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Local politicians tour Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund Projects

By Contributor
May 13th, 2024

Elected officials from throughout the Kootenay Boundary region came early to the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Government convention last month to learn more about the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund (CVLCF).

Councillors from the communities of Cranbrook, Greenwood, Nakusp, Nelson, and Trail joined two Regional District of East Kootenay Directors and a Director from the Regional District of Central Kootenay Area B, to visit three unique locations in the Columbia Valley.

This special tour highlighted projects that are funded through the CVLCF, a local government service which creates a dedicated fund for local stewardship and land acquisition projects and was first piloted in the Columbia Valley in 2008.

To date, the fund has provided more than $2.8 million to local projects and leveraged an additional 9 times that ($24.5 million) in matching funding and in-kind support.

“It was a beautiful day and I learned so much from these inspiring projects,” said City of Nelson Councillor Rik Logtenberg.

“We’ve been exploring the Local Conservation Fund service for our municipality and recognize the benefits it can bring to our community”.

The tour visited a restoration project at Luxor Linkage Conservation Area, a property owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada who completed forest thinning and other habitat enhancement activities to reduce fire risk and increase forest health.

“By thinning trees where forest ingrowth and encroachment have occurred, we have improved biodiversity at Luxor Linkage and helped to build resilience in a regionally important ecosystem that is susceptible to the impacts of climate change” said Richard Klafki, Nature Conservancy of Canada ‘s Program Director for the Canadian Rocky Mountains region.

Next, the tour visited a local farm to learn about an innovative project that reduces risk of disease transmission from domestic sheep to wild sheep by conducting regular sheep testing.

A collaboration between The Wild Sheep Society of BC and Riverside Farm, this project has built relationships between Columbia Valley farmers and wild sheep conservationists, and the approach has been so successful that it is now expanding to other parts of the province.

Finally, the tour ended in the beautiful Columbia Wetlands to scope some of the waterbirds and swallows that have been part of a Wildsight Golden project which involves citizen scientists, builds and enhances habitat for swallows, and increases awareness about these important birds.

“We all recognize the tremendous impact the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund Service has had since it was established in 2008,” says RDEK Columbia Valley Services Chair Al Miller.

“While the Board gets regular updates on the program, nothing compares to being able to put our boots on the ground as part of this field tour, learn more about the projects and see first-hand the incredible work being done.”

Every year, non-profit organizations and First Nations can apply for project funding through the Local Conservation Fund. In 2024, a total of $137,000 was awarded to 9 projects in the Columbia Valley, including conservation work on American badgers and bighorn sheep, water monitoring on Columbia Lake, installation of wildlife-friendly fencing to safeguard habitat for wildlife, bat habitat enhancement and monitoring, conservation of biodiversity in the Columbia Wetlands, working with farmers to support wild sheep conservation, and invasive plant control.

“This tour was a great way to get our Elected Officials out on the landscape to see some of the incredible work accomplished through the Local Conservation Fund,” said Kendal Benesh, Local Conservation Fund Manager with Kootenay Conservation Program.

“The service really does make a huge impact in the Columbia Valley, as well as in the Regional District of Central Kootenay, and we are hopeful that other areas in the Kootenay Boundary look into adopting the service.”

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