East Kootenay property finds new purpose as conservation area
Grassland and open forest landscape supports diverse wildlife
A grassland and open forest property in East Kootenay has found a new future as a conservation area, thanks to the creative thinking of a Kelowna-based real estate broker. Drew Gamble knew his client, who was looking to sell her 129-hectare East Kootenay property, had long hoped the land could be used to help people connect with nature. When he discovered her property was a stone’s throw from the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Kootenay River Ranch Conservation Area, he reached out to the land trust to see if there would be interest in conserving his client’s land.
“This property was a very large parcel of undeveloped rural land that my client and I knew would require a unique purchaser. It turned out the Nature Conservancy of Canada had already identified portions of the property as endangered species habitat, so it was a perfect target for them to acquire,” said Drew. “My client had left the property undeveloped wanting to respect Mother Nature. She couldn't be happier that the Nature Conservancy of Canada will continue her goal of stewarding the land for generations to come."
Located in the Rocky Mountain Trench between Canal Flats and Skookumchuck, the land features the endangered American badger’s preferred habitat of native grasslands punctuated by sparse stands of Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine. The conservation property also contains deciduous woodlands, small wetlands and a section of lakeshore along Larsen Lake.
“We were delighted Mr. Gamble contacted us about this land,” said Richard Klafki, NCC’s Canadian Rockies program director. “He and his client could see that the highest and best use of this land was not development but was conservation. And we wholeheartedly agreed!”
Badgers are not the only wildlife to rely on this land. Local ungulates — moose, elk and mule and white-tailed deer — are a common sight in this area through the winter. Migratory waterfowl, fish, amphibians and small mammals use the wetlands for feeding, breeding and shelter. Much of the shrubland and forest contains quaking aspen and black cottonwood, creating substantial songbird habitat and ungulate winter range. The open water wetlands and riparian areas support foraging habitat for a variety of bat species.
“Our government supports the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s work to secure this grassland and forest property as a new conservation area in BC’s East Kootenays through the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund,” said the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “Ecosystems such as these native grasslands, deciduous forests and wetlands act not only as important stores of carbon, but also provide habitat for species at risk and nature at large. By making investments such as this, we are making progress toward Canada’s 2030 and 2050 climate change objectives and benefitting biodiversity.”
The land will be managed as part of NCC’s Kootenay River Ranch Conservation Area, growing that conservation complex to 1,644 hectares. Kootenay River Ranch is open to the public for walking and nature appreciation.
This project was made possible with funding from the Government of Canada, through the Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund. A very generous contribution was made to the acquisition of this land by Margaret L. Smith, in memory of Kenneth J. Smith.
- In the Rocky Mountain Trench, grasslands support important habitat and forage for birds, reptiles, small mammals, ungulates and domestic livestock. Over 70 red- and blue-listed species (considered at-risk in the province) are associated with the East Kootenay grasslands and open forest landscapes.
- American badger is listed as endangered on the federal Species at Risk Act.
- According to provincial data, the property provides high-quality ungulate winter range with approximately 123 hectares (95 per cent) of the property.
- At a landscape level, the Larsen Lake property contributes to both north-south and cross-valley connectivity between the Rocky and Purcell mountains.
- Over the past decade, NCC has worked to enhance wildlife habitat on Kootenay River Ranch by reducing forest ingrowth, managing invasive plants and installing wildlife-friendly fences to protect wetlands from overuse by livestock. Reducing forest ingrowth also helps to minimize the risk of catastrophic wildfire.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the country’s unifying force for nature. NCC seeks solutions to the twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change through large-scale, permanent land conservation. As a trusted partner NCC works with people, communities, businesses, and government to protect and care for our country’s natural areas. Since 1962, NCC has brought Canadians together to conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.
Canada’s Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund (NSCSF) is a $1.4 billion, ten-year fund (2021–2031) administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada to help conserve, restore, and enhance the management of ecosystems such as wetlands, forests, and grasslands, in order to help tackle the dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. The NSCSF will focus on three main objectives: (1) conserving carbon-rich ecosystems at high risk of conversion to other uses that would release their stored carbon; (2) improving land management practices to reduce their greenhouse gas emission-causing impacts on Canada’s ecosystems; and (3) restoring degraded ecosystems. Overall, these projects will contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increased carbon sequestration, while also providing benefits for biodiversity and human well-being.
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