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RDCK Directors Pursue Conservation Fund

Suzy Hamilton
By Suzy Hamilton
February 26th, 2014

Kootenay Lake RDCK Directors are hoping to initiate a Kootenay Conservation Fund paid for by the taxpayer to ensure conservation values are protected around the lake.

The program would follow a similar successful model in the East Kootenay’s Columbia Valley that raises $230,000 annually through a $20 parcel tax.

“We’re in the very early stages,” said Area A Director Garry Jackman from the East Shore. “With this fund we could enhance wildlife corridors, take conservation measures and leverage money to create corridors with easements and covenants.

The fund would have a 10 year life and have to be renewed again in 10 years.

“This is not a slam dunk. If possible we want to pull enough information together that could give us the opportunity to add this to the fall election in a referendum,” he said, admitting that the 2014 fall election may be too early to compile all the necessary information.

Area E  (Harrop Procter Balfour Blewett) Director Ramona Faust also supports the creation of the fund.

“It could provide the community the opportunity  to undertake conservation and rehabilitation projects within the Central Kootenay,” she said.

“And, it would allow the Central Kootenay area to be ready to partner with larger conservation efforts and provide public education about conservation issues.”

According to Faust, the East Kootenay Regional District has been able to assist a diverse range of programs, from invasive species control,  water quality monitoring, wetland enhancement and critical habitat purchases with their program.

“The ten year time frame means projects will be time limited, tangible and subject to scientific review,” she said.

In the East Kootenay, the RDEK has partnered with the East Kootenay Conservation Program (EKCP) which is a partnership of 54 conservation organizations, industries, and government agencies dedicated to conserving natural areas for Kootenay communities.

The themes for the Fund are water conservation, wildlife, habitat and open space conservation.

A public consultation process was undertaken with public meetings held in various communities throughout the Columbia Valley.  A referendum was then held in 2008 and the results were positive.

The Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund was formally activated in 2009 until at least 2018.

Funds approved through the Conservation Fund have been used extensively to leverage funding from other partners and since 2010, over $1.1 million has been allocated to conservation projects in the Columbia.

Both Jackman and Faust agree that public outreach will determine a feasible parcel tax and that at this point, it is too early to determine an amount.

The 2014  trend around the RDCK table seems to reflect a public that wants to preserve critical habitat, initiate conservation guidelines and designate parks.

A number of directors listed parks and conservation efforts as a priorities for 2014 at the February meeting.

Around the north end of Slocan Lake, directors are working on a Foreshore Guidance document that categorizes habitat surrounding the lake, based on science.

“We’re hoping over time to develop a management  plan with input from all stakeholders,” said Silverton director Leah Main.

The directors are using the information gathered by the Slocan Lake Stewardship Society in their 2012 Visioning Survey in a “very dedicated and coherent fashion.”

“This is a reflection of what communities are asking for,” said Faust.

“The rural areas are still undergoing growth and people are seeing the need for keeping public lands healthy and identified as a public trust, as a tool for community and economic development.

“Private land owners have been generous in giving the RDCK lands for public use, such as Crescent Beach in the Slocan Valley, and the Sisters of St Anne’s property  in Area E,  while other owners want information on how they can use their lands to benefit nature as well as their families.”

“It’s a lifestyle choice,” said Jackman. “People want some emphasis on preservation and conservation. It’s the reason they moved here.”

Categories: GeneralPolitics

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