been known for years. Despite numerous government and producer initiatives over the years these same problems still persist and nitrate and other potentially harmful toxins have increasingly created dead streams and ever increasingly tainted aquifers.

This AWCR process has been going on for years, frightened it appears, to move with any deliberate speed due to perceived agriculture industry resistance and has indicated that any (presumably weak) changes will be implemented over some extended timeline.

This writer farmed as a (fairly large) hobby farmer for 40 years and in doing so had an inside perspective on industry concerns and industry contributions to environmental problems. For those who perhaps regard “hobby farming” as not real farming, I would point to the B C Cattle industry which is the target of our upcoming criticisms, and point out that the recent government Ranching Task Force pointed out that most ranches in BC have outside work to support their hobby.

Since 2006 Boundary Alliance has documented damage and pollution created by ranching operators in the Boundary area. The primary focus has been on damage to public lands, so called range land made available to ranching operators at an absurd rental. Other examples of damage on private land exist and  links are provided below.

Earlier input into the AWCR process indicates a substantial number of contributors want to preserve the status quo and resist “owning” their contribution to the problem or even acknowledging the problem. One response seemed to encapsulate this mindset by saying “the samples of the Coldstream & Osoyoos Aquifer (given in an AWCR update/review ) are not representative of watercourses and aquifers throughout BC and are therefore not sufficient to demonstrate that broad based regulatory changes are required”.
While the AWCR could have supplied a multitude of other documented problems, it was not the purpose of that report to provide that long list. The problems of Coldstream and Osoyoos aquifer are indeed representative of BC aquifers and streams and in fact there are far more problems than government has so far seen  fit to acknowledge.

The latest AWCR update/review referred to Best Management Practices on Crown Land in Community Watersheds.  In our linked reports we note in detail that MFLNRO has promoted the notion that some higher level of care, (guidelines only and unenforceable) applies to Community Watersheds. The Forest Practices Board and the organization representing logging on private land have both stated that there is no justification or worthwhile rationale for distinguishing between officially designated “Community Watersheds” and the many undesignated watersheds on which many are dependent. The Ministry of Environment needs to require all watersheds get protection and not follow the artificial distinction that Ministry of Forests… has promoted.
The notion that Best Management Practices will effectively address any range use problems is only possible if one ignores all earlier criticisms of range practices by Forest Practices Board, FREP and other observers who have noted that Range Branch and rancher oversight is insufficient to protect public resources. There are compelling reasons, including economics and attitudes that that will remain so.

The AWCR update/review of July 2015, footnoted (8) on Section 10, page 9 that “Management Plans for grazing leases do not consider water quality and that dispersed grazing for low intensity well distributed livestock on grazing leases generally poses a low environmental risk to water quality”.
Our articles and links that follow show this claim to be utterly unjustified.

The following reports document damage and pollution, primarily by range cows, and demonstrate that the levels of contamination are directly related to the presence or absence of range cows. The reports also show that the level of contribution of wildlife to E.coli contamination of streams is not significant, contrary to claims by Range Branch and ranchers.

Links for our reports:

The Problem with Range Cattle, a report sent to Ministry of Forests…, Ministry of Agriculture, Min of Environment April 2010. Ministry of Environment never replied to this report. Min of Forests indicated they were working on changes. We have never seen them. The issue of contaminated water begins on page 10 of that report, however the whole report refers to contributory factors.

Ecoli Counts in Streams, a 2009 report on several representative streams in the Boundary.

Pathogens and Protection, report which covered cattle range use in our sensitive dryland area and the consequences to water quality, riparian zones.

Patterns of E.coli Contamination in Public Land Streams related to the presence of Range Cattle. 2013 This study is ongoing. Results for 2014 and 2015 have not yet been published but so far confirm the earlier results.

Eholt Creek: A Damaged Stream.
An example of private land damaged including video from 2014

 A number of other complaints relating to cattle damage can be found at our blog:
with expanded versions on our website:


Al Grant for Boundary Alliance Org
A printable PDF version can be found at

Tags:  Agricultural Waste Control Regulation Review, Best Management Practices, Range Cow damage, Stream damage by cows, E.Coli contamination of streams

Sunday 12 July 2015

NATURE TRUST: Spring in Gilpin protected after 42 years

A portion of damaged Nature Trust property in the Gilpin Grasslands has been fenced by volunteers to protect a spring and riparian area. This will be the first time since the property was acquired by Nature Trust in 1973, that this piece will be protected from range cows and off-roaders.

See the Gilpin Grasslands Story:   here

The fence was proposed at meetings of the Committee for the Enhancement of the Gilpin. Work began late 2014 and was completed June 2015.

Approximately 6 acres of Nature Trust land is now protected by wildlife friendly fencing.  As per recommendations of Montana State Wildlife Friendly Fencing Brochure. See link to Montana State fencing guidelines  on dryrotjournal blog:  Lost Lake..... Nov 2014.
newly fenced area outlined. lost lake shows nearby to NW
click on pics to enlarge
Barry Brandow and Al Grant of   initiated, led and financed materials for the project and substantially completed the work with occasional help from other volunteers and some hours contributed by Nature Trust’s Nick Burdock and helpers. The fence represents a contribution by volunteers of $9,300.00 to $10,700 value (based on contactor prices of $14,000 to $ 16,000 per km.)
The original fence proposed would have expanded the area of a dis-functional fence installed by Range Branch several years ago. At the request of Nature Trust the area was expanded and ground conditions dictated a further expansion, so that the protected area is now 70% larger than originally proposed. It was originally intended that the fence be in place before arrival of range-cows in May. We were unable to complete the enlarged area on that schedule so some cow damage re-occurred in 2015 before completion of the exclosure.

