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Skookum Valley / Mamquam

Issue Lead Advocate - Chris Ludwig

2020 is probing the troubling inconsistencies arising from the alleged mineral lick "discovered" by Officer Watt on Darling Ridge.

9000 years ago

Squamish indigenous people establish first habitation in the vicinity of present day Squamish. The then shoreline of the inlet is near the locality of Cheekye, which is above Brackendale near the confluence of Cheekye and Squamish Rivers. (Source: Squamish historian Ander Ourom.) The Cordilleran ice sheet that blanketed all but the highest points of land has retreated from its furthest advance. Alpine glaciation remains extensive.


Little Ice Age - Darling Lake area covered in ice.


Darling Lake area covered in ice (add 2020 map of ice cover that is inferred based on the research reports GlacierChangeInGaribaldiProvincialParkSinceLittleIceAge and EnvironmentalChangeInGaribaldiProvincialPark).


Biologist Steve Rochetta according to his own personal communication starts working out of the Squamish office of Ministry of Environment. Mr. Rochetta claims that he personally has visited the Darling Lake area many times documenting mountain goat populations and habitat. This establishes a timeline when his earliest research and management activities could have occurred.

May 26, 2010

Ministry of Environment releases the report Management Plan for the Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus) in British Columbia prepared by the Mountain Goat Management Team. It is approved by the Director, Ecosystems Branch and Director, Fish and Wildlife Branch of the ministry.

Page 12,

Habitat needs

Alpine vegetation contains low sodium content and high potassium levels, thus many populations of mountain goats obtain supplemental minerals to their diet from mineral licks (Hebert and Cowan 1971a; Ayotte et al. 2006). While most early evidence pointed to the requirement to maintain sodium balance (Hebert and Cowan 1971a), elevated levels of magnesium, manganese, iron, and copper at lick sites have also been reported (Ayotte et al. 2006; Dormaar and Walker 1996). Supplemental sources of magnesium may help offset high dietary potassium levels, and carbonates may help stabilize rumen pH (Ayotte et al. 2006). Mineral licks can be characterized into three types: dry earth exposures, muck (wet) licks, and rock face licks (Dormaar and Walker 1996). 

The importance of mineral licks among populations seems to vary substantially (Glasgow et al. 2003), possibly related to the mineral content of the matrix substrate. Many populations of mountain goats, including most interior populations, generally make extensive use of natural mineral licks, often travelling to low elevation sites or areas distant from their usual home ranges (Hebert and Cowan 1971a; Rideout 1974; Hebert and Turnbull 1977; Hopkins et al. 1992; Ayotte et al. 2008; Poole et al. 2010).8 Prevalence of mineral lick use by coastal animals may be less than interior populations, possibly due to different geology, as there are no mineral licks currently known on the coast (D. Reynolds, pers. comm. 2008). High elevation licks are also used (Poole and Heard 2003).9 Lick use occurs primarily between April and early autumn, with males generally using licks earlier in the year, and females and family groups beginning to use licks in early June (Ayotte et al. 2008; Poole et al. 2010).10 Mountain goats generally use traditional trails to access licks (Hebert and Cowan 1971a).11 These trails often traverse extensive areas of forest, and mountain goats may stage and rest at rocky bluffs within the timber as they make periodic excursions to the lick (Hebert and Cowan 1971a). Movements of up to 24 km to mineral licks, often involving low-elevation sites, occur in some populations (Hebert and Cowan 1971a; Poole and Heard 2003; Poole et al. 2010).12 Studies on use of traditional trails and mineral licks after timber removal are underway in the Peace region.13

Page 67,

Specific recommendations for non-motorized recreational disturbance

Minimize recreational disturbance: Backcountry tourism and recreation can result in disturbance or displacement of mountain goats. Recreation varies from highly mechanized transportation (e.g., snowmobiles, snowcats, and ATVs), to generally less threatening humanpower pursuits (e.g., hiking, ski touring, ice-climbing; Varley 1998; Canfield et al. 1999). To minimize impacts, British Columbia adopted guidelines to restrict motorized ground-based activities in open areas in relation to large mammals within 500 m line-of-sight, and nonmotorized ground-based activities in open areas in relation to large mammals within 100 m line-of-sight (B.C. Ministry of Environment 2006).   
These specific recommendations apply consistently to all forms of recreational activity within the province: 

  • During the designated winter (1 Nov. – 30 Apr.) and kidding/early rearing periods (1 May – 15 July), ground access should be restricted within 500 m of mountain goat habitat by motorized activities (snowcats, snowmobiles, ATVs, etc.), and by 100 m by nonmotorized activities (ski touring, ice climbing, etc.) (Lemke 1999; B.C. Ministry of Environment 2006).
  • In their review of the effect of recreation on ungulates in Montana, Canfield et al. (1999) suggested ways of reducing human disturbance on winter and summer ranges:
    • Route facilities, trails, and/or roads away from mountain goat winter range, kidding/early rearing ranges, and mineral lick areas;
    • Establish and only use designated travel routes to make human use of areas as predictable as possible; and 
    • Identify potential conflicts and develop mitigative strategies.

