Nature Trust, Columbia R. Tegart Ranch, Edgewater, BC © Graham Osborne

This article is the second in a series featuring three conservation properties in the Columbia Valley that were purchased with support from the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund. 

Valley bottoms in the Kootenays are where the prime real estate is located — not only for humans, but for wildlife as well. For wildlife, they contain rich habitats like wetlands and grasslands, and serve as important corridors for wildlife movement. But because they’re also where human communities occur in their highest concentration, this means that private land conservation in valley bottoms is essential to ensure wildlife have what they need to survive.

In the Columbia Valley, land securement – the purchase of land parcels by land trusts for conservation purposes – has been successful at keeping important tracts of land ecologically intact for the benefit of both wildlife and local communities. The first article in this series featured Columbia Lake-Lot 48 near Fairmont Hot Springs as an example. This time, the focus is on the Columbia River Wetlands-Edgewater Conservation Property north of Radium Hot Springs, a tract of land with a long and rich history of stewardship by local Indigenous Peoples.

This 171.5-hectare property was purchased by George and Lillian Tegart in 1945. Denis Tegart bought the property from his mother in 1963, renamed it the Tegart Hereford Ranch, and ran it as a successful cattle ranch, with up to 160 purebred Herefords at its peak. Denis and his wife Rosemary were dedicated land stewards and worked to maintain the natural ecosystems on the ranch, even constructing a wetland to provide more habitat for the wildlife that used the land. Keen to ensure the property’s natural landscape remained in perpetuity, the Tegart’s sold (with a partial donation) to the Nature Trust of British Columbia (NTBC) in July 2019. NTBC recognized the property was at risk of development and that its ecological significance would benefit the Columbia Valley, if conserved.

“This property has incredible diversity, ranging from wetlands to grasslands and open forest habitats,” said Chris Bosman, NTBC’s Kootenay Conservation Land Manager. “From the upper benches, the views across the Columbia Valley and up and down the Rocky Mountain Trench are stunning. As a multi-generational family ranch, the land has been well cared for over the years by the conservation-minded Tegart family.”

The property functions as a wildlife corridor by creating a linkage up and down the Columbia River, while also providing some connectivity across the valley, from the Rocky Mountains to the Purcell Ranges. It features outstanding habitat and connectivity for Grizzly Bears and American Badgers, both species of conservation concern. Badger burrows are found throughout the property demonstrating its use by this threatened species. It also provides habitat for Elk, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer and Moose. Located next to the internationally recognized Columbia Wetlands, the property complements nearby conservation lands managed by NTBC and other land trusts, the federally designated Columbia National Wildlife Area and the provincially designated Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area, which together serve as significant migratory bird habitat for over 200 species.

The Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund (CVLCF) was instrumental in supporting the purchase of this property with substantial funding over two years. The CVLCF, established in partnership by the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) and Kootenay Conservation Program, provides financial support to local projects that help conserve and restore the region’s prized natural surroundings. Since 2008, property owners in the RDEK Columbia Valley sub-region (from Canal Flats to Spillimacheen) have paid an annual tax of $20 per parcel per year towards this dedicated fund. Over the years, projects have ranged from water monitoring on Lake Windermere and Columbia Lake, to preservation of the Columbia Wetlands, invasive species control, species at risk conservation, and support for farmers taking extraordinary measures to conserve important habitats on their farms.

The local funding from CVLCF leveraged additional investment to make the acquisition possible. Many other partners came together to help NTBC purchase the Columbia River Wetlands-Edgewater Conservation Property. Key supporters of this project include the BC Conservation Foundation, Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, Golden District Rod & Gun Club, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Kootenay Wildlife Heritage Fund, Lake Windermere District Rod & Gun Club and the Canal Flats Wilderness Club as well as individual donors. The acquisition of this property also included a generous landowner donation from Denis and Rosemary Tegart.

Through the CVLCF, residents of the Columbia Valley directly assisted with the acquisition of the Columbia River Wetlands Edgewater Conservation Property, and now directly benefit from it. The public can now access to the property since it’s become managed conservation land, with a public access located off George Anderson Road, just south of Edgewater. Though cattle ranching ceased several years prior to the land purchase, parts of the property contain irrigated hayfields that continue to be cut by a local producer.

“The CVLCF was critical in NTBC’s acquisition of the Property,” said Bosman.  “We appreciate the foresight of the RDEK Columbia Valley directors, as they agreed to provide the first, substantial funding source for the project. The support from local government and the people and places it serves, helped to further demonstrate the benefits of the project to other funders.”

“We are so thankful to be associated with The Nature Trust of BC, and continue to work closely with them,” Rosemary Tegart told KCP.

NTBC and the Tegarts have heard from locals and visitors about how happy people are that the property has been conserved for future generations.

“In an era where we hear of so many ecological issues and crises, it’s a good news story for nature and the people of the Columbia Valley,” said Bosman.

To learn more about The Nature Trust of BC, visit their website: https://www.naturetrust.bc.ca/

More information about this CVLCF funded project can be found on the KCP website: http://kootenayconservation.ca/columbia-wetlands-edgewater-purchase/

To learn more about the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund, visit kootenayconservation.ca/columbia-valley-local-conservation-fund/.

Nature Trust, Columbia R. Tegart Ranch, Edgewater, BC © Graham Osborne