Wally Schaber may be best known for outfitting company, Trailhead, or guiding company, Black Feather. However, these days, after selling both companies, Schaber is becoming increasingly well known as an author – and activist.
His book, The Last of the Wild Rivers, details the history of the Dumoine River where Schaber’s been exploring for almost 50 years. (buy the book: burnstownpublishing.com)
Why is the Dumoine the “last of the wild rivers”?
The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) explains that the Dumoine’s 5,380 sq km watershed is “the largest area of unfragmented southern boreal forest in Quebec.” And, because the Dumoine isn’t dammed, it’s considered “wild” i.e., “untamed.”
However, the watershed is technically not pristine as in “untouched.” Schaber’s book describes its human history, engaging us with tales of First Nations, coureurs-de-bois, and logging use.
Enter the current reality of the Dumoine watershed’s landscape of forested hills. Schaber explained to me, “For three decades now, the Dumoine forest has been spared from logging. Between small stands of hard-to-reach old-growth forest and old seed-stock trees, new growth filled in the landscape, meaning the untrained eye enjoys a full and varied forest landscape.”
So why protect this watershed?
Schaber advocates for protection: “Aside from the obvious ‘why kill the last passenger pigeon because they’re not making any more’ there is academic reasoning. For the past ten years, Quebec civil servants have been inventorying endangered species’ habitat, existing preserved areas, human impact, natural beauty, and cultural preservation priorities. By a large margin, the Dumoine scored highest in all categories.”
The province of Quebec recognizes the Dumoine as a habitat of significance. Therefore, I think this watershed should have legal protection.
Aquatic Preserve status
After talking to CPAWS and the Ottawa Riverkeeper, Schaber clarified the Dumoine’s current Aquatic Preserve (AP) status. Schaber wrote, “An AP is a Ministry Directive to create by Ministry powers (not laws) protective status for the best natural representative of an unrepresented natural region.”
The Dumoine isn’t alone: “the Moise, Harricana, and Ashuapmushuan all have long-term, temporary status.”
However, the Dumoine’s AP designation expires in 2020. Schaber adds, “I don’t know if this means it expires or becomes permanent.”
Says Schaber, “Pontiac MP Will Amos, among others, is pushing for a Quebec or (in his mind) preferably Federal National park status, probably with a nice bow tied into the Algonquin Land claim. As you may know, the heritage river status for the Ottawa River will probably be going ahead soon without Quebec’s approval, meaning only the Ontario side of the river will have the heritage status.”
Regardless of how ridiculous it might sound for just half of a river to be designated heritage, the issue of watershed protection for the Dumoine is important – as Quebec’s recognition of its AP status proves to us.
How to protect the Dumoine?
Schaber explains, “We mustn’t wait for government action and grants. We urgently need to improve our behaviour on the trail because of the traffic. This summer, 1,000 canoeists will go to the toilet 5,000 times, throw out the remains of 5,000 meals in the river or firepit… We must be mindful and encourage travellers to minimize their impact.”
Schaber and others, such as canoe-camp outfitters depending upon the Dumoine for their livelihood, have created an organization to clean up the Dumoine each spring. He invites us to contact him if we want to help: firstname.lastname@example.org.
He advocates shopping locally. “Buy your canoe rental, gas, beer, shuttle and so on at Des Joachims. The 10% more you might pay is a wise investment in maintaining a respected voice at the table when the future of the Dumoine River is being planned.”
Schaber hopes his new Facebook presence, FORM: Friends of the Rivière Dumoine, will encourage dialogue and, as he says, “get a few projects going.”
Also? Contact Will Amos, our federal MP, to express your support of protection of the last wild river, the Dumoine.
Contact Katharine Fletcher at email@example.com