Columbia Lake: Marion Creek Benchlands and Lot 48

Columbia Lake sits at the head of the Columbia River, nestled between the Purcell and Rocky Mountains, about 7km South of Fairmont Hot Springs. The lands surrounding the lake are part of the East Kootenay Trench Ecosection, home to one of the largest and most diverse assemblages of species in the province. These include many of BC’s iconic large mammals, supported by a mosaic of habitat types that include native grasslands, Douglas-fir forests, and long stretches of wetland that comprise one of the last intact portions of the Pacific Flyway. In 2010 and 2011, HCTF was approached by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to help secure both the Marion Creek Benchlands (204 ha) to the west of Columbia Lake, and Lot 48 (127 ha) on its eastern shore.  These properties were “missing links” in established tracts of conservation lands, which risked being fragmented by residential development. Both contain grasslands used as vital winter range for ungulates, including blue-listed Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. They also provide critical habitat for non-game species, such as the red-listed Badger, and are used as movement corridors by wildlife including Grizzly Bear and Elk. HCTF contributed $750,000 towards the purchase of these properties to protect...
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PCAF Project Makes Ancient Forest Accessible to All

PCAF Project Makes Ancient Forest Accessible to All
Earlier this month, hundreds of people turned out for the Grand Opening of the Universal Boardwalk, near Dome Creek, BC . The newly-constructed boardwalk allows people of all ages and abilities to experience hiking through a unique inland temperate rainforest. The Ancient Forest is one of only a few surviving stands of old-growth cedar forest in the Upper Fraser River and Robson Valley, and is home to a rich abundance of native flora and fauna. There are more tree species within the inland rain forests than anywhere else in BC, and these include some impressive specimens: a number of the Ancient Forest's giant cedars are over 1000 years old and nearly 16 feet in diameter. More than 200 different kinds of lichen have been found here, some of which researchers believe may be newly-discovered species. And the forest and surrounding area provides habitat for a suite of iconic BC carnivores, including grizzly bears, lynx, wolves, wolverines, and cougars. Before the boardwalk was constructed, the rough terrain of the Ancient Forest Trail made it extremely difficult for people with physical limitations to experience this spectacular ecosystem first-hand. Now, the boardwalk provides full access for visitors requiring wheelchairs or other mobility devices.  ...
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New Docks for Urban Lakes

New Docks for Urban Lakes
A joint venture between HCTF, FFSBC and the Province is making angling more accessible to families who may have previously found going fishing a challenge. By installing docks and making site improvements at stocked lakes near urban centres, the Vancouver Island Urban Lake Fishery Development & Improvement Program is providing new opportunities for anglers young and old to experience great fishing close to home. Urban lake infrastructure programs have been created to help reverse the trend of declining angler numbers across BC. Research by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC) indicates that one of the best ways to increase angler participation is through creation of new fishing opportunities for youth. By constructing family-friendly fishing sites that don't require a boat and are within easy driving distance of urban centres, project leaders hope to eliminate some of the hurdles that may have previously discouraged families from fishing. The Vancouver Island Urban Lake Fishery Development & Improvement Program began in 2009 with seed funding from HCTF. Project leader Scott Silvestri and his team carefully selected project sites that would both maximize potential angler benefits and minimize expenditures through partnerships with local clubs and municipalities. The project has already received over $75,000...
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BC's Breeding Bird Atlas

BC's Breeding Bird Atlas
As a follow-up to last week's bluebird post , we thought we'd feature another HCTF wildlife project that BC birders can get involved in. The BC Breeding Bird Atlas is an ambitious project that unites the bird-watching community with biologists, management agencies, industry, academics and conservation organizations to create a comprehensive record of the status of breeding bird species in BC. Once complete, the atlas with serve as a key information source for both the wildlife management and wildlife viewing communities. The project was initiated by Bird Studies Canada (BSC) in response to the lack of data available for many of BC's bird species. Without current information on bird population numbers and distribution, it's difficult to make informed decisions about their conservation and management. The task of collecting data for a province the size of BC would be insurmountable for a single organization, but by combining the enthusiasm of local birders, the expertise of professional ornithologists and the back-country access of guide outfitters , BSC has done just that. The Atlas website now allows site users to access annual data summaries, print regional checklists, and view maps visually summarizing the results of their data collection. You can choose to display...
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Bringing Back the Bluebirds

Bringing Back the Bluebirds
  The Western Bluebird was once a common site on Vancouver Island. This brilliantly-coloured bird species thrived here and on the neighbouring Gulf Islands until the 1950's, when their numbers began to steadily decline. By the 1990s, bluebirds were no longer breeding in southwestern BC, and were soon considered to be extirpated (locally extinct). What caused this once prolific species to disappear? The primary factor is likely habitat loss. Bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters, meaning they rely on holes left by woodpeckers in standing deadwood to build their nests. If most of these dead trees are removed (either through logging practices or urban development), the birds are left with little in the way of natural nesting habitat. Bluebirds face steep competition for the few remaining cavities, as these are also sought after by introduced species such as starlings and house sparrows. Human activity has undoubtedly impacted the bluebirds' distribution, but there is good reason to believe that human intervention will help return the species to its former range. The Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team ( GOERT ) is working to restore self-sustaining Western Bluebird populations on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands through the HCTF-funded Bring Back the Bluebirds...
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