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HCTF & FESBC Strengthen Conservation Partnership with $3 Million Commitment

In the East Kootenay, the Bull River Project is one of many conducted by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.— Submitted photo

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) and the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) recently announced the renewal of their partnership to support wildlife habitat projects in BC.

To meet shared conservation objectives, FESBC has committed $3 million toward conservation projects to be awarded and administered by HCTF.

“Strengthening our partnership with HCTF makes good conservation sense,” said Steve Kozuki, Executive Director of FESBC in a media release. "HCTF has an unparalleled track record for its rigorous, science-based approach to identifying projects with strong potential return. FESBC is pleased to work with HCTF to strengthen the impacts of our BC government funded conservation investment and are delighted to deploy this funding for the benefit of wildlife and people who rely on wildlife.”

FESBC and HCTF first established their partnership in 2016. Since then, FESBC has invested approximately $1.5 million in HCTF-administered projects across BC designed to address important wildlife conservation issues. 

One of the projects included is being conducted in the East Kootenay, the Bull River Project.

  • Previous activities include health sampling and collaring of 11 Bull River bighorn sheep (6 rams, 5 ewes) in Feb/March 2017, and health sampling (no collaring) of another 3 bighorns (1 ram, 2 ewes) in March 2018.
  • The Galton herd was sampled and collared (4 ewes) in March 2017. Health sampling of the 11 Bull River and 4 Galton sheep focused on investigating whether Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (Movi) is present within the herd of wild sheep (by PCR test for DNA of Movi in nasal swabs) or whether bighorns had been exposed to Movi in the past.
  • This project deliverables include analyses of seasonal home ranges, timing of migration, seasonal changes in movement rates and elevation use, and identification of important habitats such as lambing sites and migration corridors to target habitat restoration efforts such as invasive plant management and prescribed burning.
  • Initial review of the GPS data suggests high fidelity to restricted summer and winter ranges. Further analysis will explore the implications of this to herd health, influence of poor-quality range, and predation.
  • The project lead (Jeremy Ayotte) is a registered professional biologist (RPBio) responsible for the successful completion of a large Bull River bighorn sheep herd mitigation project in 2014 where $60,000+ in funding was used to reduce the risk of disease transmission between a large commercial domestic sheep farm and the Bull River bighorns.
  • Through his role as the provincial Program Coordinator with the BC Sheep Separation Program, Jeremy also worked with Ministry of FLNRO staff in the Thompson Region to complete a bighorn sheep health assessment and collaring program in response to domestic sheep farm concerns in that Region.

This $3 million will be integrated into HCTF’s robust grant program, which boasts a well-established process for applications, technical review, and reporting. These efficiencies reduce the administrative burden on project leaders, allowing them to focus attention where it’s needed most – on wildlife conservation.

"In a time where wildlife habitat and populations are under increasing pressures, it is more important than ever that conservation dollars be invested wisely,” said Brian Springinotic, HCTF CEO. "This partnership is a great example of FESBC and HCTF leveraging their unique strengths toward the shared goal of protecting wildlife and habitat in BC.”

HCTF accepts project applications from any person or organization with a good idea for wildlife and habitat conservation in BC. Applications for various funding streams are accepted throughout the year.

Biologists test Big Horn Sheep out in the field in the East Kootenay as part of the Bull River Project. — Submitted

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