$45,000 has been awarded for invasive plant management on critical bighorn sheep winter ranges in the Wigwam Flats, Bull River and Columbia Lake East, co-funded by the Forest Enhancement Society of BC. Pictured is a Bighorn sheep in the Bull River area. (Corey Bullock/Cranbrook Townsman file)

$45,000 has been awarded for invasive plant management on critical bighorn sheep winter ranges in the Wigwam Flats, Bull River and Columbia Lake East, co-funded by the Forest Enhancement Society of BC. Pictured is a Bighorn sheep in the Bull River area. (Corey Bullock/Cranbrook Townsman file)

Kootenay-based fish, wildlife projects to receive over $1M in funding

Several projects based in the East Kootenay region to benefit

30 Kootenay-based projects are about to receive a large amount of funding thanks to a partnership between the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) and the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF).

This year, HCTF awarded $9.3 million in funding for 175 individual conservation projects across B.C. Of that funding, $1,553,000 will be going towards projects in the Kootenays.

The HCTF works to help fund conservation groups, government, Indigenous Nations and local communities to help implement projects that protect B.C.’s wildlife, freshwater fish, and the habitats that they need to survive and thrive, HCTF said in a press release.

In the East Kootenay region, an unspecified amount of funds will go towards eradicating largemouth bass at Fussee Lake, south of Elko. This lake has been closed to fishing for several years after the invasive fish were introduced illegally.

$22,367 will go towards the East Kootenay Invasive Mussels Monitoring Project, which will monitor lakes in the East Kootenay region for invasive mussels through veliger sampling.

$20,000 has been awarded to evaluate the bull trout population in the upper St. Mary River. According to a backgrounder from HCTF, the purpose of this project is to better understand bull trout population dynamics in the upper St. Mary River system, provide point in time population/inventory data, establish critical habitats an inventory indexes and gather genetic samples to evaluate the population and determine relationships within the overall upper Kootenay River metapopulation.

“Ultimately, this project will inform fisheries management decisions to ensure effective long-term conservation measures and a balance between species sustainability, angler opportunity and quality of the fishery.”

$130,500 will support the Kootenay Region River Guardian Program which provides a compliance presence, collects angler survey data, and educates the public about about sport fish populations.

$93,500 will go towards evaluating 15 years of conservation activities applied toward recovering a threatened grizzly bear population in the South Selkirks, co-funding by the Forest Enhancement Society of BC.

According to the backgrounder, the results will allow BC’s first detailed, scientifically documented recovery process to be compared to target population metrics outlined in the recovery management plan. The results will provide input into the developing BC Grizzly Bear Management Plan, and inform conservation management of grizzly bear populations across BC by providing a blueprint for managing stressed grizzly bear populations.

$50,000 will go to improving wildlife connectivity and human safety along Highway 3 in the southern Canadian Rockies.

Another $45,000 has been awarded for invasive plant management on critical bighorn sheep winter ranges in the Wigwam Flats, Bull River and Columbia Lake East, co-funded by the Forest Enhancement Society of BC.

“The quality of existing forage within low elevation big horn sheep winter ranges was extremely compromised at Bill River and Wigwam Flats,” said the release. “Invasive plant infestations are extremely large at Wigwam Flats and Bill River. This project is attempting to increase the quality of grasslands by reducing invaders and increasing forage species within elected high use bighorn sheep areas.”

Bighorn sheep will also benefit from $67,600 that will go towards a winter range habitat reassessment in the Elk Valley.

“This project will determine whether high elevation grasslands and ungulate winter range in the Elk Valley continue to be impacted by coal development and ungulate overgrazing since the last bighorn sheep assessment in 2009,” reads the backgrounder.

$52,150 will assist with recovery of Kootenay Lake kokanee by encouraging increased angler participation in the public fishery.

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Another project that has received funding is the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development’s Boundary Restoration and Enhancement program.

A total of $67,380 will go towards improving habitat quality, ecosystem resiliency and forage availability for ungulates and other native species by restoring or enhancing habitats and ecosystems, says HCTF. Prescribed burns are part of the final treatment in most cases, helping to revitalize habitat conditions for wildlife species like mule and white-tailed deer, elk, Williamson’s sapsucker and Lewis’s woodpecker.

HCTF explained that prescribed burns also decrease the risk and intensity of future wildfire events in the area by reducing the continuity and availability of forest fuels.

Each project that gets funded goes through a lengthy review process before the final decision. A full list of all of the projects can be found on the HCTF website.

“HCTF’s Board of Directors ensure that species important to B.C. anglers and hunters are supported but also place a great deal of importance on conserving whole ecosystems, species-at-risk, and investing in environmental education across the province,” explained HCTF.

Funding and support for these projects, and others across the province, come from a wide variety of sources including public groups such as the British Columbia Wildlife Federation, partner organizations like the FESBC, provincial government contributions, court fines and endowments. A significant source of funding comes from the conservation surcharge paid by B.C.’s anglers, hunters, trappers, and guide outfitters.



corey.bullock@cranbrooktownsman.com

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