June 2015

Officer Watt, trained as a peace officer, visits Darling Lake area for the first time and "discovers" an extensive mineral lick at Darling Lake.

August 11, 2015

B.C. Mountaineering Club receives a letter from FLNRO, Squamish Office that the proposed Darling Lake Heritage Trail restoration project "encroaches on a heavily used mineral lick which is a rare and valuable feature supporting a wide variety of species, including Mountain Goats. The FLNRO District Biologist has indicated he cannot support this proposal."

This is the first publicly known reference to a "mineral lick" on Darling Ridge. Indeed, from the foregoing Management Plan for the Mountain Goat in British Columbia, it is the first in the Coast Range.

August 26, 2015

The next reference to "mountain goat mineral licks" on Darling Ridge appears in the Darling Lake Trail stop work order issued by NRO Murray Watt. The stop work order contains factual errors that have already been identified by 2020. It leads 2020 to begin questioning the veracity of the statement made about the mountain goat mineral licks discovered by Officer Watt and later attested to by Steve Rochetta, registered professional biologist.

May 9, 2016

Bear specialist Steve Rochetta of Ministry of Environment states in reference to Officer Watt's mineral lick "goats and all other animals trek for miles to access minerals at these locations."

- Obtained from 2020's FOI request

July 5, 2016

In response to questioning by 2020, Steve Rochetta provides the following information.

The area in question is close to GWR, there is evidence of tracks, hair and wallowing depressions at this location, we describe these biologically as mineral licks. Goats and other animals frequent these locations to access minerals from the ground, these minerals (often salts) are extremely important to body function and can mostly be accessed through diet or licks.

Ungulates (goats, deer, moose) are known to travel great distances to access these areas.

Mr. Rochetta claims he visited Darling Lake area "many times" during his twelve year tenure in Squamish. However, he was never aware of the alleged mineral lick until it was "discovered" by Officer Watt while acting as a park ranger in June 2015.

Mr. Rochetta's statement is vague as to whether the tracks, hair and "wallowing depressions" are at the approved UWR that is 2 km west of Darling Lake or at the so-called Officer Watt mineral lick at the lake.

2020 strongly suspects the wallowing depressions are in reality bedding sites. These are readily observed by climbers all over the Coast Range and North Cascades, for instance. Typically, goats scrape away dirt and rocks to make a small body-sized hollow to rest or sleep in. Mountain climbers frequently see such hollows on high ridges and late summer cornices. Since there are no mineral deposits on cornices the most obvious conclusion is they are indeed bedding sites. In fact, hollows on cornices are found adjacent to hollows on dirt, which is strongly suggestive they are herd bedding sites.

Deer often make such hollows at lower elevations under large trees that provide good vantage points and protection from the elements. Mountaineers, for example, traversing rocky mountain slopes will frequently see game trails between such vantage points with obvious sign of animal use. If these were mineral licks, then mineral licks would be widespread and prevalent throughout the Coast Mountains and North Cascades and not rare as stated in the government report.

In the Washington Pass area in the North Cascades, there is a climber's track to Wallaby Peak. There are numerous bedding hollows on the track. In our opinion, it shows that climbers and mountain goats readily coexist.

In the Harts Pass area, a few miles away, there is a busy summer recreation road at Dead Horse Point that travels right by a dry mineral lick. GP2020 has observed a mountain goat nanny and kid at the sight neither of which showed fear or alarm at the passing vehicle. Mountain goats have become accustomed to the relatively busy road and continue to use the mineral lick.

When GP2020 interviewed a forest service biologist at the nearby Winthrop, Washington forest service office, she stated there was little concern about the impact of mountain climbers on mountain goat population in the Washington Pass area. If anything, the concern would be that goats are attracted to humans because of the readily available minerals from human urine.

GP2020 is concerned that the Squamish biologist is making statements that are lacking in rigour. The Washington state experience backs up our concern. What is most disturbing to GP2020 is that the alleged mineral lick at Darling Lake has not been independently verified at this time. It does not appear that the government biologist has even been to Darling Lake since the mineral lick was alleged "discovered". GP2020 has observed no evidence of a mineral lick at Darling Lake on two prior visits to the area. Even if a mineral lick were to be confirmed at the Darling Lake site the Washington state experience is that there is little impact to mountain goats even with the presence of a climber's trail nearby.

