Marion Creek Benchlands
Wetlands in the Marion Creek Benchlands, British Columbia (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)
Wedged between the Rocky Mountains and the Purcell Range in southeastern British Columbia, the Rocky Mountain Trench is a flat-bottomed valley carved into existence by the Columbia River. Here wildlife roams between mountain ranges, birds rest midway on their seasonal migrations and rare plant communities persist.
The Upper Columbia River Valley lies in the north end of the Trench and maintains an ecological richness that is quickly being eroded in surrounding areas. This is the only stretch of the Columbia River that has been left unaltered by dams. It is part of the longest uninterrupted wetland in western North America.
Unlike many other areas in the world, this region still supports a full suite of native carnivores, such as bear and cougar, and ungulates, such as elk and deer.
For these reasons and more the area has been a hot spot of conservation activities over the years, and continues to be a conservation priority.
Completing the conservation puzzle
Walking on Marion Creek Benchlands, BC (Photo by NCC)
On the western benchlands of Columbia Lake, a patchwork of conservation properties forms a mosaic of protected areas. Sitting in the middle of this wild space is Marion Creek Benchlands. This 204-hectare (504-acre) parcel bridges two conservation properties, which themselves are adjacent to additional protected areas. The total protected area along the western side of the lake is more than 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres).
With the Upper Columbia Valley under steady and intense development pressure, the acquisition of Marion Creek Benchlands effectively and immediately secured the benchlands on the western side of Columbia Lake from the ever-present threat of residential subdivision and development.
American badger (Photo by Max Allen/Shutterstock)
Marion Creek Benchlands is emblematic Rocky Mountain Trench landscape — the property ranges from native grasslands and open Douglas-fir forests to a wetland complex of marsh and streamside habitat. Wild land corridors are vitally important in the Rocky Mountain Trench to support the movement of wide-ranging animals.
Many wildlife species flourish in this area, including elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, cougar, black bear and grizzly bear. Several endangered species have been documented on the lands, including badger, prairie falcon and dry-land sedge.
Marion Creek Benchlands and the surrounding properties all support part of the Marion Creek wetland complex. The wetland areas on the property include pockets of cattail marsh, which is a provincially threatened plant community. The wetlands provide important habitat for migratory birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Partners in conservation
This project was made possible by the generous support of many individuals, as well as the following organizations:
- Columbia Basin Trust
- East Kootenay Wildlife Association
- Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program
- Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation
- Government of Canada, through the Natural Areas Conservation Program
- Regional District of East Kootenay, through the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund