Kootenay Connect

KCP is coordinating Kootenay Connect, a Community-Nominated Priority Places project funded by a federal Canada Nature Fund grant issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada and significant local partner funding.

Species at Risk in the Kootenays

Kootenay Connect is a four-year project (2019-2023) funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada, with significant funding from local partners, in which 32 KCP Partners and Specialists are actively working together to enhance and restore habitat for federally listed species at risk in four biodiversity hotspots in the Kootenays.

This project aims to enhance, restore, and manage large riparian and wetland complexes to support the recovery of 32 listed species at risk, and 40 species of concern. The Canada Nature Fund grant focuses on the Bonanza Biodiversity Corridor (north of New Denver), the Columbia Valley Wetlands and the Creston Valley (both of which are internationally-recognized RAMSAR sites), and the Wycliffe Wildlife Corridor.

Kootenay Connect Highlights

Years 1 – 3 (2019-2022) of Kootenay Connect included scientific analysis, mapping, and local engagement to advance connectivity conservation in the four focal areas. Select a panel below to view highlights including maps, reports and videos.

Bonanza Corridor
Columbia Wetlands
Species at Risk
Creston Valley
Wycliffe Corridor
Corridor Science

Project Team

This large project is being coordinated by the Kootenay Conservation Program. The Project Team includes Dr. Michael Proctor as a scientific advisor, a grizzly bear biologist whose data, vision, and approach has already been integral at reconnecting grizzly bear populations across the Creston Valley.

Other species at risk and conservation specialist input is provided by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), The Nature Trust of BC (NTBC), Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Team, Slocan Lake Stewardship Society (SLSS), Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners (CWSP), Wildlife Conservation Society Canada (WCSC),  Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area (CVWMA) and the B.C. provincial government.

Project Goal

Kootenay Connect takes a large landscape, multi-ecosystem approach to sustaining biodiversity, species at risk, and ecological connectivity and function within the upper Columbia River Basin in the Kootenay region of BC. The goal of this project is to sustain biodiversity across local landscapes by focusing on habitat connectivity within and between valley bottoms and mountain ranges to sustain exceptional places of biodiversity. This project stems from an analysis by Proctor and Mahr that identified a dozen key areas within the Kootenays that are critical for wildlife movement corridors and for conserving vulnerable and at-risk species into the future.

The focus of Kootenay Connect is on four of these key areas identified where KCP Partners have been active in conservation and stewardship: Bonanza Corridor, Columbia Wetlands, Creston Valley, and Wycliffe Corridor.

This project focuses on improving and protecting a broad spectrum of habitat types such as rich wetlands, cottonwood riparian galleries, mature cedar-hemlock forests, native grasslands, and open dry Ponderosa pine forests that support species at risk.

To date, there has been considerable effort to conserve important places in our region such as national and provincial parks, wildlife management areas and conservation properties held by a combination of land trusts and government. However, we are still concerned about the threats to habitat that in turn drive the loss of vulnerable species, especially in light of increasing human development and climate change.

Project Description

The four areas featured in this project — Bonanza Corridor, Columbia Wetlands, Creston valley and Wycliffe Corridor — encompass 1 million hectares (10,000 km2) and are linked by common habitat types that contain rich biological diversity, multiple species at risk, and potential climate change refugia (i.e. relief from summer warming and drought).

Our four focal areas are also zones of ecological connectivity and migration for species of special concern that rely on valley bottom riparian-wetland habitats for some portion of their annual life requisites and/or for inter-mountain connectivity with adjacent upland habitats and protected areas. Without action, the ecological value of these lands and their associated species will further deteriorate and may become at-risk over time.

Coordinated by the Kootenay Conservation Program, the team of 32 Kootenay Connect Partners and Specialists listed below is undertaking a holistic approach to addressing conservation concerns at the ecosystem, hydrologic watershed, habitat type, and individual species scales to inform a suite of over 50 conservation sub-projects designed to increase ecosystem and species resilience. Our efforts to identify and implement habitat and hydrological improvements in four key connectivity areas will increase their ability to provide multiple ecosystem benefits for which riparian-wetland complexes are so important.

Click to enlarge the map.

  • BC Provincial Government
  • Calgary Zoo
  • Cirque Environmental
  • Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area
  • Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners
  • Ducks Unlimited Canada
  • EcoLogic Environmental Consulting
  • East Kootenay Invasive Species Council
  • Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program
  • Goldeneye Ecological Services
  • Integrated Ecological Research
  • Keefer Ecological Consulting
  • Kootenay Centre for Forestry Alternatives
  • Kootenay Conservation Program
  • Kutenai Nature Investigations
  • Living Lakes Canada
  • MacDonald Hydrology Consultants Ltd
  • Momentum Mountain Solutions, Ltd.
  • Mountain Station Consultants
  • Nature Conservancy of Canada
  • Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Team
  • Okanagan Nation Alliance
  • Pandion Ecological Research Inc.
  • Slocan Lake Stewardship Society
  • The Nature Trust of BC
  • Trans-border Grizzly Bear Project
  • University of Lethbridge
  • University of Waterloo
  • Upstream Ecological Consulting
  • Vivid Consulting
  • Wetland Restoration & Training LLC
  • Wildlife Conservation Society Canada

Our planning and cooperative effort with land trusts such as Nature Conservancy of Canada and Nature Trust BC, will increase the amount of protected lands in the Kootenays and will further contribute to Canada’s ability to go beyond its current Biodiversity Goals and Targets with an ambitious plan to:

“By 2025, conserve 25% of Canada’s land and 25% of Canada’s oceans, and work towards 30% of each by 2030.”

On August 4, 2020, Kootenay Connect was selected for Environment and Climate Change Canada’s first-ever Facebook Live event as a featured Canada Nature Fund project. Kootenay Connect Project Manager Marcy Mahr joined ECCC Minister Jonathan Wilkinson in talking about Kootenay Connect to a national audience. See the “Announcements” section at the top of the page for links to media coverage of this Facebook Live event.

Watch the ECCC Facebook Live recording

Project Objectives

(1) To reduce the threat of extirpation and enhance population sustainability of a spectrum of at-risk species by enhancing habitat quality and security in order to improve reproductive capacity, survival, and recruitment within and between individual populations.

(2)  To understand and restore hydrologic connectivity of riparian-wetland systems, by informing effective management to ensure sustainability of the inter-relationship of surface and ground water critical to the functioning of riparian-wetland complexes and the resiliency of these systems to the impacts of climate change.

(3) To improve habitat connectivity for wide-ranging species, including regionally fragmented populations of Grizzly Bear, Rocky Mountain Elk, Mountain Goat, Bighorn Sheep, American Badger, Wolverine, and other species by identifying and protecting secure movement corridors and habitat features.

Media Attention