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 wetlands and riparian areas
- Priority Habitat: low elevation wetlands and adjacent upland areas in Upper Columbia Valley, historic wetlands and adjacent upland areas in Canoe Reach and Robson Valley, high elevation wetlands, riparian areas associated with rivers and streams.
- Priority Species: northern leopard frog, western painted turtle, western toad, at risk wetland and migratory birds (great blue heron, western screech-owl, western grebe, bobolink, common nighthawk, bank swallow, barn swallow, long-billed curlew, olive-sided flycatcher), American beaver, culturally important plants, rare plants, macroinvertebrates.
- Priority Processes: connectivity, hydrologic function, geomorphological function, productivity.
- Conservation and restoration of upland habitats that support species of interest and conservation concern
- Priority Habitat: grassland and open forest (ungulate winter range), mature aspen, old growth forest, alpine and high elevation grasslands.
- Priority Species: elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, mountain caribou, mountain goat, bats, grizzly bear, American badger, wolverine, Lewis’s woodpecker, whitebark pine, limber pine, huckleberry, pollinators and other invertebrates, rare plants, fungi.
- Priority Processes: wildlife movement and migration, connectivity, food web interactions (predator-prey, seed dispersal, pollination), natural fire regime.
- Restoration and enhancement of aquatic habitat
- Priority Habitat: Kinbasket Reservoir, spawning, rearing, overwintering areas
- tributary streams
- Priority Species: native fish (Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Bull Trout, Kokanee, Rainbow Trout, Burbot), waterbirds (Harlequin Duck, Western Grebe, American Dipper, Cliff Swallow, Black Swift), freshwater mussels, invertebrates.
- Priority Processes: fish passage, connectivity, water temperature, water quality, geomorphological function (erosion, sedimentation, large woody debris, gravel recruitment).
- Priority Habitat: Kinbasket Reservoir, spawning, rearing, overwintering areas
- 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
- Wildfire and fire suppression
- Cumulative effects (dams, forestry, recreation, urban/rural development)
- Emergent diseases (white nose syndrome, whirling disease, Mountain pine beetle)
- Imminent species/habitat decline
- Recreation and access management
Improving Overwinter Habitat for Elk
Too much snow and not enough food to graze on: that’s what a five-year project in the upper Kicking Horse Canyon is addressing so Rocky Mountain elk can better use this location in the winter. The Golden District Rod and Gun Club—along with participation from Ktunaxa Nation Council Guardians and ʔakisq̓nuk enterprise Seven Feathers Contracting & Consulting—is enhancing 112 hectares of south-facing slopes near Vacation Creek, between Golden and Yoho National Park. By thinning and pruning immature trees, the remaining trees will grow faster and eventually create an overhead crown that will intercept snow. Reduced tree density will also promote the growth of grasses and shrubs that the elk can feed on.
Nurturing a Stream to Benefit a Watershed and Community
The many tributaries of the Columbia River support important aquatic, terrestrial and cultural resources for Secwépemc citizens. Kenpésq̓t (also known as the Shuswap Indian Band) is nurturing around 5,000 hectares of this system by restoring aquatic and terrestrial habitat and connectivity on a select watershed located between Spillimacheen and Golden.
With the assistance of partners like the Columbia Wetland Stewardship Partners, Lake Windermere Rod and Gun Club, Nature Conservancy Canada and Nature Trust of BC, the five-year Columbia Headwaters Aquatic Restoration Secwépemc Strategy is using a variety of techniques, including planting riparian vegetation, restoring beds and banks, and improving upslope areas so less sediment travels downstream. This will benefit species like bull trout, burbot, western toads and painted turtles. The project will also incorporate the use and sharing of traditional ecological knowledge from local Indigenous and long-time residents to support restoration and monitoring of the ecosystem.
Banking on Swallows in the Upper Columbia
Bank and barn swallows are an at-risk species facing a sharp population decline. The Upper Columbia Swallow Habitat Enhancement Project is a five‐year project led by Wildsight Golden that will conserve and enhance eight hectares of breeding and nesting habitat of both species at various locations in the area. The initiative will also track migratory routes and wintering ground locations to better understand the opportunity for collaboration with other regional and international partners to support habitat connectivity and protection for both species.
“The Upper Columbia Swallow Habitat Enhancement Project is offering citizen science opportunities in terms of monitoring swallow nest sites in the Columbia Valley,” said Rachel Darvill, Program Biologist on Upper Columbia Swallow Habitat Enhancement Project with Wildsight Golden. “Through this type of intimate involvement I think that this project has already, and will continue to, build upon the knowledge of swallow identification but also grow people’s understanding of nature leading to a deeper conservation ethic.”
Increasing Bat Populations Through Wetland Restoration
Bats are bioindicators, and an important species for monitoring water quality and overall health of forest and wetland ecosystems. Their numbers can also measure ecosystems restoration and improvement. This five-year project will restore natural bat roosting habitat within a five-hectare area to build resiliency in local populations. Enhancement work will be integrated into wetland restoration projects in the North and Upper Columbia sub-regions; areas being evaluated include Meadow Creek, Duncan, Beaton and Parson. The initiative will be led by Wildlife Conservation Society Canada and supported by regional partners.
“In many parts of the Columbia Basin, standing water provides excellent foraging and drinking habitat for an estimated 12 species of bats. But many species depend on low elevation mature or old growth trees to raise a pup in each summer and this roosting habitat is limiting,” said Dr. Cori Lausen, Conservation Research Biologist with Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. “Over the next five years we will work with multiple partners to install and monitor structures that will enhance roosting habitat for bats in strategic areas of the North and Upper Columbia sub-regions.”
Giving Whitebark Pine a Growing Chance
Whitebark pine is an endangered high-elevation species that moderates snowmelt, stabilizes soil and seeds provide an important food source for red squirrels, grizzly bears, and the Clark’s nutcracker.
White pine blister rust (an introduced fungus), mountain pine beetle, wildfire risks, and a changing climate are all threatening these keystone tree species. This project, led by the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation of Canada, will restore and enhance 300 hectares of habitat in the North and Upper Columbia sub-regions of the Basin. The project will increase the amount of trees with resistance to white pine blister rust and minimize losses of trees and genetic diversity to mountain pine beetle.
“Whitebark pine recovery requires active management to overcome most of the threats it is facing, given its vast range and preferred habitat on mountain tops, this is a monumental task. This five-year project is the largest and most ambitious recovery project to-date outside of the National Parks,” said Randy Moody, President of the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation of Canada. “We will restore 300 hectares, plant 100,000 seedlings, and collaborate with many other stakeholders in advancing the recovery of this critical species.”
Canoe Valley - Zeroing in on Wetlands
Wetlands in the Canoe Valley, near Valemount, are the target of a project of Simpcw First Nation. Over five years, the project will restore existing wetlands or construct new ones. For example, it will transform a sedge meadow into a functional shallow-water wetland that will benefit species like the at-risk western toad, plus provide a new stepping-stone habitat that links to Valemount Peatland, the largest wetland complex at the northern end of the reservoir.
“Valley-bottom wetland and riparian areas serve numerous important ecological functions, including providing habitat for many fish and wildlife species, and targeted physical works can help restore these critical habitats and connectivity corridors,” said Caroline Feischl, Environmental Professional with Simpcw Resources Group, which is overseeing the project on behalf of Simpcw First Nation, in collaboration with LGL Limited. “This project will also engage members of the Simpcw First Nation, plus incorporate cultural and ecological knowledge, particularly by focusing on adding and locating plant species of cultural significance.”