We expect that exclusion of range cows and off-roaders will result in a significant improvement in the natural attributes of the area in future years.
The range-cattle are supposedly in the area from May 7 to June 15th each year but the reality is that range-cows have often frequented the area from May through Oct/Nov with significant damage to riparian zones and undue pressure on forage. See dryrotjournal blogs: Lost Lake .... Nov 2014 and Mike Pearson....June 2015 for biologist Mike Pearsons' report on this site and others in the Gilpin.

Prior to this initiative various public funds have been expended by Range Branch in the Gilpin grazing tenure, usually poorly planned, poorly constructed, non wildlife friendly and frequently dysfunctional. Examples abound outside the Gilpin area as well.

It is sad irony to this writer that he volunteered time , equipment and expense to this project when the rational solution to degraded grasslands, contaminated streams and absurd public costs, would be removal of the cow from public lands. See dryrotjournal blog articles:  Cattle Impacts Global & Local Nov 2014 and Cattle as an Invasive Species Dec 2014.
To illustrate the economic and ecological absurdity of cattle grazing on public lands using this small local example, this pasture on the Mehmel grazing tenure collects grazing rents of approx. $400 to $500 P.A. The extended version of this article which will be published at will have further comment on the inadequacies and unenforceable conditions in the Mehmel Range Use Plan.
The “cost” to protect a small portion of Nature Trust’s lot, amounted to “value” of $9,300 to $10,700. Various other public and private costs in the same pasture have likely exceeded this amount while the majority of the Nature Trust and public land portions remain mostly unprotected from range-cattle damage and off-roading.

While it is our hope that this initiative will:
·         Allow recovery of the Nature Trust spring and surrounding area

·         Demonstrate improved natural values in the absence of cattle grazing and off-roading.

·         Demonstrate the effectiveness of wildlife friendly fencing in the face of Range Branch’s reluctance to use same.

On the latter point we are less than optimistic. Range Branch has shown no ability or inclination to change their practices for the benefit af anything other than cattle grazing.

More detail, location maps of NT property, expanded comment and more pics to come in the website expanded version) at:

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Mike Pearson, PhD, RPBio reports on Gilpin Problems

Mike Pearson, PhD, RPBio visits the Boundary

April 2015, fisheries and habitat biologist Mike Pearson visited the Grand Forks and Gilpin areas to assess various streams and wetlands.
Mike and his company, Pearson Ecological Inc, work primarily in the Fraser Valley on restoration/conservation work and Mike's concerns over habitat damage and endangered species have received frequent attention in the press and in extended artricles by environment reporter Larry Pynn in the Vancouver Sun.

Thanks to the efforts of Barry and Midge Brandow, Mike visited the various sites and was speaker at a public meeting in Grand Forks April 10 2015. (See April 1 2015 post)
The writer was pleased to sponsor the meeting on behalf of and introduce Mike.
Mike's Habitat Assessment Report report is self-explanatory as to causes of problems and potential solutions.

We note that since his report was written, "The Spring on Nature Trust Property, Gilpin"
has been fenced by volunteers who also funded the project.
Barry Brandow and this writer (Al Grant) primarily constructed the new 'wildlife friendly fence' to replace a smaller poorly constructed and non functional fence installed by Range Branch a few years ago. We received some help with the work from Nature Trust and several other volunteers. Our thanks to all.
The Nature Trust property in the Gilpin was the first Nature Trust acquisition in BC in 1973 and for the first time in 42 years a small section will now be protected from range-cows and off-roaders. The remainder of this plot and several others in the Gilpin remain unprotected.
We expect that this new fenced area of about 6 acres will provide a model for wildlife friendly fencing and may prompt Range Branch to utilize similar fencing on future projects, something they have been reluctant to do.

For this writer, the issues covered by Mike are some of many longstanding issues that have not been remedied by Range Branch or other various Ministries over the years and we do not expect that these issues will be addressed in any meaningful way by the Kettle River Watershed Management Planning Process. More to come in future articles about the KRWMP and it's shortcomings and potential threats.

See Mike Pearson's full report; here

Thursday 12 February 2015

EHOLT CREEK: A Damaged Stream

Late summer 2014, I visited a section of Eholt creek with Barry Brandow of Grand Forks. The area of concern is a farm property a few kilometers east of Greenwood where Eholt Creek meanders through the property for more than a kilometer.

Because of a lack of riparian fencing various farm animals access the creek with resultant damage to the stream, stream banks and water quality. A couple of Youtube videos illustrate the problem and the damage.

   Barry Brandow at Eholt Creek     talks about Riparian Management.   2.15 min
check your youtube settings to get best quality of 720p


 Eholt Creek Damage:    Al Grant.    2.30  min
 check your youtube settings to get best quality of 1080p

For this writer, the visit brought on a sense of déjà vu as the location was similar in many ways to properties in the Fraser Valley where the writer was extensively involved in stream protection initiatives and work more than 20 years ago.

Then as now, protection of streams and other public resources is largely dependent on the complaints and noise created by a concerned public. Then as now, various levels of Government have failed to effectively address and prevent damage and through various permit granting functions are frequently continuing to contribute to the damage.

The Kettle River Watershed Management Plan that has been underway for four or more years appears to offer no effective solutions for stopping such damage.

More on the KRWMP in a future posting,
A pdf version with more pictures is available at our website: