Several local and regional ecosystem restoration projects are expected to take place over the next five years, with $1.8 million in financial support from the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT).
Forests, wetlands and riparian areas are among the habitats that will benefit from the projects, with a focus on ensuring healthy, diverse and functioning ecosystems in the Columbia Basin, CBT explained in a press release.
One such project in Cranbrook aims to reinvigorate the shoreline of Lake Elizabeth.
This restoration project is being led by the Rocky Mountain Naturalists over the next five years, with the goal of improving bird nesting habitat, providing anti-predator cover for young Western Painted Turtles, and minimizing weeds and invasive grasses. A basking habitat will also be installed for turtles, which birds will also use.
The town of Cranbrook says there will be excavators working the north end of the lake starting in May.
“We will plant native vegetation along the shoreline,” the city said. “Our goal is to improve vegetation cover, bird nesting opportunities, improve carbon sequestration and increase fire resistance. Native trees and shrubs will replace weeds, and fencing will prevent deer from browsing on newly planted vegetation.
Marianne Nahm, president of the Rocky Mountain Naturalists, says the project will improve foraging and nesting habitat for songbirds and shorebirds, while benefiting a wider range of wildlife.
“Our project also aims to help the Cranbrook community access and connect with nature and increase opportunities to see, experience and learn about these fascinating species,” Nahm said.
In the Elk Valley, the Elk River Watershed Alliance will undertake a four-year, 47-hectare project along the Elk River, with the goal of planting approximately 20,000 poplar live stakes and 8,000 native understory seedlings , said CBT.
The Alliance will also install animal exclusion fencing to keep out animals like elk and cattle, allowing young vegetation to grow.
“The goal is to enhance cottonwood habitat value, connect floodplain cottonwood ecosystems, and mitigate flooding in the Elk Valley,” said Chad Hughes, executive director of the Covenant. “The project also aims to indirectly improve the functioning of aquatic ecosystems by providing shade to reduce stream temperatures, reducing erosion and naturally introducing large woody debris to provide habitat for fish and aquatic fauna, as well as food and building materials for beavers.”
A five-year project along the Kootenay and Goat rivers will see the area returned to a restored state to benefit the wildlife and ecosystem they inhabit there.
“Yaqan NuɁkiy already has experience restoring wetlands, streams and floodplains, and will now use his expertise to restore 517 hectares of aquatic and terrestrial habitats along the Kootenay and Goat Rivers,” CBT said. “Using aerial photographs from 1926 as a guide, it will help the area look more like its natural state through activities such as filling ditches, adding culverts and controlling non-native plants. species such as Northern Leopard Frog, White Sturgeon and Western Painted Turtle.
This project builds on a wetland and stream restoration project that began in 2018, explained Norman Allard Jr., community planner.
“In 2021, the Creston Valley experienced a severe drought where all wetlands, ponds and streams dried up except those we had restored, which contained lush shoots of native plants and were home to a large number of birds and other animals. It proved that the techniques we used were successful, and we will now use them on the current project,” Allard Jr. said.
The Simpcw First Nation will also work to restore wetlands in the Canoe Valley near Valemount. The project will see wetlands restored and built from scratch.
“The wetlands and riparian areas of the valley floor serve many important ecological functions, including providing habitat for many species of fish and wildlife, and targeted physical works can help restore these critical habitats and corridors. connectivity,” said Caroline Feischl, an environmental professional with Simpcw Resources Group, which is overseeing the project on behalf of the Simpcw First Nation, in conjunction with LGL Limited. “This project will also involve members of the Simpcw First Nation, in addition to integrating cultural and ecological knowledge, particularly focusing on adding and locating plant species of cultural significance.”
The British Columbia Conservation Foundation (BCCF) will also work to improve the Lake Ranch (Von Unruh) conservation property, which is owned by The Nature Trust of BC.
CBT says that over the next five years, BCCF will work on approximately 51 hectares of land to plant trees, shrubs and flower meadows, while adding wooden structures for small animals and insects.
Finally, bats in the region will benefit from restored roosting habitat through a project with the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada and other partners.
The four-year project will see three types of bat houses added to various locations around the basin.
“Bats perform an important function in ecosystems and provide direct benefits to local citizens through pest control services,” said Cori Lausen, director of Bat Conservation. “Our goal is to encourage the abundance and diversity of these nocturnal aerial insectivores by restoring roosting habitats in strategic areas. We will then monitor efficiency to find out which species select which types of roost creations and how bats do in those structures.
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Columbia Basin environment