The 180-km long Columbia Wetlands within the Rocky Mountain Trench extends from Donald at the north end to Canal Flats in the south.

It is one of the largest intact wetland complexes in Canada, and an international Ramsar Site recognized by the United Nations. Much of the Columbia Wetlands is encompassed within the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area with a mix of private and federal lands managed as National Wildlife Areas. This wetland separates the Rocky and Purcell mountains across much of the northern portion of the valley from the US border up through Golden, BC.

Most groups engaged in conserving and managing biodiversity and habitat connectivity in the Columbia Wetlands are partners of the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners. This non-profit partnership includes over 30 organizations dedicated to working with all levels of government, community groups, and the public to implement a shared stewardship model for the management of the upper Columbia River and adjacent Columbia Wetlands. For Kootenay Connect, the lead organization in this corridor is the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners.

Year 2 Highlights

The highlights from Kootenay Connect project work completed in the Columbia Wetlands for Year 2 (2020-21) are listed below.

Video: Columbia Valley CWSP Project Overview

Following the completion of a first-time literature review of species at risk in the Columbia Valley for Year 1 of the Kootenay Connect project, the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners narrowed its scope for Year 2 focusing on 4 species in 2020, and 1 at-risk ecological community.

Video: Upland-Wetland Corridors in the Columbia Valley

Overview of the need for wildlife corridors in the Columbia Valley amid human settlement and development, and identifying those wildlife corridors across the valley bottom. 

Report: Conservation Planning for Species at Risk in the Columbia Wetlands

In the first year of Kootenay Connect (2019-2020) the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners (CWSP) completed the first literature review of species at risk produced for the Columbia Valley. Following up in Year 2 (2020-2021), the CWSP narrowed its scope focusing on four at-risk species : western painted turtle, Lewis’s woodpecker, osprey, and mountain goat; and one at-risk ecological community: alkali saltgrass-foxtail barley. These five components comprise CWSP’s Year 2 project and results and recommendations for each sub-project are provided in this report.

Report: Hydrologic Mapping of Wetland Communities to determine which ones are most likely to lose water that Species at Risk depend on

This is an ambitious project to identify and map the flood basins in the Columbia Wetlands that are vulnerable to drought and climate change and to determine if and where the loss of water can be mitigated by local conservation actions. The three subprojects include (1) A remote sensing observation-based assessment of floodplain hydroperiod and wetland vulnerability analysis of 2600 ha of wetlands to determine if remote sensing can determine if the area of permanent open water has changed in the last 20 year compared to earlier years; (2) Upper Columbia Wetland Vulnerability Assessment Project is an analysis to hydrologically characterize the different types of wetlands and determine which wetlands are most vulnerable to drought and loss of water overwinter and (3) Importance of Ground Water to the Hydrologic Mass Balance of Columbia Wetlands provides an assessment of the importance of ground water to the wetlands during spring, summer and fall seasons. Together these projects will enable the hydrologic team to develop hydrologic budgets of the different types of wetlands and determine those wetlands most vulnerable to drought.

Report: A remote sensing observation-based assessment of floodplain hydroperiod and wetland vulnerability along the Upper Columbia River – A feasibility study

Recent hydroclimatic change has impacted flows and floodplain inundation patterns on the Upper Columbia River, BC, Canada, leading to a reduction in open water wetland areas. The over-arching objective was to develop and report on the data, methods and results of a proof-of-concept study to identify wetlands at risk by evaluating wetland hydroperiod change in the Upper Columbia River Floodplain.

Report: Upper Columbia Wetland Vulnerability Assessment

The goal of the Upper Columbia Wetland Vulnerability Assessment project is to determine the various types of wetlands in the upper Columbia Wetlands based on their hydrologic functions, determine which types of wetlands are more vulnerable to drought (and climate change), and to assess which wetlands may be amenable to conservation actions to prevent the loss of water. This work is classifying the wetlands based on their hydrologic and morphological characteristics. In May 2020, the team installed continuous water level loggers in 37 wetlands, 2 in the Columbia River, and 4 drive point piezometers to monitor shallow groundwater input in 4 sites. Precipitation and evaporation are also available from local data. Together, these data will be used to construct water balances of the monitored wetlands for extrapolation across all wetland types in the upper Columbia.

Year 1 Highlights

The highlights from Kootenay Connect project work completed in the Columbia Wetlands for Year 1 (2019-20) are listed below.

Video: Literature Review of Species at Risk in the Columbia Valley

An overview of the Literature Review of SAR report. 

Report: Literature Review of SAR in the Columbia Valley

This report for the Kootenay Connect-Columbia Wetland focal area provides the first comprehensive list of species at risk (SAR) in the 180-km long Columbia Valley, from Canal Flats to Donald. This report summarizes the research that has been conducted to date for bird, plant, mammal, reptile and amphibian SAR.

Map: Columbia Wetlands Corridor and Connectivity Data Overview

This map provides an overview of data available for the Upper Columbia River Valley (Canal Flats to Donald) that includes wildlife habitat features, wildlife habitat areas, grizzly bear linkage corridors, and critical habitat for species at risk to inform protection and management of wildlife movement corridors and habitat connectivity.

Map: Columbia Wetlands Corridor Overview of SAR Data

This map provides an overview of data that are available to identify important areas for species at risk as well as potential wildlife movement corridors in the Columbia Wetlands.

Map: Columbia Wetlands Critical Habitat

This map provides an overview of data available for the Columbia Wetlands that includes wildlife habitat features, wildlife habitat areas, and critical habitat for species at risk to inform protection and management of wildlife movement corridors and habitat connectivity.

Mapping Process: Columbia Valley

The mapping process for the 180-km long Columbia Valley relies on a combination of LIDAR, terrain information, orthophotos and ecosystem mapping.