We also take objection that these unsupported statements and conclusions that are attributed to a provincial biologist are being used to justify the stop work order on the Darling Lake Heritage Trail as though these were proven facts.

Mid July 2016

Automated snow pillow data for Upper Squamish River, the closest comparable snow survey site to Darling Lake shows that current to noon on July 21, 2016 snow has disappeared from the Upper Squamish site a month earlier than average.

2020 received photos of the alleged Darling Lake mineral lick taken in mid July of 2016. The photos reveal that the gravelly terraces in the so-called mineral lick location are still under one meter of snow. Only the bedrock escarpments are free of snow. It implies that in an average snow year, the gravelly terraces remain snowbound until August at Darling Lake. There was no indication that goats or other animals were travelling "great distances to access these areas". It tends to support a conclusion that either the goat lick is a farrago or goats are not visiting the area to lick the granitic rock faces. If such minerals exist they are not in the granitic rock faces.

May 12, 2016

2020 submits Darling Lake Heritage Trail Proposal to the Honourable Mary Polak

This follows the discussion of Darling Lake Heritage Trail with Mr. George Heyman, NDP MLA in the legislature on April 25th. From the covering letter to the proposal.

We are greatly encouraged that you and your Government is seriously considering righting the wrongs of the past by expanding hiking opportunities in Garibaldi Provincial Park by offering to fully restore the Darling Lake Heritage Trail.

In deference to the overcrowding and overuse of the existing trail network, expansion at this time is highly desirable.  The full restoration of the Darling Lake Heritage Trail by your Government would be a lasting legacy to be proud of; one that would greatly benefit the hiking community for generations to come, and one that would further stimulate the local Squamish economy. 
We also appreciate your confirmation in the legislature that the restoration of the Darling Lake Trail does not require an amendment to the Garibaldi Park Master Plan.
2020 also thanks George Heyman as NDP champion. His support was critical to bringing the proposal to the attention of the minister.

May 9, 2016

2020 receives FOI responses for alleged Darling Lake mineral lick and communications with First Nations

The material received regarding communications between government employees and Squamish First Nation, or any other first nation pertaining to or mentioning the Darling Lake Trail, Darling Lake or Darling Ridge was almost 100% redacted. The information content was close to zero. What does that suggest? Is there something to hide?

The FOI response for the alleged mineral lick raised a couple of interesting questions. There is a circle around the trail as it approaches Darling Lake. The area contained in the circle, approximately two hectares of granitic bedrock, glacial till and late season snowfields is allegedly an area of high quality mineral deposits favored by ungulates. According to Steve Rochetta, registered professional biologist, "goats and all other animals trek for miles to access minerals at these [sic] locations. Putting large numbers of people through this location would not be recommended, human use should avoid this critical feature."

The area in question was "discovered" by Murray Watt, a compliance and enforcement officer with Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in Squamish in August 2015. What was officer Watt doing inside Garibaldi Park? Typically, a park ranger would patrol a park not a forest officer. What background does officer Watt have by way of biology? Finally, did the RPBio Rochetta ever visit Darling Lake and conduct research that such a broad statement can be made.

2020 will visit the area of the alleged mineral lick once the seasonal snow has retreated. The purpose will be to independently verify the information alleged in the FOI response.

In the meantime, 2020 welcomes information from the public. Have you seen mountain goats or other animals in the vicinity of Darling Lake, Darling Ridge or Mamquam Icefield? We have so far received reports of goats and wolverine in the vicinity of Darling Lake in the summer of 2015. Have you seen goat wool snagged on trees, scat, footprints or bedding places. We are interested in hearing of your observations. Even an observation that nothing of this nature was observed is pertinent.

April 26, 2016

Garibaldi Park 2020 and 2020 issues discussed and debated in the Victoria Provincial Legislature

NDP Environment Critic George Heyman brought several key 2020 issues to the legislature, including the Garibaldi at Squamish Resort Proposal, The Darling Lake Trail, and other important 2020 concerns.  

Read the transcript here:


Today was a very promising day for the Garibaldi Park 2020 team and the issues we have been working so hard on.

April 25, 2016

B.C. Mountaineering Club receives Watersprite Lake trail Section 57 Authorization

BCMC received authorization to build the Watersprite Lake Trail from Skookum dam to Watersprite Lake. The authorized trail shares the first 2 km of trail with Darling Lake Heritage Trail.