Wetland conservation in the Columbia Valley protects internationally significant habitat for migratory birds
In honour of World Wetlands Day, the Nature Conservancy of Canada is pleased to announce a new wetland conservation project in BC's Columbia Valley, near Radium Hot Springs. The new conservation area is located along the Columbia Wetlands, an extensive wetland complex along the Columbia River that is a Ramsar-designated wetland of international importance.
This project represents the second phase of the land trust's efforts to create the Luxor Linkage Conservation Area, which protects key lands within a natural wildlife corridor between the Columbia Valley and the Rocky Mountains. The conservation area takes its name from Luxor Creek, which flows through the property. The creek is the second-most important kokanee spawning location in the entire Upper Columbia Valley.
Approximately half of the 331-acre (134-hectare) acquisition comprises wetland and associated habitats along the Columbia River, and is immediately adjacent to the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area. This 180-kilometre stretch of wetlands is recognized internationally as the longest remaining continuous wetlands in North America.
The Columbia River wetlands are a key stopover area for waterfowl and other birds, many of which breed and feed in these wetlands. A wide range of wildlife rely on wetlands for some or all of their life cycle, including many species at risk. Common nighthawk, western grebe, westslope cutthroat trout and western toad are all COSEWIC-designated species at risk that have been documented on the new conservation lands.
The upland portion of the property supports grasslands and open forests of Interior Douglas-fir. These habitats are associated with over 70 species at risk listed under the BC Conservation Data Centre, including American badger, grizzly bear, Lewis's woodpecker and flammulated owl, which are all Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)-designated species at risk, and a number of rare plants (such as the red-listed Hooker's Townsend daisy).
The first phase of this project was completed in March 2016. In total, 960 acres (389 hectares) of important natural habitat are now under permanent protection by the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
A key aspect of this conservation project is the chance to protect a movement corridor for large animals moving through the valley. Independent research biologist Michael Proctor has identified these lands as one of the most important zones between Fairmont and Golden for grizzly bears moving between the Purcell and Rocky mountains.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada recognizes the importance of connecting Canadians with nature and providing recreational access on its lands in ways that are compatible with its conservation goals. The sensitive nature of Luxor Linkage and the surrounding area for key local wildlife means that recreational access will be limited to non-motorized use.
This project was supported by funding from the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program. Additional funding was contributed by the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, Sitka Foundation, Vital Ground foundation and other individuals.
“The wetlands on Luxor Linkage are absolutely key to the high conservation value of this new conservation area, which continues to reveal its natural treasures each time I walk the land,” said Chad Townsend, Canadian Rockies program director for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “The Nature Conservancy of Canada is so pleased to see the completion of our vision to protect this key movement corridor for wildlife in the Columbia Valley, while also providing beautiful spaces for residents to walk and enjoy.”
“On World Wetlands Day, our Government is pleased to partner with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to protect this important migratory bird habitat in the Columbia Valley," said the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “Through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, we are working to protect significant wildlife habitat in British Columbia and across Canada.”
"Our land acquisition program has proven to be very effective in conserving wildlife habitat values in the region," said Dave White, public representative of the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program. “Along with others, we are very pleased to contribute funding to another important wildlife corridor. The Luxor Linkage property will play an important role in conserving wildlife values in the area."
“In addition to protecting intact wetlands and low-elevation big game winter range, the Luxor Creek project permanently protects a critical pathway for grizzly bears and other wildlife to move back and forth across this developing valley floor,” said Ryan Lutey, executive director of the Montana-based Vital Ground Foundation. “We are excited that we were able to support protection of this wildlife corridor between two major mountain ranges where habitat is increasingly becoming fragmented.”
- Located in the Upper Columbia Valley approximately 17 kilometres north of Radium Hot Springs, the Luxor Linkage Conservation Area now includes 960 acres (389 hectares) of mixed forest and grassland.
- Luxor Linkage lies within one of the only mapped “high-capability” grizzly bear linkage zones between Fairmont Hot Springs and Golden.
- The wetlands on the conservation area maintain regional populations of amphibians and reptiles.
- The wetlands also provide nesting, feeding and resting sites used by ducks, geese and trumpeter swan, great blue heron, osprey, merganser, loon, grebe, kingfisher and bald eagle.
- The open forest and grasslands support high-value winter range for bighorn sheep, elk and deer, as well as habitat for several species at risk, including the COSEWIC-designated endangered American badger.
- Canada is a signatory to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, also called the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. British Columbia has three of Canada's 37 Ramsar sites.
- World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on February 2, to mark the 1971 adoption of the Convention in Ramsar, Iran. Ninety percent of United Nations' member states have become contracting parties to the Convention on Wetlands
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation's leading land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 2.8 million acres (over 1.1 million hectares), coast to coast. More than one quarter of these acres are in British Columbia. natureconservancy.ca/bc
The Government of Canada's Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership led by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. To date, $345 million has been invested in the NACP by the Government of Canada to secure our natural heritage. Additionally, more than $500 million in matching contributions has been raised by NCC and its partners.
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