Historically, the lower bench and bottom lands of the Rocky Mountain Trench have moved between forest cover and open range and have usually included some of each. Earliest written records date back to 1811 when David Thompson mentioned in his diary that very little game was available in the area and that the Indians subsisted mainly on the salmon that, at that time, ascended the Columbia River to its source. He mentioned also, that serious forest fires occurred frequently, and we know that since that time wildfires have played an important part in maintaining grasslands and open forests.
Most of the valley floor was logged by the railway company in the 1920's and early 1930's. Subsequent wildfires destroyed much of the remaining forest values. The result was vast grasslands that supported unprecedented numbers of wild and domestic animals. During the war years, horses owned by absentee servicemen and others were left unattended on range lands and increased their numbers dramatically. These and other grazing animals, domestic and wild, used grazing lands under little or no control with resultant over-use occurring on a wide base causing serious deterioration of range areas.
Cattle grazing near Canal Flats - circa 1950
Wild horse removal programs were undertaken by the Forest Service in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Thousands of horses were shipped to canning factories. Since the 1940's and '50's, wildfire control has improved to the extent that naturally recurring wildfires have been pretty well excluded from valley range lands. As a result, forest succession has been steadily shrinking the grassland areas. Ranchers and wildlife interests have both been affected with resultant conflict developing between these interests. In 1974 Coordinated Resource Management Planning was developed to establish better control over cattle movements thereby improving forage utilization.
With the adoption of C.R.M.P.'s there was a noticeable improvement in range condition on several of the planned areas. With improved utilization the range users were leaving the ranges in better condition for both wintering grazing wildlife and early spring plant growth. Much of the range development work accomplished under C.R.M.P's was funded by A.R.D.A and A.R.D.S.A. grants (federal and provincial). Without these, development of coordinated plans would have been extremely slow. Most of the pasture fences and corrals were put in place at this time. Rangeland Seeding - Ta Ta Skookumchuck Range Unit (circa 1950)
Find out more information on the District's Range Developments.
In the late 1970's a new threat was emerging on the range lands, noxious weeds. Control efforts in the Rocky Mountain Forest District date back to 1977 when spotted knapweed started to appear on Skookumchuck Prairie. Find out more information on the Regional Noxious Weed Program.
In the early 1980's another issue starting to come to light was forest encroachment, the loss of open range and open forests to Douglas-fir regeneration. The District's Prescribed Burn Program has evolved from trying to maintain open range and open forests, to making inroads into the closed forest areas under the guidance of the District's Ecosystem Restoration Program.
Through the '70's, '80's and '90's, various range inventories have been undertaken. The most comprehensive range inventory was completed in the 1990's for the north half of the District.. Re-monitoring of some of the key transects is now beginning.
Also, since the early 1960's various rangeland reference exclosures have been established in the District. However, not until 1994 did the reference area program make a concentrated effort to establish exclosures on representative sites throughout the province of British Columbia. Learn more about the District's rangeland reference program.
In 2004, the Forest and Range Practices Act was passed and the range program in the province moved into a new era. The development of Range Use Plans and Range Stewardship Planwas now a legal responsibility of the agreement holders.