For many in the conservation profession, there is nothing more rewarding than when members of a community step into a stewardship role. Mike and Ivy Jeffery of Crawford Bay in the West Kootenay are perfect examples of this — citizen scientists making an invaluable contribution to help protect their local natural environment.
Though Mike and Ivy met in Calgary where Mike was a firefighter for the city and Ivy worked as a nurse, they were both raised in Kootenay Lake’s East Shore community with their respective family roots going back to the 1940s and 1950s. In fact, it was a mutual friend from East Shore who introduced them. Passionate about hunting, fishing and the outdoors, they eventually retired to a piece of property in Crawford Bay they had owned since 1979.
Their interest in conservation spiked several years ago when the Kokanee salmon population in Kootenay Lake began to crash. Along with other concerned members of their community in 2014, they started the Eastshore Freshwater Habitat Society (EFHS) of which Mike is President and Ivy is Secretary.
“We had no representation on East Shore for fisheries or freshwater conservation so we needed to get something going on that,” said Mike.
The EFHS’s goal is to strive for the protection and remediation of all rivers, creeks, streams and lakes on the East Shore that are tributaries to Kootenay Lake.
Both Mike and Ivy have completed several BC Wildlife Federation Wetlandskeepers Courses and, along with a dozen other EFHS members, taken their Streamkeeper Training. With other members trained in CABIN protocols, the EFHS has been responsible for water quality monitoring and testing in Crawford Bay, and another EFHS project was to erect highly visible signage along Highway 3A and at public and private boat launches along the East Shore to raise awareness around the “Clean Drain Dry” program to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
“We’ve done education as well, through community programs held at the local halls to educate people on the level that we’re aware of and hand out information,” said Mike, noting that attendance has been surprisingly high.
In addition to counting fall Kokanee stocks, the EFHS — which now has a paid membership of 250 — has also assisted with three Kokanee fry releases totalling 135,000 fry over three years, and is currently working on the construction of a small spawning channel in Crawford Creek.
The newest item on the EFHS agenda is to assist community fundraising efforts for the purchase of 162 acres of Crawford Bay headlands that’s recently been put up for sale by Kootenay Springs Golf Resort.
“The community is working very strongly with Area A and the Regional District of Central Kootenay to get this purchased as a regional park. Crawford Creek runs through it and it has quite a large wetland. Therefore, to establish a conservation are for Kootenay Lake in the Bay headlands is the ultimate goal,” said Mike.
There’s been a surge of community interest, evidenced by 112 people attending an initial meeting in Crawford Bay and over 500 signatures gracing a petition within a week.
“It would be really exciting for Kootenay Lake if that became a regional park,” said Mike.