Dave Zehnder has a passion for both agriculture and ecology and has worked in B.C. and across the world on related projects. Operating the Zehnder Ranch (a sustainably raised local beef cattle ranch) in Invermere with his brothers, Dave sits on several boards including the Canadian Cattlemen’s Beef Cattle Research Council and the BCCA (BC Cattlemen’s Association) Research Committee.

He is currently spearheading an incentive-based ecosystem services program for agricultural lands in B.C. and Alberta known as the Farmland Advantage. The project is focused on developing a long-term program that pays farmers and ranchers to enhance ecosystems to produce benefits like clean drinking water and healthy wildlife populations.

Farmland Advantage works with farmers to enhance the natural values on their land. These natural values are often referred to as “ecosystem services” — services of a natural environment that benefit humans that can include areas like wetlands that filter and purify water, and forests that clean the air and provide habitat for healthy wildlife populations.

The project helps farmers identify the natural values that can be protected and enhanced, and develops recommendations and plans to preserve them. These plans can include actions such as water or stream setbacks, strategic fencing, reforestation, or rangeland enhancement. Farmers then carry out the recommendations and Farmland Advantage helps to provide compensation based on successful implementation.

Farmland Advantage launched a five-year multi-region project and the Upper Columbia Valley is a subregion within of one of three regions in British Columbia that is participating in this project.

The Columbia Valley Farmland Advantage Stewardship Project, which received funding from the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund in 2017, is geared toward farmers who own much of the valley’s critical habitat, and rewards those who demonstrate exceptional care for any land bordering wetlands, streams and rivers (riparian habitats). To date, the Columbia Valley project has resulted in 11 farm sites under contract with 252 acres of prime riparian habitat and 7,987 metres of shoreline conserved and enhanced.

This year, the program is working with partners to erect nesting boxes for Lewis’s Woodpeckers and survey for their presence on relevant sites.

“We’re working closely and collaboratively with KCP partners to maximize the potential benefit of everybody’s efforts,” said Dave.

For more information on the Farmland Advantage Program, visit http://www.farmlandadvantage.com/.