The Peace River is one of Western Canada’s Great River Valleys. Unfortunately it’s position on globe earth far from Africa’s Rift Valley leaves it out of the loop of history becoming home to one of the world’s civilizations. The Peace River’s less than benign climate has not been conducive to serious year round settlement, although with global warming this may change. We will just have to let nature take its course.
However the Peace like all the world’s River Valley holds the elements for sustainable human settlement, access to continuous running fresh water with an obtainable source of protein in its fish and visiting wild fowl ducks & geese. In addition, the flooding annually of the valley uplands with receding silt & soil deposits provide rich & fertile plains for growing annual pasture gazing grasses and woodland forest trees for fuel and construction.
While not specific to the Peace, the description of North America’s continental evaluation of its climate modifying physical features as described by writers Jones and Cushman in the Peterson Nature Series The Prairie. I have copied the part of it that expresses North American evolution much better than this presenter ever could:
rior to the Northern Rocky Mountain uplift the entire central North American climate had been dominated by warm moist air masses that swept east from the Pacific from the Gulf of Mexico. The rising mountains created a barrier that blocked the Pacific storms squeezing out most of their moisture before it reached the plains. This rain shadow helped to create the more arid conditions that favour growth of grasses over trees.
Fossils of camels, rhinoceroses, horses and other grass eating herbivores unearthed on the plains suggest an erratic progression. Recent analysis of plant micro-fossils indicates that the extensive grasslands covered parts of the great plains even earlier perhaps beginning in the late Eocene Epoch, 35 million years ago.
These early grasslands were dominated by “cool season” grasses, species that thrive under relatively mild growing conditions. The quintessential Tallgrasses, including warm season bluestems and switchgrasses did not begin to appear until about 10 million years ago. Even then, forests continued to cover much of the Great Plains with grasslands spreading during drier climactic periods, and contracting during wetter periods.”
The warming and drying trend continued for several millennia reaching its maximum intensity between 8,000 and 5,000 years ago. During the height of this hot & dry period the prairie pushed eastward replacing forests in parts of present day Indiana Nebraska, Ohio and perhaps Pennsylvania [and also North into the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. The sands of Western Nebraska[Probably North into B.C. & Alberta also]. All but a few isolated groves of conifers disappeared from the Western Plains. Bos Bison a smaller more agile species than the great plains, prairie dogs and ground squirrels proliferated, and Pronghorn populations climbed into the tens of millions.
About 5,000 years ago the Climatic Pendulum began to swing back toward slightly cooler & wetter conditions. By the time the first white explorers stepped out into the grasslands the forests had begun to creep westward filling the pockets of prairie on the Great lakes region & the upper Mississippi River Valley [and Northward to the Peace River Valley]
Nevertheless, all of these early travelers marveled at the expanse of grass that seemed to extend forever beyond the last islands of forest. Nineteenth-century author Washington Irving characterized the landscape as being “inexpressively lonely” and like “a desert world.” Writer Francis Parkman referred to it as “a barren, trackless waste.” In contrast, nineteenth-century artist George Catlin extolled a land of “soul-melting scenery… where I Heaven sheds its purest light and lends its richest tints.”
Whatever their opinions, writers & artists realized that the Canadian Prairie Landscape as opposed to the settled Landscapes of Britian, Europe and Eastern North America – it, the Canadian Prairie remained an evolving landscape. The BC Peace River, Grasslands with those of Alberta that blend into the Alberta is: hidden lakes and wooded rolling prairie lands extend East to meld into a background of the Caribou Mountains, Buffalo Head Hills & Birch Mountains complex. East of the hills & mountains lies the Athabasca River, the tar sands, the tar sands extraction rendering works & the open pit mines-holes around the Fort McMurray Settlement.
The Peace in the North winds & snakes around the south end of these Caribou Mountains and flows into Wood Buffalo, now the home of Canada’s Bos Bison and the endangered Whooping Crane Grus americana. It is the second largest of Canadian National Parks.
It continues to the east where it becomes a series of lakes at east and of Lesser Slave River flowing North to Great Slave Lake. It one of the Canadian Arctic’s Great Lakes that remain from the melting of glaciers that once covered Canada’s part of the North American continent.
The first attempt at human settlement of the BC Peace River open grasslands, Alberta wooded rolling land, hidden lake & small lakes, prairie occurred just after the end of WW1 in 1918-19, was by the Canadian Federal Government. The Peace and Alberta lands were called the Dominion Soldier Settlement Lands and were also subdivided into 10 and 20 acre plots to be sold to returning veterans and their families at very low prices with long periods & payment at very low interest rates to Veterans and their families. There was a minimum of infrastructure, veterans could earn enough working on roads, gravel roads, settlements sites, school sites and the like. It was not only other Valleys in Southern BC that were opened for soldier’s settlements. Whereas not only in other valleys Keremeos in the adjoining east side of the Okanagan Valley and the adjoining Similkameen Valley. The Fraser Valley’s Lower Mainland the program continued in 1945 for veterans of WW2 in Richmond, the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, and Vernon in North Okanagan.
The Dominion Soldier Settlement scheme on the Peace River lands was never very successful in attracting settlers; it’s harsh Northern winters and remoteness, probably the main dissuading features. The Alberta Woodland lake land did prove attractive to settlement to veterans & other non veterans previously in settlements such as Beaverlodge where the Dominion Government established a crop and plant experimental station. See Vic Chanasyk, page 1 of Miscellanea. See link below.
Other successful prairie land settlements in Alberta produce Grand Prairie, Spirit River & other smaller settlements on the Alberta side, with Dawson Creek and Pouce Coupe on the BC side.
In this Landscape Architect’s opinion, British Columbian Peace River valley grasslands are ready and waiting for the settlement. Not for veterans who are fighters of wars but their children and grandchildren remanent of their families who are victims of wars.
In preparing Site C, that part of the Peace lands for the damming and flooding, BC Hydro, a provincial company, has built accommodations for it’s fort’s employees & prepared the ground for dam construction to flood Site C. By fortunate coincidence is made ready to take the first wave of 1000 or so refugee immigrants.
Let’s make a small beginning and start to settle, house & feed the world’s current great human disaster. Those thousands of children and families who have lost everything, their homes, family members, and perhaps worst of all, their country. These people have lost their place in the world along with their hope.
My proposition is: Canada through the United Nations for Our Country to redeem its place in the world, a place where hope can return and regain for the war ravaged immigrant, a place back in the world in Western Canada’s Peace River Valley.
The process could begin almost immediately. BC Hydro, Peace land owner, a BC Provincial body, could cede the land & preliminarily preparation land work and existing worker housing to the Canadian government, who then would give it to the UNHCR, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who would ‘Run the Show’, or most of it. From selecting the immigrants to transporting them to the Peace, building additional housing and infrastructure. It would become, the one Canadian Grand Gesture for humanity. Take up where we left off with newly funded mandate, for the Blue Berets in Peace Keeping.
Full 36 page pdf