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At-risk population of grizzly bears to benefit from successful conservation initiative in Pemberton Valley

By Contributor
September 17th, 2020

Crossing through the Pemberton Valley just got a little more secure for the dwindling population of grizzly bears that live in the Squamish-Lillooet region.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada and its partners have conserved an 87-hectare (214-acre), ecologically important property along the Ryan River, in Pemberton Meadows.

The Ryan River Conservation Area is extensively used by wildlife, including grizzly bear, deer, beaver and migratory birds.

The grizzly bears in this area are considered at risk, designated as being of special conservation concern both provincially and federally.

Protecting these undeveloped lands that the bears use to move across the valley is essential for maintaining connectivity between populations.

“The Pemberton Valley, like so many valleys in BC, is a popular place to live, work and play,” said Nancy Newhouse, BC Regional Vice President, Nature Conservancy of Canada.

“This can put a lot of pressure on the natural systems and wildlife in the area.”

“Making conservation one of our priorities in these ecologically rich areas benefits both people and nature,” Newhouse added.

“We are grateful to all our partners and donors who came together to enable the creation of the Ryan River Conservation Area. It is a spectacular contribution to conservation in this important area and to our shared future.”

The new conservation area protects two kilometres of riverfront habitat, as well as seasonally flooded wetlands, a large marsh and forested uplands that contain stands of old-growth cedar, cottonwoods and hemlock trees.

The Canadian Wildlife Service identifies these wetlands as being of the highest ecological quality.

The river provides important spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and other fish species.

As one of the largest remaining intact private valley-bottom parcels, the conservation of this property safeguards essential and flourishing wildlife habitat from development pressures.

The property had been in Bruce Miller’s family for four generations. Miller grew up exploring the forests and wetlands with his father, developing a love of the land that he in turn passed on to his own children, who also grew up playing on and learning from this land.

The Miller family was keen to see this property kept natural and intact, and so they chose to work with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to conserve it.

“Our family is very excited to have the opportunity to be part of conserving and protecting this very special property,” said Miller.

This project has been made possible by the contributions of many funders, including the Government of Canada through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund, the Pemberton Wildlife Association, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Longhedge Foundation, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and several individual donors.

“The Pemberton Wildlife Association is very supportive of the Ryan River project, which preserves outstanding natural wetland and riparian wildlife habitats,” said Allen McEwan, president, Pemberton Wildlife Association.

“Migrant songbirds are a common sight and are known to nest in the area. Streams on the land here are used by cutthroat trout and coho salmon. Grizzly bears have been spotted here in the spring, likely seeking forage after emerging from their dens. For these reasons and many more, this is an important local conservation project, and our club is excited to be a part of it.”

The Pemberton Wildlife Association, Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative and Conservation Northwest provided valuable local insight into the natural values in the Pemberton Valley and contributed input into the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s priorities for conservation action in the area.

The Ryan River Conservation Area is the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s first project in the Pemberton Valley.

Quick Facts:

  • The Ryan River Conservation Area supports habitat for several species at risk, including grizzly bear, which are listed as special concern by Canada’s Species at Risk Act and by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • Wetlands provide immense benefits to biodiversity, with one in three provincial species at risk relying on wetlands to meet some or all of their needs. By filtering and purifying freshwater, controlling stream flows, recharging groundwater and preventing erosion, wetlands provide invaluable ecosystem services for human and more-than-human communities alike.
  • Rivers and streams provide important spawning and rearing grounds for salmon and other fish species. The Ryan River property follows the river for over two kilometres, as it courses toward Lillooet Lake. The river is known to support coho salmon, as well as rainbow, cutthroat and bull trout.
  • The conservation area contains abundant evidence of beaver activity. As “ecosystem engineers”, beavers enhance wetland areas by creating shallow ponds and by slowing down the flow of streams with the construction of their dams and lodges.

About Nature Conservancy of Canada:

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 14 million hectares (35 million acres), coast to coast to coast. To learn more, visit

Categories: GeneralOp/Ed

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