A hiker on Darkwoods (Photo by Bruce Kirkby)

A hiker on Darkwoods (Photo by Bruce Kirkby)

Darkwoods: Real conservation. Real results.

View from Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, Darkwoods, BC (Photo by M. A. Beaucher)

View from Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, Darkwoods, BC (Photo by M. A. Beaucher)

When you look across Kootenay Lake to Darkwoods, such as in the picture to the right, the vast mountainous conservation area can appear remote, aloof and quiet.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Darkwoods is one of the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) most active and influential conservation projects. Our team has engaged local contractors to help us manage the sprawling, 136,000-acre (55,000-hectare) property, ensuring economic benefits flow back into the nearby communities. Every year Darkwoods hosts researchers from across the conservation science community who are amassing a wealth of information on species and ecological systems in this vast natural area. And we have developed an internationally recognized forest carbon project that generates important funding for the long-term care of the property.

All of these accomplishments would not have occurred without the completion of the largest private land conservation purchase in Canadian history by the Nature Conservancy of Canada in 2008. We continue to contribute significant benefits to the nearby communities, the province of British Columbia and beyond.

Big area, big value

Because of its size, Darkwoods shelters many different conservation values. It provides fresh, clean water to the surrounding communities. It is a refuge for many rare and endangered plants and animals. The forests clean the air, lock down carbon and offer some buffer to the increasing pressures of climate change.  

Cultus Creek, Darkwoods, British Columbia (Photo by Bruce Kirkby)

Cultus Creek, Darkwoods, British Columbia (Photo by Bruce Kirkby)

Darkwoods also has tremendous value to people and communities nearby. The naturals systems on the property are healthy and whole, while still providing economic benefits through jobs, research and natural resources. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking, fishing, swimming and other pursuits on the sprawling property. And those carbon-fixing forests have become the basis for our award-winning forest carbon project that has provided carbon credits to organizations, communities and institutions wishing to reduce their carbon footprint.

Supporting communities

When NCC purchased Darkwoods it had been sustainably harvested for 40 years, supplying local mills with a modest amount of timber and hiring workers from nearby communities. As NCC transitions the property to a conservation area, we are working to strike a balance between immediate resource-based economic benefits and the long-term investment that comes from conservation management.

  • Since 2008 NCC has contributed more than $13 million to local economies and across British Columbia.
  • Retired Darkwoods forester Roland Meyers admires the giant trees on the property (Photo by Bruce Kirkby)

    Retired Darkwoods forester Roland Meyers admires the giant trees on the property (Photo by Bruce Kirkby)

    Our property taxes have contributed more than $600,000 to local revenues.

  • Over the past five years we have supported traditional forestry jobs, such as silviculture, invasive weed treatment, logging and trucking, road maintenance and construction, with more than $7.7 million.

  • As we transition the property to conservation management, we have directed more that $5 million into new ecosystem service jobs such as resource specialists undertaking species inventory, assessments of carbon capture in forests and integrated resource management.

Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project

The forests of Darkwoods store vast amounts of carbon, and each year the trees and soil pull even more carbon out of the atmosphere. When considering how to fund the long-term care and management of Darkwoods, the chance to use the trees to save the forest offered a unique opportunity to fund conservation in a new way. The Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project is a special NCC initiative that markets Darkwoods carbon credits through the voluntary carbon market to businesses, governments and other agencies wishing to reduce their carbon footprint.

A team of carbon experts worked for three years to create a project that meets the highest international standards available today for the voluntary carbon market, ensuring that the carbon credits generated on Darkwoods will create real and measurable benefits for the planet. You can learn more about the project by reading our detailed FAQs.

In 2011, the Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project was awarded the Non-Profit Sector Land Award by the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia for demonstrating "leadership, innovation, and collaboration related to the sustainable use and conservation of land in British Columbia."

Outdoor adventure

Hikers on Darkwoods, British Columbia (Photo by NCC)

Hikers on Darkwoods, British Columbia (Photo by NCC)

Darkwoods has a long history of use by local communities. Since the 1960s, the public has been allowed limited access to the property with a permit. NCC has been happy to continue that tradition and even expand those opportunities. Whether you like to hike up to the alpine heights, spend the day fishing in Cultus Creek or zip over snowy roads via snowmobile, there are many ways you can enjoy Darkwoods while also respecting its conservation values.

Writer Bruce Kirkby knows firsthand how amazing the property is after tackling the rugged mountain terrain, and in winter no less. You can read about his exploits in this Canadian Geographic article.

Conservation research

Conservation research is at the heart of everything we do, and Darkwoods has offered unparalleled access to important research projects. We have been pleased to invite biologists, ecologists and foresters onto the property to conduct their studies. In the past five years we have welcomed scientists from universities and governments, as well as independent researchers, to conduct their important work on Darkwoods.

  • Grizzly bear (Photo by Erwin and Peggy Bauer/USFWS)

    Grizzly bear (Photo by Erwin and Peggy Bauer/USFWS)

    Grizzly bear biologist Michael Proctor has spent many years mapping the movements of the isolated sub-population of grizzlies that roam Darkwoods. Michael’s research reveals the areas where the bears go to move safely in and around Darkwoods. The results help pinpoint the most important land for conservation, such as the Frog Bear Conservation Area, a key corridor that the bears use to travel from Darkwoods through the Creston Valley.

  • Biologist Adrian Leslie climbed to the high peaks of Darkwoods in search of whitebark pine, a hard-scrabble tree that is disappearing from the mountains of BC and Alberta. He hopes his research into this tree, which flourishes on Darkwoods, will help stem the loss of this important species.

  • Steve Ardnt, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program who led a study on bull trout in the Kootenays, confirms that Darkwoods protects “very important habitats to the bull trout population of Kootenay Lake.” 

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