The priority initiative for the Rivers Institute is to protect the gravel reach of the Fraser River, also known as the ‘Heart of the Fraser,’ from habitat loss resulting from industrial development, agricultural expansion and urban encroachment. The gravel reach from Hope to Chilliwack is unique to the entire 1,375 km Fraser River ecosystem and is critical spawning and rearing habitat for salmonids and threatened white sturgeon.
From a fluvial geomorphic perspective, the five main islands in the gravel reach (Herrling, Carey, Strawberry, Paulson and Minto Islands) are floodplain islands that provide essential fish habitat at various times of the year. These floodplain islands are functionally an extension of the river bed and are continually eroded and re-formed by natural fluvial processes, hence, there is no intensive land use compatible with maintaining the ecological integrity of these islands.
In 2007, the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council issued a detailed report on saving the Heart of the Fraser. The Rivers Institute, along with the BC Wildlife Federation, the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC and Watershed Watch, are all active in a campaign to protect the Heart of the Fraser. Watershed Watch has a web-page and online petition to help save the Heart of the Fraser.
In 2019, the Rivers Institute and NERV Productions produced a feature documentary on the Heart of the Fraser:
Please contact NERV Productions to arrange a screening of Heart of the Fraser.
Also in 2019, the Rivers Institute produced a photo-essay book, available from Amazon Books Canada.
In June 2019, the BC Government rejected a bridge-building permit to access Herrling Island for agricultural purposes. The current situation is that no bridges are being proposed to Herrling and Carey islands, and corn is being grown on Herrling Island.
On April 22, 2020, Nature Trust of British Columbia announced they had secured the 11.6 ha Nicomen Slough area where Inch Creek and Norrish Creek join the Fraser River. This an outstanding accomplishment and adds to the nearly 283 ha the Nature Trust of BC has conserved in the Heart of the Fraser, starting with the Chehalis Conservancy in 1978. While other land conservancies pretend to be interested in the Heart of the Fraser, the Nature Trust of BC has the courage and conviction to follow through and make it happen. No wonder the Nature Trust of BC is British Columbia’s premier land conservation organization.
Currently, the Rivers Institute, BC Wildlife Federation, Outdoor Recreation Council of BC and Watershed Watch are exploring strategies and options to protect these islands in perpetuity, including purchase at assessed value.