A New Buck Creek

How do you renew hope for a creek?

By Cindy Verbeek, A Rocha Canada’s Northern BC Coordinator

August 15, 2022

There’s hope for Buck Creek. Despite experiencing an acid leach in the 1980s, the creek that runs through the centre of Houston, BC is no longer a wasteland of biodiversity – it’s more like a thriving city of invertebrates, insects and fish.

This summer the staff at the Buck Creek Hatchery and Nature Centre in Houston have been reading a book called “Hope Matters”

Author Elin Kelsey observes that many people experience what has now been coined eco-anxiety over the state of our planet. This anxiety is brought on by repeated fearful stories of species on the brink of extinction, only a handful of years left before imminent disaster and the dire state of many landscapes. 

In fact, for those of us 50 years old and younger it has been the dominant story of our lives. But rather than the desired effect of changed lives, it has created a population that believes there is no hope and there is no point in doing anything. 

At the Buck Creek Hatchery and Nature Centre, I have heard that story on a local level. In 1981, there was an acid leach from a local mine. In 2012, the Houston Today interviewed Glenda Ferris, a local resident, who remembers the day. 

“I was in the kitchen, actually baking bread and ironing,” she says. Her sons were at school, and her husband Hap was working in the Northwood mill. It was Nov. 18, 1981.

At around 11 a.m., on came the news—a spill at Equity Mine.

“They spilled 10,000 gallons of concentrated sulphuric acid down our watershed, in the middle of the night,” she says. “By afternoon they were telling people living on Buck Creek not to drink the water.”

The ecosystem above the lake that feeds into Buck Creek was destroyed. Insects, plants, fish, everything gone. For decades the Buck Creek had to deal with and absorb damage caused by subsequent acid leaching. 

So it did not surprise me when, upon moving to Houston and asking questions about the history of the watershed, another local resident said, “The Buck is dead, there’s no point in worrying about it because there is no hope.” 

With such a destructive event, it’s no wonder people are concerned. But I refuse to give up hope because hope really does matter.

streamkeeper leader by creek in yellow vest

ZoAnn Morten at Buck Creek in Houston

A Rocha staff and volunteers, staff from the Office of the Wet’suwet’en, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other groups have been monitoring the insect and fish population and have found some beautiful things. In July 2015, Pacific Streamkeepers Federation (PSkF) did a training session on identifying aquatic invertebrates to help determine water quality and we found that the area we sampled was a healthy ecosystem for salmon. In August 2016, A Rocha volunteers walked the first 8 km of Buck Creek and reported 41 spawning chinook salmon. This creek is NOT dead.

God has created this world to be resilient. Yes, there is a point where the damage is too much, but think of our bodies. They can take a lot of abuse and sickness before they finally succumb to death and will do everything they can to fight to the very end. The created world is the same. While it is true, damage has been done and the potential for more damage is still there, I believe there is still hope for Buck Creek. 

That is why this year we once again hosted ZoAnn Morten of the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation on August 8-10, 2022 to train even more citizen scientists to monitor and care for the creeks.

“This creek is so full of life,” said Morten. “What a great time exploring Buck Creek! Sharing with such wonderful stewards of the land and water is pure joy. This creek is in good hands!” 

Morten said there is lots of large wood in and along Buck Creek to provide habitat. This is especially important as the area isn’t able to supply rootcut banks. 

So, we continue to share the story of our watershed with the community and anyone who will listen. 

I have said this before and I will say it again: the Upper Bulkley River, and its tributaries like Buck Creek, is considered one of the most negatively impacted rivers in the larger Skeena system due to human activity. Wouldn’t it be amazing if in 25, 50 or 100 years we could say that it is the most positively impacted river because of human activity? This is our hope and our goal.

streamkeepers kneeling in buck creek with trap
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