Kootenay Connect

KCP is coordinating Kootenay Connect, a Community-Nominated Priority Places project funded by a federal Canada Nature Fund grant issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada and significant local partner funding.

Species at Risk in the Kootenays

The Kootenay Connect Priority Places project is an integral part of the larger Kootenay Connect Initiative that envisions a regional network of a dozen ecological corridors linking important habitats, biodiversity hotspots, protected areas, and climate refugia across the Kootenay region.

An analysis by Proctor and Mahr identified a dozen key areas within the Kootenays that are critical for wildlife movement corridors and for conserving vulnerable and at-risk species into the future. This science-based vision for connectivity in the Kootenays formed the basis for the Kootenay Connect Initiative.

Since 2019, inspired by the Kootenay Connect Initiative, the Kootenay Connect Priority Places project was developed and has been funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Canada Nature Fund through the Community Nominated Priority Places (CNPP) program, with significant funding also coming from regional funders and local partners. Currently, 35 KCP Partners and Specialists are actively working together to enhance and restore habitat for federally listed species at risk and biodiversity hotspots in the Kootenays.

This project aims to enhance, restore, and manage large riparian and wetland complexes to support the recovery of 34 federally listed species at risk, and 40 species of local concern. For the first four years (2019-2023) of the CNPP grant, Kootenay Connect Priority Places focused on four focal areas: the Bonanza Biodiversity Corridor (north of New Denver), the Columbia Valley Wetlands and the Creston Valley (both of which are internationally-recognized RAMSAR sites), and the Wycliffe Wildlife Corridor. In 2023, CNPP funding was extended until 2026 to support conservation and restoration projects in three new focal areas — the Slocan River Valley, Duncan Lardeau, and Columbia Lake Corridor within the Columbia Valley.

This short video, which was presented at the 2023 Community-Nominated Priority Places National Showcase, highlights the results from four years of Kootenay Connect.

Kootenay Connect Highlights

Years 1 – 4 (2019-2023) of Kootenay Connect included scientific analysis, mapping, and local engagement to advance connectivity conservation in the four focal areas. Select a panel below to view highlights including maps, reports and videos.

Project Team

This large project is being coordinated by Kootenay Conservation Program. The Project Team includes Dr. Michael Proctor as a scientific advisor, a grizzly bear biologist whose long-term data scientific approach has been integral to reconnecting grizzly bear populations across the Creston Valley and within the transborder area with the US.

Other species at risk and conservation specialist input is provided by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), The Nature Trust of BC (NTBC), Slocan Lake Stewardship Society (SLSS), Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners (CWSP), Wildlife Conservation Society Canada (WCSC), Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area (CVWMA), Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Team, and the B.C. provincial government.

Project Goal

The goal of the Kootenay Connect Priority Places project is to sustain exceptional places of biodiversity across local landscapes in the Kootenay region of B.C. by focusing on habitat conservation, enhancement and connectivity within and between valley bottoms and mountain ranges.

This project, managed by KCP, focuses on seven of the 12 key areas identified by Proctor and Mahr where KCP Partners have been active in conservation and stewardship: Bonanza Corridor, Slocan River Valley, Creston Valley, Duncan Lardeau, Columbia Valley Wetlands, Columbia Lake, and Wycliffe Corridor.

This project focuses on improving and protecting a broad spectrum of habitat types such as rich wetlands, cottonwood riparian galleries, mature cedar-hemlock forests, native grasslands, and open dry Ponderosa pine forests that support species at risk.

To date, there has been considerable effort to conserve important places in our region such as national and provincial parks, wildlife management areas and conservation properties held by a combination of land trusts and government. However, we are still concerned about the threats to habitat that in turn drive the loss of vulnerable species, especially in light of increasing human development and climate change.

Project Description

The seven areas featured in this project — Bonanza Corridor, Slocan River Valley, Creston Valley, Duncan Lardeau, Columbia Valley Wetlands, Columbia Lake, and Wycliffe Corridor — encompass 1,660,000 hectares (16,600 km2) and are linked by common habitat types that contain rich biological diversity, multiple species at risk, and potential climate change refugia (i.e., relief from summer warming and drought).

Our seven focal areas also provide ecological connectivity and migration that is essential for species of special concern that rely on valley bottom riparian-wetland habitats for some portion of their annual life requisites and/or for movements between adjacent upland habitats, protected areas, and mountain ranges. Without action, the ecological value of these lands and their associated species will further deteriorate and may become at-risk over time.

Coordinated by the Kootenay Conservation Program, the team of 35 Kootenay Connect Partners and Specialists listed below is undertaking a holistic approach to addressing conservation concerns at the ecosystem, hydrologic watershed, habitat type, and individual species scales to inform a suite of over 60 conservation sub-projects designed to increase ecosystem and species resilience. Our efforts to identify and implement habitat and hydrological improvements in seven key biodiversity and connectivity areas will increase their ability to provide multiple ecosystem benefits for natural landscapes and communities in the Kootenays.

Click to enlarge the map.

  • BC Provincial Government
  • Calgary Zoo
  • Cirque Environmental
  • Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners
  • Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area
  • Ducks Unlimited Canada
  • East Kootenay Invasive Species Council
  • EcoLogic Consulting
  • Farmland Advantage
  • Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program
  • Goldeneye Ecological Services
  • Integrated Ecological Research
  • Keefer Ecological Consulting
  • Kootenay Centre for Forestry Alternatives
  • Kootenay Conservation Program
  • Kutenai Nature Investigations
  • Living Lakes Canada
  • MacDonald Hydrology Consultants Ltd.
  • Momentum Mountain Solutions Ltd.
  • Mountain Station Consultants
  • North Kootenay Consulting Services Ltd.
  • Nature Conservancy of Canada
  • Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Team
  • Okanagan Nation Alliance
  • Pandion Ecological Research Inc.
  • Slocan Lake Stewardship Society
  • Slocan River Streamkeepers Society
  • The Nature Trust of BC
  • Trans-border Grizzly Bear Project
  • University of Lethbridge
  • University of Waterloo
  • Upstream Ecological Consulting
  • Vivid Consulting
  • Wetland Restoration & Training LLC
  • Wildlife Conservation Society Canada

Our planning and cooperative effort with land trusts such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada and Nature Trust BC will increase the amount of protected lands in the Kootenays and further contribute to Canada’s ability to go beyond its current Biodiversity Goals and Targets with an ambitious plan to:

“By 2025, conserve 25% of Canada’s land and 25% of Canada’s oceans, and work towards 30% of each by 2030.”

On August 4, 2020, Kootenay Connect was selected for Environment and Climate Change Canada’s first-ever Facebook Live event as a featured Canada Nature Fund project. Kootenay Connect Project Manager Marcy Mahr joined ECCC Minister Jonathan Wilkinson in talking about Kootenay Connect to a national audience. See the “Announcements” section at the top of the page for links to media coverage of this Facebook Live event.

Project Objectives

(1) To reduce the threat of extirpation and enhance population sustainability of a spectrum of at-risk species by enhancing habitat quality and security in order to improve reproductive capacity, survival, and recruitment within and between individual populations.

(2)  To understand and restore hydrologic connectivity of riparian-wetland systems, by informing effective management to ensure sustainability of the inter-relationship of surface and ground water critical to the functioning of riparian-wetland complexes and the resiliency of these systems to the impacts of climate change.

(3) To improve habitat connectivity for wide-ranging species, including regionally fragmented populations of Grizzly Bear, Rocky Mountain Elk, Mountain Goat, Bighorn Sheep, American Badger, Wolverine, and other species by identifying and protecting secure movement corridors and habitat features.

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