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Op/Ed: Watershed security will require a billion-dollar investment 

By Contributor
July 9th, 2024

By Randy Shore, BCWF PR & Communications Specialist 

Watershed security funding is trickling out. We will need a torrent to futureproof our rivers, lakes, and forests.

The B.C. Wildlife Federation and its partners have assessed and restored dozens of wetlands, rebuilding the natural infrastructure that kept our watersheds in balance for millennia.

Natural, low-tech solutions are fast becoming a viable alternative to pipes, concrete and pavement to mitigate drought, wildfires and flooding.

Building beaver dam analogues (BDAs) is one such innovative strategy for holding water on the landscape to regulate streamflow, creating wildlife and fish habitat, and keeping soils and forests well hydrated.

“Our watersheds look much different today compared with pre-colonial times,” said Jennifer Rogers, Beaver Restoration Assessment Lead. “We are putting it back the way that it was, by building beaver dam analogues from natural materials that provide crucial environmental services.”

BCWF’s 10,000 Wetlands project aims to build more than 100 BDAs in the coming months and years. We face two barriers to success.

First, the $100-million Watershed Security Fund announced last year is operated as an endowment to ensure long-term sustainable funding. But that also means as the endowment grows slowly grants are trickled out at just a few million dollars a year in amounts that are shared between many applicants. According to the BC Watershed Security Coalition (, a $1-billion fund, supported by provincial, federal, private and philanthropic investments would provide $75 to $100 million annually, required to make real progress on healing our watersheds.

Second, we have at least six shovel-ready BDA projects ready to build this summer, but regulatory approvals have been painfully slow, in part due to the novelty of the approach in B.C. While the province’s staff are generally supportive of our work, our restoration projects share the same permitting pathway as development projects, which slows the process.

Projects such as 10,000 Wetlands use proven strategies for restoration and recovery.

“Restoring baseline conditions is our key goal,” said Rogers. “In places where beavers once thrived and kept our watersheds in balance, we can bring back what was lost and help nature heal itself.”

A 2020 study ( from the Centre for Resilience in Environment, Water, and Waste found that beaver dams can reduce flood flows from large storms by 60 per cent, delivering inexpensive natural flood management.

Another 2020 study ( from the Department of Environmental Science and Resource Management, California State University found that beaver dams slow and store water, protecting fish habitat. They found that beaver-dammed riparian areas were relatively unaffected by wildfires compared to adjacent areas and created safe refuge for wildlife escaping wildfires.

Beaver dams are also associated with a nine-fold increase in open-water area in wetlands, preserving functional wetland habitat even during periods of extreme drought, according to a 2008 study (doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2007.12.003 ( in Alberta.

The B.C. Wildlife Federation’s Watershed Team has a resume packed with successful wetland restoration projects and has led the field in the development of wetland assessment and management tools.

In partnership with local First Nations, the Team plans to complete restoration projects at Earl Ranch near Cranbrook, Spius Creek, Gordon Creek, and Voght Creek near Kamloops, Blowdown Creek near Whistler, and others across the province.

“We have a long list of watershed projects we’d like to deliver, and we have innovative tools that we have developed, in part with bridge funding awarded to us by the province as part of the Healthy Watershed Initiative,” said Rogers. “We just need a green light from the provincial government to get started on some really impactful projects.”

To learn more about the benefits of beaver-based restoration, view this webinar with U.S.-based expert, Dr. Stephen Bennett. (

About the B.C. Wildlife Federation: 

The B.C. Wildlife Federation is British Columbia’s leading conservation organization. As a province-wide member-driven charitable organization, with over 43,000 members and more than 100 member clubs, our organization represents the interests of all British Columbians who aim to protect, enhance and promote the wise use of the environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

Categories: GeneralOp/Ed

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