Muskwa-Kechika, the first book about one of B.C.’s greatest natural treasures just released

CHETWYND, B.C. ? It’s finally here! The first ever book about B.C.?s and Canada?s groundbreaking conservation initiative Muskwa-Kechika is now available.

Photographed and written by Chetwynd conservationist Wayne Sawchuk, Muskwa-Kechika: The Wild Heart of Canada’s Northern Rockies is a photo book like no other, in part because it details the process that created this special Muskwa-Kechika area. Muskwa-Kechika is B.C.?s innovative conservation initiative in the Northern Rockies aimed at preserving natural values while still allowing sensitive industrial use.

But Muskwa-Kechika is also a luxury, large format coffee table photo book, with 160 stunning colour photographs of wildlife and wilderness areas that few have ever set eyes on.

Renowned photographer Sawchuk grew up in Chetwynd and started his working career logging before turning to the Northern Rockies as a guide and trapper where he fell in love with the beauty of the area. Sawchuk has been a full-time conservationist since 1993 and played an integral part in creating the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area, along with George Smith, National Conservation Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

?I?d seen a lot of wilderness destroyed in our relentless march of progress,? Sawchuk explains. ?There are a lot of beautiful valleys up there that I felt shouldn?t be destroyed.?

Created by three Land and Resource Management Plans, the Muskwa-Kechika area, pronounced MUSK-quah ke-CHEE-kah and named after two of its major rivers, is the result of a decade of planning and consensus building by all groups with an interest in the area, from eco-tourism operators to natural gas exploration companies. The end result, Sawchuk says, is a balanced plan ?that is our best shot of meeting the needs of everyone, and wildlife and wilderness as well.?

The Muswa-Kechika Management Area is one of the most important wilderness and wildlife areas on the planet, Sawchuk says.

?It has more species in greater abundance than practically anywhere else on the continent and that makes it of global importance.?

While the management model is studied around the world as an example of wilderness conservation, few people know the Muskwa-Kechika as well as Sawchuk, who for the past 20 years has traveled the area?s 6.3 million hectares, an area about 1 1/2 times the size of Switzerland, also mountainous, but lacking Switzerland?s 7.3 million population. Adding up all the weeks Sawchuk has lead his packtrain of horses over barely existing trails, he estimates he has spent nearly four years of his life traveling this wilderness.

?And there are still lots of places I haven?t seen,? he laughs.

But he is eager to share, through this book, all that he has seen and photographed. Magnificent vistas in valleys rarely seen by man, a tiny leaf-hopper on the edge of a mushroom, raging waters of a spring river, wolverine tracks in the fresh snow on a frozen lake, full-frontal close-up shot of a bull moose. Sawchuk shows the best of 20 year?s worth of photography.

Together with the author?s travel notes that read like an adventure novel, these photographs transport the reader deep into the Muskwa-Kechika. Sawchuk┬╣s sensitivity to wilderness, wildlife and First Nations are meant to leave deep imprints.

?This book wants to make sure that people are aware of what we have in our backyard,? he says, ?so that people will understand the value of this place we take for granted every day.?

The book will be officially launched at a book signing and slide show presentation at the Moberly Lake Lodge near Chetwynd, B.C., on April 17 at 7 p.m. Following the launch, Sawchuk will do a series of booksignings in communities around the North.

Muskwa-Kechika: The Wild Heart of Canada?s Northern Rockies is designed and produced by Don Pettit and his creative team at Peace photoGraphics in Dawson Creek. It can be ordered from the author at 250-788-2685 or www.MuskwaKechika.com, or through Peace photoGraphics, toll-free at 1-866-373-8488 or www.peacePhotographics.com.