The Canadian province of British Columbia plans to protect a Rocky Mountain wilderness area larger than Switzerland described by environmentalists as a global treasure.
British Columbia Premier Glen Clark announced this week that 17,000 square miles would be preserved in remote northeastern British Columbia near the Yukon border."Without exaggeration, we are announcing the most important and far-reaching land-use decision of its kind in North America," he said. "There are few places like it left on Earth . . . What a gift we are presenting to the world."
Called Muskwa-Kechika for two rivers in the area, the protected zone features pristine mountains, forests and lakes and hosts one of the continent's biggest populations of large game. It is also rich in natural gas, minerals and timber.
Likened by environmentalists to the Serengeti game reserve in Africa for its diversity, the Muskwa-Kechika is home to caribou, elk, moose, bison, bear, cougar, eagles and Stone's sheep.
The province's decision was applauded by environmental groups, including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, as well as local native Indians, oil and gas companies, tourism operators and other commercial interests.
"This is an environmental victory that will resound around the planet," said George Smith of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.