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Former Trail family gifts beloved wetland to nature conservancy

“It would be hard to overstate the value of this land from a conservation perspective.”

The family of the late Dr. Arthur Alvarez and Marguerite Alvarez have gifted a large wetland on Slocan Lake — known as Bonanza Marsh — to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Their gift to conservancy is to ensure permanent protection of this parcel of land that was so beloved by their mother.

The Alvarez family — formerly of Trail — has owned and cared for the Bonanza Marsh property since the early 1960s, with each new generation supporting the original vision of protecting the wetland from development and nurturing its natural features. Transferring the land to the conservancy fulfills the family’s inter-generational promise to protect the land and secure future conservation.

“When our parents, Arthur and Marguerite, bought the ‘swamp’ property in the early 1960s, they wanted to ensure that it remained unspoiled and undeveloped,” Henri Alvarez said on behalf of the family. “Three generations of the Alvarez family have worked to keep it in a natural state, and we feel that our decision to donate that land to the Nature Conservancy of Canada is the best way to ensure that this remains the case in perpetuity.”

The five-hectare property includes a significant portion of an ecologically important wetland that supports an incredible diversity of wildlife and sensitive ecosystems, and plays an essential role in maintaining water quality in the lake.

Located at the north end of Slocan Lake and straddling the mouth of Bonanza Creek, the Alvarez’s gift of land builds on other efforts to protect the entire Bonanza Marsh wetland. The donated property encompasses the lakeshore portion of the marsh. The property also borders the Snk’mip Marsh Sanctuary, which protects the upper reaches of the marsh complex.

This land plays a critical role in conserving the overall health and resiliency of the wetland system. The conservation area includes spawning grounds for Kokanee salmon and other fish, and nesting and feeding habitat for migratory and resident birds. It forms part of a wildlife corridor for grizzly bear, moose, elk and other animals. Species listed on the federal Species-at-Risk Act that have been observed on the property include grizzly bear (special concern), little brown myotis (endangered bat) and western toad (special concern).

“It would be hard to overstate the value of this land from a conservation perspective,” says Richard Klafki, Canadian Rockies program manager, Nature Conservancy of Canada. “The abundance and diversity of wildlife here is immediately apparent; in my first minutes on the land, I saw eagles perching in the trees, herons fishing on the shore and deer foraging in the shrubs. This is to say nothing of the smaller and even microscopic life that thrives in this rich marsh environment,” he adds.

“The commitment shown by the Alvarez family to this land for more than half a century is amazing, and the Nature Conservancy of Canada is honoured that they have entrusted their legacy to our care.”

Arthur and Marguerite Alvarez moved to Trail from Quebec in 1953. Arthur, a surgeon, founded the Medical Associates Clinic. After Arthur’s death in 1973, Marguerite remained in Trail until 1982, when the last of her six children graduated from JL Crowe Secondary School. She then moved to Hills, B.C. and lived there until 2015. Marguerite relocated to a retirement home in Vancouver and lived there until her death in 2017. In her memorial, the family shares that one of Marguerite’s last activities was to gaze fondly at a painting of Bonanza Swamp, her special corner of the world that she so ferociously protected and enjoyed for over six decades.

Bonanza Marsh

Bonanza Marsh lies within the traditional territories of the Secwépemc, Syilx, Ktunaxa and Sinixt Nations.

The Slocan Watershed is one of the few river and lake systems in the Kootenays that is not dammed. Slocan Lake is one of the few natural lakes in the region.

Shallow water wetlands make up almost half of the conservation area, characterized by sedge and cattail marshes, and willow-and alder-dominated swamps.

Forested areas comprise both mature and old-growth cedar-hemlock stands and cottonwood groves.

Bonanza Marsh is unique for being a valley bottom wetland that has not been impacted by development; it remains a naturally functioning wetland dominated by native species.

Interesting local history stories here: Trail Blazers

*Read more local news stories here: #Local News

Nature Conservancy of Canada

This project showcases how the conservancy is working to conserve strategic areas of high biodiversity, both large and small, to support a thriving world. In the past two years alone, the conservancy has influenced the protection of more than one million hectares (almost twice the size of Prince Edward Island), coast to coast to coast. Over the next few years, the organization will double its impact by mobilizing Canadians and delivering permanent, high-value conservation.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the country’s leading national land conservation organization. The private, non-profit organization partners with individuals, corporations, foundations, Indigenous communities and other non-profit organizations and governments at all levels to protect Canada’s most important natural treasures — the natural areas that sustain Canada’s plants and wildlife. The conservancy secure properties through donation, purchase, conservation agreement and the relinquishment of other legal interests in land, and manage them for the long term.

Since 1962, the conservancy and its partners have helped to protect 15 million hectares, coast to coast to coast.

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Sheri Regnier

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