Fort Graham Portage Field Review Team Report – April 2008
From: THE LOG FRIENDS OF ECOLOGICAL RESERVES NEWSLETTER SPRING 2008
A field review of the Fort Graham Portage mineral lick within Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Provincial Park was conducted on July 26th, 2007 as per recommendations of the Gladys Lake Ecological Reserve Subcommittee Field Review Report (December 2005).
The objective of the Gladys Lake ER Subcommittee and field review team was to make recommendations to the regional manager to resolve issues surrounding historic and current use of trails, camps and grazing areas within the Gladys Lake ER. The boundary adjustments recom- mended by the subcommittee and field review team were legislated on March 29, 2006 (OIC 726/81). Furthermore, the subcommittee also recom- mended investigating a unique mineral lick as a potential ecologi- cal reserve.
Fort Graham Portage mineral lick, which was identified by the local guide outfitter during the Gladys Lake ER field review in 2005, is unique in its appearance and location. The mineral lick is located several kilometres from typical sheep and mountain goat habitat, in a low elevation area near Cullivan Creek.
Friends of Ecological Reserves – Mary Rannie
Collingwood Bros. and Outfitters – Reg Collingwood
Ecosystem Specialist – Len Vanderstar,
Ministry of Environment BC Parks – Janice Joseph,
Stikine Area Supervisor, Ministry of
Environment Iskut First Nation – Sally Havard (absent)
As per recommendations of the Gladys Lake Ecological Reserve Subcommittee Field Review Report (December 2005), the field review team investigated the Fort Graham Portage mineral lick on July 26th, 2007. The field review team was required to provide recommendations and propose boundaries that would not affect the use of trails, camps and grazing areas. The field review team also reviewed the area to see if it met legislative guidelines/ legislation to become an ecological reserve as defined under the Ecological Reserves Act.
The team was flown by helicop- ter from Tatogga Lake Resort to a gravel bar on Cullivan Creek in
Spatsizi Wilderness Park. Cullivan Creek drains northward into the Stikine River and is several kilo- metres northwest of the Gladys Lake ER. Once on the ground, the team followed a trail through spruce forest to the top of a ridge. At this point the team left the trail and descended a grassy slope to the mineral lick which was part of a distinctive sandstone/limestone bluff.
- mineral lick is unique in both its appearance and its location
- the lick is located several kilometres away from typical sheep and mountain goat habitat and located in proximity to forested cover near the confluence of the unnamed tributary with Cullivan Creek
- horse trail located at top of the grassy slope approximately 35m above mineral lick
- mineral lick was located below a grassy slope and was part of a sandstone/limestone bluff
- the 100 meter long lick had smoothly eroded contours sheep and goat hair found on nearby twigs
- rubbing and bedding sites found around mineral lick and grassy slope area
- scat was found in the form of clay-like ‘rocks’ and had high soil content indicating that sheep and goat were consuming the exposed soil associated with the colluvial/fluvial southerly facing slope
- soil comprised mostly of sand with a fair amount of silt; no clay was detected
- limestone bedrock was periodically noted, perhaps contributing to the soil chemistry
- the unique weathered forma- tions of the lick area were comprised of sandstone with little or no mineral value for the ungulates, but served as shelter/bedding/resting areas and to some extent, escape terrain trails leading from lick down to the creek below
- two wildlife trails parallel the tributary creek upstream for some distance (up to 4.5 km), lead to various entry points into canyon dwelling habitat
- trails end at the end of a canyon on unnamed creek then are no longer visible
- appears sheep and goats disperse through the forest to alpine habitat
- canyon may be utilized by these mountain ungulates as escape terrain on their jour- ney to and from the mineral lick, and possibly winter range by mountain goats
- mountain ungulates may disperse to two alpine areas which lie above the canyon
- no distinct wildlife trails were noted beyond the canyon from the air, indicating dispersal over a greater area rather than distinct travel routes
- mountain ungulates that utilize relative low elevation mineral licks and canyons are susceptible and more vulnerable to hunting and predator mortality due to exposure and ease of access
- mineral lick, associated trail network and upstream canyon fall within the SWB (Spruce-Willow-Birch)
- white spruce, subalpine fir and variable amounts of lodgepole pine and aspen comprise the forest stands in
- wildfires are typically less frequent and extensive in the SWB than in the adjacent BWBS (Boreal White & Black
- predominant plant community in the vicinity of the mineral lick was an Altai fescue-slender wheatgrass association with a mix of
- some evidence of grass browsing by sheep/goat was noted
- relatively fresh wolf tracks were observed on site demonstrating the knowledge and availability of prey by the area
- given the proximity of the upstream canyon to the alpine areas, and the well established wildlife trails from the canyon to the lick, it is highly probable that the animals are coming from the two southerly (SE & SW) adjacent alpine areas to the Fort Graham Portage mineral lick
- presently, the only access to the lick and immediate escape terrain is along the McEwan Creek trail which is used by park visitors and guide outfitters
As per recommendations of the Gladys Lake Ecological Reserve Subcommittee Field Review Report (December 2005), the field review team investigated the Fort Graham Portage mineral lick on July 26th, 2007. The field review team was to conduct an on-site assessment of the Fort Graham Portage mineral lick. The assessment included investigating site and to provide boundary recommendations that would not affect the use of trails, camps and grazing areas. The field review team also reviewed area to see if it met legislative guidelines/ legisla- tion to become an ecological reserve as defined under the Ecological Reserves Act.
Section 2 of the Ecological Reserves Act:
2. The purpose of this Act is to reserve Crown land for ecological purposes, including the following areas:
(a) areas suitable for scientific research and educational purposes associated with studies in productivity and other aspects of the natural environment;
(b) areas that are representative examples of natural ecosystems in British Columbia;
(c) areas that serve as examples of ecosystems that have been modified by human beings and offer an opportunity to study the recovery of the natural ecosystem from modification;
(d) areas where rare or endangered native plants and animals in their natural
habitat may be preserved;
(e) areas that contain unique and rare examples of botanical, zoological or
Based on section 2, sub-section (e) of the Ecological Reserves Act, the field review team concludes that the Fort Graham Portage does fit the criteria.
NOTE: Parks & Protected Areas, inclusive of Ecological Reserves, do not infringe on First Nation aboriginal rights unless there are safety or conservation concerns.
In total, 160ha including the mineral lick, connecting wildlife trails, and upstream canyon habitat, should be designated as an ecological reserve as defined under the Ecological Reserves Act.
All recommendations made in this report are made with full consideration of the guiding principles as set out by the Gladys Lake Ecological Reserve Sub- committee and the Fort Graham Portage Field Review Team Terms of Reference (Appendix 1).
1. Organize field review team which should consist of:
a) BC Parks (must be familiar with use of GPS)
b) representative from Tahltan Nation (if possible)c) guide outfitter – Reg Collingwood (if possible)
2. Field truth proposed boundaries along the existing trail during 2008 season (see Figure 3). Boundaries must not affect use of camps, trails and grazing areas.
a) Make adjustments to proposed boundary to include 15m buffer along trail north of mineral lick.
3. Establish Fort Graham Portage as defined under the Ecological Reserves Act for the purpose of:
a) Protecting a unique and rare geological and zoological feature used by wildlife mountain ungulates as a mineral lick.
b) Protecting escape terrain associated with the use of this mineral lick;
c) In all encompassing a total area of 160 ha.