The Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund was the first of its kind established in Canada.
In 2005, Kootenay Conservation Program (KCP, then East Kootenay Conservation Program) — a partnership of conservation organizations, resource industries, educational institutions, First Nations, and government agencies — saw the opportunity to establish conservation funds in Canada similar to funds being established throughout the United States.
At that time, it was unclear whether these types of funds could be established in Canada and, if so, what the available political processes were. KCP conducted polling at two different times during the establishment process, and held several focus groups. This research helped select the fund service area, not only for the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund, but also for the Kootenay Lake Local Conservation Fund.
The original goal was to have all municipalities and electoral areas in the RDEK participate in the service; however, the conservation fund idea only received support from the Upper Columbia Valley portion of the RDEK.
The residents who were clear that they wanted the opportunity to vote on the initiative wanted it to happen in the most cost-effective way possible. This translated to an assent vote (referendum) being conducted in conjunction with a general election in 2008. Property owners in the service area pay a parcel tax of 5¢ per $1,000 of taxable assessed value, up to a maximum of $230,000 annually, which works out to about $20 per parcel.
From 2010 to 2017, the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund approved 69 grants totalling $1.7 million, including ecosystem restoration, invasive species control, lake management, water quality monitoring, and a pilot ecological services project. This local investment has leveraged six times that amount in additional grants.
The Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund was a 2013 Public Sector Finalist in the Real Estate Foundation of BC Land Awards (see above video) and the RDEK Columbia Valley Directors Directors won the Species and Ecosystems at Risk Local Government Working Group Peer-Nominated Award for 2017 for their role in the establishment and continuation of the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund.