Langley-based Cycle to the Sacred tour raises awareness, and funds

Through a summer-long cycling tour, Langley residents Desiree Wallace and Nicole Kilistoff, along with Landon Yerex from Courtenay, are raising funds and awareness in support of First Nations people’s environmental efforts in northwestern B.C.

The surfers and snowboarders behind Beyond Boarding are connected to the land and sea.

After all, they skim along the surfaces of both pretty much year round.

Starting next week and stretching well into the summer, Beyond Boarding co-founder and Langley resident Desiree Wallace along with Landon Yerex from Courtenay will combine their passion for outdoor sports and environmental activism by cycling from Fort Langley to Sacred Headwaters, a vital ecosystem between Iskut and Dease Lake.

Their hope is to bring to light the ongoing efforts of First Nations people to keep the piece of land in northwestern B.C. pristine.

The goal of Beyond Boarding’s Cycle to the Sacred Bike Tour is to generate financial and social support for what Wallace describes as “a group of land defenders,” the Klabona Keepers, in the Sacred Headwaters.

Klabona Keepers is an organization of Tahltan elders and families who occupy and use traditional lands near Iskut, known as Tl’abāne, the Sacred Headwaters of the Stikine, Nass, and Skeena Rivers.

“They are three of the most prominent, wild salmon bearing rivers in all of B.C.,” Wallace said.

Thousands of people from the northern Interior to the coast depend upon the health of these three watersheds for their livelihood and for the well-being of their families and communities, Wallace noted.

“The Sacred Headwaters continues to be at risk,” she added. “Without Tahltan consent, the government has given an exploratory permit to Fortune Minerals, a mining company with a plan to turn Klappan Mountain into an open-pit anthracite coal mine, 4,000 hectares in size.”

According to Wallace, the project plan includes building 147 kilometres of railway through the headwaters to export the coal, and a 112-km power line linking the mine to the Northwest Transmission Line, “undoubtedly causing irreversible destruction of a vital ecosystem and gem of B.C. The Klabona Keepers need this province’s support at large to protecting it.”

The fund and awareness-raiser is sponsored by the Norco John Henry Bikes in North Vancouver, and Wallace and Yerex will be aboard Valence road bikes.

A support vehicle will be driven by Beyond Bording co-founder, 21-year-old Langley resident Nicole Kilistoff, who’ll be following along in a Delica van converted to run on waste cooking oil.

Together, they’ll be raising funds through an online fundraising platform and hosting film screenings of Beyond Boarding’s independent documentary, Northern Grease, that features the Klabona Keepers to raise awareness and funds along the route.

“The film features professional level snowboarding, cinematography, and storytelling, and promise to hold audience attention throughout each evening of the tour,” Wallace said.

The journey will hopefully bring this issue to light, Yerex said.

“It’s so far north, that people don’t know this issue is even happening,” Kilistoff added. “Just getting people aware, is really important.”

During the trip, Wallace, Yerex, and Kilistoff will document stories of indigenous land defenders across the province as well as the landscapes they are protecting through photojournalism and videography.

The trip will take roughly a month-and-a-half to complete. Along the way, they’ll will be stopping at various communities to spread their message, and screen the documentary.

“It will be an interactive journey,” Wallace said. “We will be doing photography and videography to showcase all of the beauty that pervades this amazing province, and kind of what’s at risk, and also showcase indigenous land defenders who are working tirelessly to protect the sustenance of life, basically.”

On Sunday, July 13 at the Fort Langley Community Hall, Kwantlen First Nation members Kevin Kelly, Michael Kelly Gabriel, Michelle Saul, Ritchie Seward, Dennie Leon, and Lisa Thomas will bless the trio with a noon-hour drum send off.

The public is welcome to attend.

About Beyond Boarding

Beyond Boarding was started in 2011 by a group of snowboarders, surfers, and other “self propelled athletes” looking to bridge their passion for their chosen athletic hobbies with a zest for social and environmental activism.

“That is what Beyond Boarding is all about,” Yerex said. “Making positive change and keeping it fun. Making it attractive to young people.”

The group produces films, magazine articles, and online content that showcases its athletes leading the shift towards sustainable and humanitarian lifestyles by example.

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