The dramatic increase in the size of the Muskwa-Kechika Conservation Area in the state’s Northern Rockies was announced on 14 November, bringing the total area of the spectacular wilderness to some 63,000 sq km (24,600 square miles), an area more than double the size of Belgium, comprised of parks and legislated special management zones. British Columbia has also now become the only jurisdiction in North America to meet the United Nations’ goal of protecting 12 % of its land.

The protection has been awarded after seven years of negotiations between the British Columbia Government, residents and conservation organisations, such as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). The organisation says that the move brings economic opportunity to the area’s residents and provides environmental sustainability in one of North America’s most important, intact wild places. Of the total area protected, some 20,000 sq km (7,800 square miles) has been designated for conservation and “environmentally sensitive industry”, with the local forestry industry agreeing not to log in over two-thirds of the new northern special management zones called Wildlands. An additional 3,650 sq km (1,425 square miles) has become parkland.

“The Muskwa-Kechika in Northern British Columbia is one of the richest wildlife areas on earth,” said George Smith, National Conservation Director for CPAWS, adding that the new move has added the spectacular Gataga-Frog-Kechika river complex, known in the local Sikanni language as the Dune Za Keyih or ‘Land of the Original People’. Woodland caribou and grizzly bears are inhabitants of the protected area.

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