Most of the Lillooet area is in the central and eastern Coast Mountains, but it extends to the Chilcotin Plateau in the north and the Thompson-Okanagan Plateau in the east.
Topography is rugged: relief exceeds 2,800 metres; about one-third of the area is above tree line. Its highest point is Skihist Mountain (2,944 metres) while its lowest is the Fraser River south of Lytton (~140 metres). Better known ranges include the Bendor; Camelsfoot; Cantilever; Cayoosh; Chilcotin; Clear; Dickson; Leckie; Scarped; and Shulaps.
Major rivers include the Fraser, Thompson and Bridge. The Bridge River features a series of hydroelectric dams and reservoirs. Other important streams are the Yalakom, Tyaughton, Stein, Seton and Cayoosh. The area’s four largest lakes - Anderson, Seton, Downton and Carpenter - also serve as hydroelectric reservoirs.
Lillooet is noted for its great natural diversity. More than 250 million years of plate tectonic processes have created a mosaic of oceanic and continental crust, with zones rich in minerals. During the last million years ice sheets and glaciers carved the present landscapes.
Three major air masses now converge in the area: wet coastal air from the west, cold plateau air from the north, and dry interior air from the east. Annual precipitation varies from 2,000 mm in the west to 300 mm in the east. Much of the area is semi-arid, in the Coast Mountains’ rain shadow.
Vegetation changes from lower elevation grasslands through climax forests of pine, spruce and fir to alpine wildflowers and tundra. Six biogeoclimatic zones and 46 variants have been mapped; three times the average for interior areas of comparable size.
Although many species of fish and wildlife abound, some are vulnerable, threatened or endangered.
Administration and Population
The plan encompasses 1,125,025 hectares. Its boundary coincides with the Lillooet Sub Region within the Cascades Forest District.
About 96% of the area (~1.1 million hectares) is administered by the Province. The remaining 4% (~48,000 hectares) is about equally divided between Indian reserves and private land.
Indian reserves are administered by the Federal government. First Nations are governed through a number of tribal and band organizations.
Private land is regulated by local governments, which include Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, Thompson-Nicola Regional District, the District Municipality of Lillooet and the Village of Lytton.
Population is sparse (about 6,500) but racially and culturally diverse. First Nations comprise about half the population and represent four broad cultural groups (Nlaka’pamux, St’at’imc, Secwepemc, and Tsilhqot’in).
Twelve bands have communities or reserves within the area while sixteen others use the area for traditional activities.
Since the 1850s, settlers of mainly European and Asian descent have made the area their home. The main population centres are Lillooet, Seton Portage-Shalalth, Fountain, Lytton and Pavilion. Smaller centres include Bralorne, Gold Bridge and Spences Bridge.
Over one-third of the population, and many seasonal residents, live in more rural areas such as Moha, Yalakom Valley, Anderson Lake, Gun Lake, Marshall Lake, Tyaughton Lake, Pavilion Lake, and Texas Creek.
Economy and Infrastructure
Communities have long based their economy on natural resources, but there have been many ups and downs.
Boom times have come from the early gold rushes, railroad construction, mineral exploration and mining, hydro dam construction, highway projects, forestry, fishing, tourism, farming and ranching.
Downturns have resulted in unemployment, wage disparities, rapid shifts in population, and lost opportunities for associated businesses. Despite these challenges, people are attracted to the area by its beauty and quality of rural life.
The area is linked to the rest of BC by two highways and three rail lines but lacks scheduled air service.
Most of the power that is generated locally supplies markets in the lower mainland.
Forestry continues to be the largest industry, supporting 19% of plan area employment. Other contributors include tourism at 15%, agriculture at 12%, and mining at 2%. The public sector provides 38% of plan area employment1.
Lillooet and Lytton are the primary trade and service centres in the area.
A key challenge for Lillooet’s communities, and a fundamental goal of this plan, is to diversify the local economy and ensure its sustainability.
Recent steps toward meeting this challenge include: the Memorandum of Understanding between the BC and Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Mining Association of BC and the Council of Tourism; the Protocol Agreement with the St’at’imc Chiefs Council; the Memorandum of Agreement between the Lillooet Sub Region Community and Forest Economic Interests; and the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the management of Spotted Owl in the Lillooet Sub Region (see Appendix).