Nature Conservancy takes in more lands near Canal Flats

Badgers, bears and birds to benefit from bolstering bunchgrass conservation in Rocky Mountain Trench

Badgers, bears and birds will benefit from the the protection of a new section of wilderness in the Rocky Mountain Trench.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) announced Thursday, June 4, that its Kootenay River Ranch Conservation Area has gotten bigger by by 260 hectares (637 acres).

Kootenay River Ranch Conservation Area straddles Highway 95A just south of Canal Flats, about 50 kilometres north of Cranbrook. It encompasses prime grassland and open forest habitat. The new acquisitions connect NCC’s Kootenay River Ranch and Griffiths Nature Reserve to create a contiguous area under conservation totalling 1,711 hectares (4,228 acres).

Two landowners and numerous funding partners wereinvolved in the acquisition as well.

The newly acquired lands feature native bunchgrass savannah with areas of ponderosa pine, larch and Douglas-fir forest, and even a small wetland.

“Badgers, bears, elk, deer and many species of birds are just some of the wildlife that rely on these wild lands for their survival,” read a release from the NCC. “The valley-bottom habitat supports several species at risk, including grizzly bear, American badger and Lewis’s woodpecker.”

The lands fall within an identified grizzly bear linkage zone connecting the Rocky Mountains to the Purcells, as well as within an important corridor for wildlife travelling between Lussier River and the Kootenay River.

The grasslands and open forests on the conservation area also support class-1 ungulate winter range for elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer.

The NCC worked with two separate landowners to acquire these lands, according to Tuesday’s announcement.

“Both landowners were supportive of their holdings being acquired for conservation and made substantial donations towards the project. Over the past several years both properties underwent selective harvesting guided by a professional forester’s prescription, which has helped to restore the area to one dominated by native grassland and dry open forests with patches of closed forest scattered throughout.“

“These efforts were made in part to recreate the treed grasslands that were historically characteristic of fire-maintained ecosystems in the Rocky Mountain Trench.

“The Nature Conservancy of Canada is grateful for the ongoing support from our partners and the community as we work to conserve and enhance natural habitats in Rocky Mountain Trench,” says Richard Klafki, Canadian Rockies Program Director with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “The rolling hills, beautiful bunchgrass and open forest of the Kootenay River Ranch Conservation Area is prime wildlife habitat, especially in the winter for elk and deer. We look forward to doing restoration projects on these new lands to improve the habitat for all the native plants and animals found here.”

Ongoing habitat enhancement and restoration efforts on the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Kootenay River Ranch will expand into these new parcels. A top priority will be maintaining the open forest structure on which many native species rely. Reducing forest ingrowth also helps to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire. Invasive plants, especially knapweed, will be mapped and managed over the next several years.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect important natural areas and the species they sustain. This project was made possible by the Government of Canada through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund. Additional funding was provided by the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, Columbia Basin Trust and the Collings Stevens Family Foundation.

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