The Kootenay Conservation Program announced the recipients of its annual Conservation Leadership Awards on Friday, October 15 as part of the 2021 KCP Virtual Fall Gathering that took place online.

For the East Kootenay, the 2021 honours went to Rick Hoar with the Lake Windermere District Rod & Gun Club, Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners and the East Kootenay Wildlife Association, who received a framed Pat Morrow photograph of the Columbia Wetlands.

For the West Kootenays, the 2021 recipient was Valerie Huff with the Kootenay Native Plant Society who received a framed photograph o fa pygmy bee fly on a fern-leaved desert-parsley by Tyson Ehlers.

East Kootenay

After more than 30 years as a BC Conservation Officer specializing in habitat protection throughout the province, Rick Hoar chose to retire to Invermere in 2006. Upon retirement, he began a second career as a conservationist, starting with the Lake Windermere District Rod and Gun Club, the Columbia Valley’s oldest conservation organization, established in 1919. As a conservation minded club, the Lake Windermere District Rod & Gun Club has been a driving source of habitat conservation in the Columbia Valley region and in British Columbia.

As President, Rick’s environmental knowledge and understanding of government procedures has been invaluable in the successful delivery of many of the club’s habitat enhancement projects, which have included ungulate range improvement, wildlife relocation, nesting boxes for many species including those at risk, water conservation and fish enhancement. The Club has partnered with the Shuswap Indian Band and the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners (CWSP) to enhance and restore Westslope Cutthroat streams in the Upper Columbia River, and investigate the possible reintroduction of white sturgeon and Westslope cutthroat. The Club is also a partner of KCP’s Kootenay Connect, the four-year project on Species at Risk and Riparian Wildlife Corridors in the Columbia Wetlands, and actively assists the Kootenay Community Bat Project and wildlife research and relocation projects.

As President, Rick represents the Club on other committees and Boards outside of the club. These include his role as Vice President of the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners; and his active participation in the East Kootenay Wildlife Association (EKWA) and in the regional arm of the BC Wildlife Association. On behalf of the EKWA, Rick also sits as a Board member for the Rocky Mountain Trench Society and the Kootenay Conservation Program.

One day you will find Rick working on the phone or at meetings with government officials. Another day you might find him wrestling basking logs into ponds for painted turtles, restoring spawning habitat on local creeks, pounding in nest boxes for Wood Ducks or thinning ingrowth on ungulate winter Range.

Along with a strong personal conservation ethic, Rick has brought a lifetime of knowledge of the wild to his volunteer conservation work. Through the sheer force of his knowledge, energy and determination, Rick has had a huge influence on conservation in the Columbia Valley region.

Read more about Rick’s work in Faces & Places.

West Kootenay

VALERIE HUFF has made an outstanding contribution to conservation in the Kootenays due to her passion to conserve, protect and restore native plants and ecosystems. Through her research and education, she has been instrumental in raising awareness about the ethnobotany, ecology and conservation of camas and the importance of native plant communities and pollinators for the health of West Kootenay ecosystems.

Valerie has been the voice and the vision behind Kootenay Native Plant Society since she helped start the organization and is helping take it to new heights and avenues today.

She is a trained restoration botanist who conducts professional and rigorous research, and she is always learning and looking for new ways to reach people and help them better conserve native plants within our region. Valerie has created a wide array of practical and informative outreach materials; developed locally relevant reports; presented at regional and international conferences in British Columbia and Washington State; and continues to be an invited guest speaker for events and workshops both in-person and online.

In addition to being the region’s expert on showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) and the endangered monarch butterfly, Valerie has worked tirelessly on the conservation of common camas (Camassia quamash) in the West Kootenay. Her research and outreach work, has led directly to the establishment of the Camas Conservation Area in Millennium Park (2015), the only known conservation area specifically for camas in Canada.

Since 2019, she, together with Brenda Beckwith, started the Wildflowers for Pollinators (W4P) Citizen Science Meadowscaping Project, a Kootenay Lake Local Conservation Fund supported initiative. For the last three years, they have empowered Kootenay Lake residents to become “meadow makers,” training them in plant identification, seed collection, and meadow creation.

Valerie has an incredible knack for seeing the big picture and understanding that the key to preserving and recovering biodiversity knows no jurisdictional boundary.

Read more about Valerie’s work in Faces & Places.