Ecosystem Projects Create Meaningful Impact

Groups around the Columbia Basin are undertaking major projects to enhance biodiversity and ecosystems in the region with support from Columbia Basin Trust. In the most recent intake of its Ecosystem Enhancement Program, the Trust is supporting four new large-scale and six smaller-scale ecosystem projects.

“Basin residents have been clear in expressing their priority for on-the-ground environmental enhancement initiatives with long term benefit across the region,” said Johnny Strilaeff, President and CEO, Columbia Basin Trust. “Our Ecosystem Enhancement Program helps organizations and communities maintain and improve ecological health and native biodiversity in a variety of ecosystems. These efforts have created immediate positive impacts and are certain to be the foundation of healthy, diverse and functioning ecosystems for a long time to come.”

This latest intake of the Ecosystem Enhancement Program is providing $2.6 million for four projects from around the Basin. To date, the program has supported 27 projects. See all projects at

In addition, the Trust is providing $316,000 for six smaller-scale and shorter-term projects—also prioritizing on-the-ground action—that intend to improve ecological health and native biodiversity. 

See all recently approved projects here.

Here are the latest recipients:

Caring for Columbia Wetlands

Beaver dams do much more than provide shelter for beavers, which is why they’re a major focus of a five-year project of the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners. For example, wetlands with dams that have failed over time, or have not been renewed by beavers, may drain out in fall and winter—meaning that wetland overwintering habitat is lost. By improving existing beaver dams and adding new ones in the valley bottom, removing ditches and reconnecting wetlands in upland benchlands, this project will restore critical wetland ecosystem functions on a minimum of 75 hectares in the Columbia Wetlands located in the Columbia Valley. At-risk species like grebes, American White pelicans, pygmy waterlilies and yellow widelip orchids will benefit. In addition, the project is creating a job experience and skills development opportunity for one Basin resident.

“The desired outcomes of the project include more open-water habitat over winter and spring in the Columbia Wetlands and sufficient water to maintain wetlands in the benchlands,” said Suzanne Bayley, President. “Our overarching goal is to restore critical ecosystem functions in wetlands to allow for adaptation and build resilience to climate change, thereby conserving species at risk dependent on these wetlands.”

A double focus in the Rocky Mountain Trench

Over five years, the Nature Conservancy of Canada is tackling two critical habitats in the Rocky Mountain Trench: one that is pretty dry, and another that is generally soggy. First, it is restoring over 280 hectares of open forests and grasslands through techniques like thinning dense in-growth of conifers. Working with the BC Wildfire Service, it then plans to use prescribed burns on the landscape—where fire was once more frequent—to help maintain these fire-adapted ecosystems. Second, it is restoring over 10 hectares of wetland and riparian habitat along Marion Creek, on the west side of Columbia Lake. Species like American badger, elk and westslope cutthroat trout will benefit.

“Grasslands and open forests are among the most imperiled ecosystems in BC, supporting almost one third of the province’s species at risk,” said Richard Klafki, Program Director, Canadian Rocky Mountains Program. “Using stewardship and restoration techniques, we can reduce the potential for catastrophic wildfire, help protect local communities and restore habitat for species at risk. We will also improve the ecosystem integrity and resilience of the wetlands along Marion Creek, making it a welcoming environment for waterfowl, shorebirds, amphibians and other wildlife to thrive.”

Pine in the Purcell and Rocky Mountains gets solid support

To restore whitebark and limber pine ecosystems in the Purcell and Rocky mountains, the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation of Canada is doing activities like collecting 4,000 cones to provide seeds and planting 62,000 seedlings that will benefit 150 hectares, plus removing competition from healthy whitebark pine stands. The five-year project is a collaboration with Nupqu Native Plants, owned by the Ktunaxa Nation. In addition, the project is creating a job experience and skills development opportunity for one Basin resident.

“Whitebark pine is a keystone species and its recovery will have benefits beyond the tree itself, including enhancing an important wildlife food source and restoring wildfire areas, which may help with plant community pioneering and soil stabilization,” said Randy Moody, President, Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation of Canada. “This project will also build partnerships to ensure that others have the tools to restore this ecosystem into the future.”

Vital treatments for a Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it wetland

At one time, the northern portion of Horseshoe Lake, historically known as Shottanana Lake, held water year-round, supporting species at risk, such as the western painted turtle, and culturally important species, particularly ungulates. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. To improve this situation, Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it First Nation is undertaking a five-year project to restore five hectares to a healthy, functioning wetland that supports wildlife. This includes activities like excavating deep pools to access existing groundwater, removing invasive plants like Canada thistle and hound’s tongue, and revegetating areas to stop invasive plants from moving in.

“We hold a covenant with the Creator to be the caretakers and stewards of Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it lands,” said Nasuʔkin (Chief) Heidi Gravelle. “With that we have an obligation to restore, protect and be the voices of our lands. To achieve this, we are guided by our “ʔa·knumuȼtiⱡiⱡ” (natural law), given to the Kootenai Peoples by our Creator. It is a powerful word and speaks to why we were put here on this land. In return, our lands provide us with an ecosystem where our waters, plants and animals work together to provide us with the sustenance to maintain our ways of life since time immemorial. For there to be complete reconciliation with the land, there needs to be healing, and there is work to be done. For this to happen the people of this land (in this instance ʔakanuxunik̓) need to be involved at every level. We look forward to all the projects coming to fruition.”

Columbia Basin Trust supports the ideas and efforts of the people in the Columbia Basin. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives, and how it helps deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the Basin, visit

The Trust is also writing a new Columbia Basin Management Plan. Learn how to join the conversation and help shape the future of this region at