While Poet Place sounds like a romantic name for the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s latest purchase the 470-acre parcel land in B.C.’s West Chilcotin is actually named after Dick Poet who originally homesteaded there.
“Poet was a crop duster from the U.S.” said local author Sage Birchwater. “He came up from the U.S. in the 50s with his wife Helen to fly for Helen’s cousin Bob Stewart who had a lodge at Nimpo Lake.”
It’s the second stretch of two private parcels of land in the Klinaklini Valley the conservancy has purchased, said Peter Shaughnessy NCC project manager in the Chilcotin region.
There are three private parcels of land there and conservancy groups has always thought if all three could be protected it would leverage conservation on a much larger area, he explained.
In 2012, NCC bought its first of the three.
“We’ve been in operation in B.C. since 1988 and the first purchase in Tatlayoko was in 1999,” Shaughnessy said. “Each property gets a name. It’s the Tatlayoko Lake Ranch”
Since then a total of 10 properties have been purchased in the Chilcotin by the NCC.
Poet Place is amazing, Shaughnessy insisted.
“The thing about the Klinaklini Valley is spectacular, not only from a scenic point but from a natural values point of view, there’s lots of wildlife and fish. The key point is it’s very much as it always has been.”
There’ve been minor amounts of activity there and the properties are there because people thought they could live there and make a living, but none of those attempts have worked for any amount of time, he explained.
“It’s a very rough-edged place, hard to get in there, the weather and bugs are extreme. When you see it you can understand why people might try, but if you’ve been down there enough you realize why they eventually left,” he chuckled.
The property straddles the Klinaklini River and is jam-packed with wildlife.
There are grizzly bear, wolf, mule deer and bull trout, as well as giant old-growth aspen and cottonwood trees and the valley is also home to cougars, trumpeter swans, wolverines, otters and many other fur-bearing animals.
Shaughnessy has stood along the sandbar below the old homestead on a little patch of sand and seen grizzly bear, wolf, moose, deer, coyote and otter tracks.
“The sand is plastered with all these different animal tracks,” he said.
Two waterfalls bookend Poet Place and remnants of homesteading still stand, including a couple of cabins built over the years.
There’s accumulated “detritus” of people taking stuff in such as bed frames, old tractors, even shoes.
As a Canada-wide organization, NCC has worked for more than 50 years, primarily on private land, with the main method of conservation being to purchase significant private lands with high conservation values.
More than one million hectares have been protected in total across Canada to date.
All of the money NCC uses to purchase and take care of the properties forever is all through donations.
Primary sources of funds come from private foundations.
“Poet Place was purchased by the estate of Donald McGeachy,” Shaughnessy said. “Donald briefly passed through the Klinaklini many years ago with his family and they were awestruck by this place and he so he created a foundation.”
The family McGeachy family approached NCC, asked if some conservation work could be done there, and purchased both of the properties that have been purchased there so far.
“Donald was ahead of his time in recognizing that we Canadians need to be conservationists,” the McGeachy Family said. “During his life and upon his death, he gave generously to protect and preserve special properties in Canada.”
Poet’s Place will have unrestricted access, Shaughnessy said.
“We might put up a sign asking people to respect it, otherwise it will be unchanged.”
The property is located left off Highway 20 at Kleena Kleene but isn’t accessible by a vehicle.
People would have to have mountain bikes, quads or go in on foot.
“It’s a rough road that blows in frequently,” he said.