Large-Scale Projects Support Ecosystem Health

Forests, wetlands and riparian areas are among the habitats that will benefit from several projects that are focusing on ensuring healthy, diverse and functioning ecosystems in the Columbia Basin.

“The Trust heard from people living in the Basin that ecosystem enhancement is important to maintain and improve native biodiversity in the wide variety of ecosystems that make up the region,” said Johnny Strilaeff, President and Chief Executive Officer, Columbia Basin Trust. “The efforts seen in these projects reflect those values as they involve hands-on work at a large scale, across entire landscapes, to create lasting effects.”

These six new projects will receive $1.8 million as part of the Trust’s commitment to ecosystem enhancement. Learn more at

Building on Restoration Efforts

YaqanNuɁkiy has previous experience restoring wetlands, streams and floodplains, and will now use its expertise to restore 517 hectares of aquatic and terrestrial habitat along the Kootenay and Goat rivers during a five-year project. Using 1926 aerial photographs as a guide, it will help the area more resemble its natural state through activities like filling ditches, adding culverts and controlling non-native plants. This will benefit species like northern leopard frog, white sturgeon and western painted turtle.

“This project will build on wetland and stream restoration project work that we began in 2018,” said Norman Allard Jr., Community Planner. “In 2021, the Creston Valley experienced a severe drought where all wetlands, ponds and streams dried—except for the ones we had restored, which contained lush growths of native plants and supported large numbers of birds and other animals. This proved that the techniques we used were successful, and we’ll now use them on the current project.”

The Wide-reaching Benefits of Cottonwood

A healthy cottonwood forest, and the streams within it, benefit a range of British Columbian species, including grizzly bears, blue herons, rubber boas and westslope cutthroat trout. The Elk River Watershed Alliance is undertaking a four-year project on 47 hectares along the Elk River to plant around 20,000 cottonwood live stakes and 8,000 native understory seedlings. It will also install animal-exclusion fencing to keep out animals like elk and cattle and allow young vegetation to grow.

“The goal is to improve the value of cottonwood habitat, connect floodplain cottonwood ecosystems and mitigate floods in the Elk Valley,” said Chad Hughes, Executive Director. “The project also aims to indirectly improve the functioning of aquatic ecosystems by creating shade to reduce stream temperature, reducing erosion and naturally introducing large woody debris to provide habitat for fish and aquatic wildlife, plus food and building materials for beavers.”

Reinvigorating a Shore

Located on the western edge of Cranbrook, the Elizabeth Lake bird and wildlife sanctuary is a local biodiversity hotspot. The Rocky Mountain Naturalists are undertaking a five-year project on 14 hectares at the north end of the lake to revegetate the shoreline, improving bird nesting habitat, providing anti-predator cover for young western painted turtles and minimizing invasive weeds and grasses. It is also installing basking habitat for the turtles, which additionally provides perches for water birds.

“The revegetating project will improve the foraging and nesting habitat for songbirds, shorebirds and others, plus benefit a broader range of wildlife,” said Marianne Nahm, President. “Our project also aims to support the community of Cranbrook in accessing and connecting with nature and increasing opportunities to view, experience and learn about these fascinating species.”

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.”

Building Homes for Bats

The Columbia Basin boasts 12 known species of bats, such as the big brown bat and little brown myotis. To help these animals have the roosting habitats they need, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada is working alongside many partners to implement a four-year project to add three types of bat homes in various places throughout the Basin: bat condos, bark installations on trees or poles that mimic natural old-growth trees, and chainsaw cuts in trees that create crevices for bats. The tree modifications are expected to provide habitat for several decades, and are intended to bridge the gap until natural tree roosts can develop.

“Bats fill an important function in ecosystems and provide direct benefits to local citizens through pest control services,” said Cori Lausen, Director of Bat Conservation. “Our goal is to encourage abundance and diversity of these nocturnal aerial insectivores by restoring roosting habitat in strategic areas. We will then monitor the effectiveness to learn which species select which types of roost creations and how well the bats do in these structures.”

Restoring to a Natural State

The British Columbia Conservation Foundation (BCCF)will enhance the Lake Ranch (Von Unruh) Conservation Property, owned by The Nature Trust of BC. Over the next five years, BCCF will undertake several steps on about 51 hectares of the Lardeau Valley property, including planting trees, shrubs and flower meadows and adding wood structures for small animals and insects.

“The condition of the property will be more structurally and biologically diverse than at present, contributing more to the surrounding landscape, in terms of habitat health and function, from its pivotal valley-bottom position,” said Ashley Ekelund, Regional Coordinator, BCCF. “It will be on its way to supporting significant patches of deciduous and coniferous forest, which will add tremendously to the property’s ability to support amphibians, songbirds, small mammals, insects and larger mammals.”

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 or call 1.800.505.8998.

Columbia Basin Trust operates in the unceded traditional territories of the Ktunaxa, Lheidli T’enneh, Secwepemc, Sinixt and Syilx Nations.