After a career spent working on the land, Gregory Pellerin wants to spend his retirement trying to save it.
The Lone Butte trapper hopes to use his status on Windy Mountain, north of Bridge Lake, to advocate for better forestry practices and environmental reform.
“It’s all about the future and we have to work harder to create a better future for everybody, especially our kids,” Pellerin, 64, said. “You got to look after the younger generation and it starts with the environment.”
Pellerin has an honest passion for the environment, having spent the past 40 years working it. In 1985, he decided to become a ranch hand, partly because he wanted to work outdoors and partly because he had always wanted to be a cowboy. He spent years on ranches across the Cariboo, including the Gang Ranch, and “learnt the hard way” how best to do the job, he said.
Over the years, he moved on to become a farrier, shoeing up to 200 horses a summer. He’s now down to only a few customers, but that’s no bother as he said he wants to spend more time “doing what I want to do instead of what I have to,” which includes advocating for the environment.
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Pellerin remembers a time when moose and deer were plentiful in the area but now rarely sees any, attributing the loss to clearcutting and logging roads that have created easy paths for wolf packs to travel and overhunt. He argues much of the problems facing the South Cariboo’s forests have been caused either by government mismanagement or shortsighted logging practices.
“This clearcut logging has to change with climate change. You can’t be doing that anymore. Climate change is here, fires are here and you have to be more responsible now,” Pellerin said. “Even when you plant new trees it’s so dry now that half or more don’t live. We’ve got to think differently now because everything is changed.”
He has seen the changes firsthand, as he monitors his trapping line near Windy Mountain. He has been trapping for just over two decades, originally taking it up as a way to stay fit during the winter. Now, though, Pellerin uses it as a way to monitor and care for the local environment.
One way is by regularly trapping and killing wolves to help control the local population. There’s not any money in doing it, Pellerin said, but it’s an important if slightly morbid task.
“Some folks figure it’s a bad thing but it’s not. If you’re out there trapping, you’re just part of what’s going on,” Pellerin said.
Now that he has tenure on his trap line, Pellerin said companies looking to harvest in the area have to contact him, so he has a say in what goes on. He particularly pushes back against logging over waterways and the logging of old-growth forests, the primary habitat for species like the fishers, a member of weasel family that’s endangered in B.C.
Even though the government regularly comes out with new forestry stewardship plans, Pellerin argues they tend to be out of date the moment they’re printed. By raising awareness about these issues, he hopes enough people will get together to demand change.