Awarded to the Nature Conservancy of Canada towards enhancing and protecting wetland values in an important wildife area.

PROPONENT: Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC)

DESCRIPTION: The Marion Creek Benchlands Conservation Area provides important ungulate winter range for species such as Mule Deer and Elk, and several species at risk such as American Badger, Westslope Cutthroat Trout, and Lewis’s Woodpecker that rely on the habitat found on the property. The property also serves as a linkage corridor used by species migrating through the landscape from the Purcells and the Rocky Mountains. This project addressed the urgent need to enhance critical habitat for species at risk, to improve grazing and overwintering grounds for ungulates, and to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire to local communities. Fire suppression and habitat alteration due to climate change contributes to forest ingrowth in areas that were historically open forests and grasslands, which increases the risk of wildfire while also decreasing the amount of habitat available for wildlife. By strategically thinning forests to restore open forest conditions NCC has not only improved critical species-at-risk habitat, but also improved the resiliency of these ecosystems in the face of a changing climate and reduced the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

OBJECTIVE: The overall project goal was to restore at least 16 ha of Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir forest to dry open forest structure but accomplishing the following objectives: 1) Assessing which vegetation management units on the property are most valuable to climate change; 2) Develop forest stewardship prescriptions that take into account conservation values, climate change and limit soil disturbance; 3) Implement prescriptions on the property; and, 4) Enhance land management and community partnerships in the area.

The project focused on vegetation management units with high levels of forest ingrowth that were susceptible to an increased risk of catastrophic wildfire, resulting in completion of restoration prescription and hand slashing treatments on three units totaling 18.3 ha.

PHOTO: Richard Klafki/NCC