Krista Watts’ scope of work is as expansive as the geographical area within which she works. As the Environment Lead for Columbia Basin Trust, her role is to support the Trust’s ecosystem enhancement strategic priority. This involves working with organizations, communities and Indigenous Peoples across the Basin to maintain and improve ecological health and native biodiversity in the Columbia Basin region.

“My focus is on ecosystem enhancement and restoration, and invasive species,” said Krista, “as well as the Trust’s two integrated priorities of climate resilience and working with Indigenous Peoples.”

The Ecosystem Enhancement Program is one of the programs Krista supports. Started in 2017, the program aims to support the implementation of landscape-scale, multi-year projects that restore and/or enhance a variety of ecotypes, including terrestrial, aquatic and wetland.

Non-profits, First Nations communities and local governments submit project ideas. “Because the types of projects funded through this program address ecological priorities at a more localized scale, the Basin communities are engaged throughout the project idea development process,” said Krista. “We go to the communities with the submitted ideas and seek input and feedback.”

As Environment Lead, Krista is involved in delivering the program, which is now in its sixth year. From 2017 to 2022, the program has granted funds to numerous organizations (11 non-profits, nine First Nations, two land conservancies and one co-operative) in support of 23 projects that have taken place in a variety of ecosystems (14 terrestrial, six wetland and three aquatic), benefiting a range of species at risk. Learn more here.

“The people who are making these projects happen and the associated ecological benefits are truly extraordinary,” said Krista. “The interaction that I get through my role at the Trust really brings me great satisfaction.”

Throughout 2022, Krista also helped the Trust engage with Basin communities about ecosystem enhancement in other ways, including:

  • a four-part Winter Webinar Series hosted in collaboration with the Kootenay Conservation Program (KCP)—Building Restoration & Enhancement Projects That Make a Difference—which offered hands-on, practical tools to help with project development and ecosystem-resilience integration in the face of a changing climate
  • a Technical Project Planning Workshop in June, also hosted in collaboration with KCP, to help develop project-planning capacity to bolster the success of technical applications and projects.

“As a Trust employee, we get to be a part of helping the people of the Basin to achieve their goals. It is an amazing feeling,” she said.

Born and raised on Prince Edward Island, Krista credits her education and career choices to her early exposure to the fishing and tourism industries.

“My father was a lobster fisherman so he would do that in the early season, and our family ran a tourism business throughout the summer in the national park,” she said. “I really do believe my upbringing influenced my values toward ecological conservation and stewardship.”

Krista migrated west after high school and discovered the Kootenays in 1994. With a Diploma in Environmental Engineering Technology from the British Columbia Institute of Technology, a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management from Royal Roads University, a Project Management Professional accreditation and several years in various roles in the environment sector, Krista joined the Columbia Power Corporation team in environmental risk management, and later the Trust in 2017 as Environment Lead.

“We are so fortunate to have an organization like Columbia Basin Trust, which has the sole mission to support the ideas and efforts of Basin residents to create a legacy of well-being for present and future generations.”