The following ecosystem priorities and project ideas were identified through our Ecosystems Enhancement Program with a thorough review of regional plans and research and by seeking input from community groups, First Nations representatives, government agencies and subject matter experts. Ecological priorities and emerging issues are listed in random order; no ranking is intended. Species and habitats are not limited to those listed below.
- Conservation, restoration, and enhancement of aquatic habitat.
- Priority habitat: Kootenay Lake, shoreline spawning, Tributary streams spawning, rearing, overwintering valley bottom to upper basin headwaters, Cold water refugia.
- Priority Species: native fish (Kokanee, Rainbow Trout, Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Bull Trout, White Sturgeon, Burbot), freshwater mussels, waterbirds (Harlequin Duck, American Dipper, Cliff Swallows, Black Swift).
- Priority Processes: fish passage, connectivity, water temperature, water quality (nutrients, turbidity), productivity.
- Protection, enhancement and identification of corridors and linkage areas
- Priority: north end Kootenay Lake , Fish/Bear Lakes, Grohman wetlands, Creston Valley.
- Conservation and restoration of upland habitats that support species at risk and of conservation concern.
- Priority Habitat: connectivity habitat, old growth forests, dry interior forests – fire maintained ecosystems.
- Priority Species: mountain caribou, grizzly bear, mountain Goat, bats, rubber boa ,western skink, wolverine, American badger, Lewis’s Woodpecker, whitebark Pine, pollinators and other invertebrates, plants – rare, culturally important.
- Priority Processes: wildlife movement and migration, connectivity, food web interactions (predator-prey, seed dispersal, pollination).
- Conservation, restoration and enhancement of wetlands and riparian areas.
- Priority Habitat: low elevation historic wetlands – north end of Kootenay Lake and Creston Valley, floodplain ecosystems, cottonwood stands, riparian habitats directly adjacent to rivers.
- Priority Species: western toad, northern leopard frog, painted turtle, at risk migratory birds and waterfowl (Great Blue Heron, Western Screech-Owl, Western grebe, Yellow Breasted Chat, Olive-sided Flycather), bats, Coeur d’Alene Salamander, American beaver, North American River Otter, macroinvertebrates, culturally important plants.
- Priority Processes: connectivity, linkage areas valley bottom to montane, hydrologic function, geomorphological function, productivity.
- Protection and enhancement of Indigenous cultural values.
- Priority Habitat: cultural use areas.
- Priority Species: culturally significant species.
- Priority Processes: traditional knowledge, traditional practices.
- Climate Change
- Invasive Species
- Cumulative effects (dams, forestry, agriculture, recreation, rural/urban development, shoreline/foreshore development)
- Emergent diseases/pests (White nose syndrome, whirling disease, mountain pine beetle)
- Imminent species/habitat decline
- Wildfire and Fire suppression
- Recreation and access management
A Grand Scale Wetland Restoration
Near Creston, Six Mile Slough provides habitat for waterfowl, amphibians and more. Its ecological value has been greatly reduced because of modifications to the wetland since the late 1800’s for agricultural and wildlife management purposes. This project by the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area will see the modification structures removed, over 1,260 hectares restored to a more natural state and the slough reconnected to the Kootenay River.
“Improved flow of water, nutrients and other processes within the wetland and between the wetland and the Kootenay River will provide improved habitat for fish and wildlife,” said Marc-Andre Beaucher, Head of Conservation Programs, noting at-risk species like white sturgeon, burbot and northern leopard frogs will benefit. “This project will attempt to address sub-optimal water fluctuations, limit aggressive cattails encroaching upon the wetland, and return the area to a more natural hydrology that will benefit a wide range of species.”
Defeating the Deadly Rust
At home in the subalpine, whitebark pine is a long-lived tree species—except when its survival is being threatened by white pine blister rust. The Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Ktunaxa Nation are working together to help restore this endangered species that plays an important role in mountain ecosystems. Primary activities involve collecting seeds from uninfected trees, growing seedlings in greenhouses and planting them in the South Selkirk Mountains overlooking Kootenay Lake.
“This project will improve the long-term health of our subalpine ecosystems by increasing the likelihood that whitebark pine will survive on the landscape,” said Adrian Leslie, West Kootenay Project Manager, Nature Conservancy of Canada. “There will be increased numbers of healthy trees able to defend themselves from white pine blister rust, which will in turn support the dozens of wildlife species that rely on the large, nutritious seeds for their survival.”
Restoring Culturally Important Habitat
At the confluence of the Goat and Kootenay rivers near Creston, over 500 hectares of land make up part of the yaqan nukiy traditional hunting grounds. But this landscape isn’t as healthy and diverse as it used to be. Using aerial photographs from 1929 and the knowledge of Elders, the Lower Kootenay Band will be revitalizing wetland, stream and riparian habitats in this culturally and ecologically important area.
“This is a unique opportunity to restore an altered landscape to its former condition,” said Chief Jason Louie. “Major improvements will enhance the habitat for a diversity of fish and wildlife species, from white sturgeon to little brown bats. Culturally important plants including wapato, cattail, sedges and rushes will be returned to yaqan nukiy lands. It’s also a great opportunity to involve the students and staff of the Yaqan Nukiy School and all Lower Kootenay Band members in the project.”
New Yaqan Nukiy - Building on Restoration Efforts
Yaqan NuɁkiy has previous experience restoring wetlands, streams and floodplains, and will now use its expertise to restore 517 hectares of aquatic and terrestrial habitat along the Kootenay and Goat rivers during a two-year project. Using 1926 aerial photographs as a guide, it will help the area more resemble its natural state through activities like filling ditches, adding culverts and controlling non-native plants. This will benefit species like northern leopard frog, white sturgeon and western painted turtle.
“This project will build on wetland and stream restoration project work that we began in 2018,” said Norman Allard Jr., Community Planner. “In 2021, the Creston Valley experienced a severe drought where all wetlands, ponds and streams dried—except for the ones we had restored, which contained lush growths of native plants and supported large numbers of birds and other animals. This proved that the techniques we used were successful, and we’ll now use them on the current project.”