When Duane Wells was reading through the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) Columbia Region Action Plans in search of potential funding opportunities, he came across one of particular interest to him.

One of two culverts allowing American Badgers to cross under Highway 95 at the Nature Trust of BC Columbia River Wetlands-Edgewater property north of Radium Hot Springs. KCP Photo by Marcy Mahr

As the Regional Manager for Environmental Services for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) Engineering Section in Kamloops, the priority action that caught his eye supported highway structure crossings in the Columbia Valley addressing the endangered American Badger (Taxidea taxux jeffersonii) in the Columbia Valley. Wells quickly connected a few mental dots.

“We had a project to re-pave a section of Highway 93/95 near Edgewater so I called up the FWCP and asked if they knew where they wanted to put badger culverts,” he said.

Wells was put in touch with The Nature Trust of British Columbia (NTBC), which had recently announced its acquisition of a 423-acre conservation property north of Radium Hot Springs, known as the Columbia River Wetlands – Edgewater property and bisected by the highway. It features outstanding habitat and connectivity for the red-listed American Badgers, as well as a host of other wildlife.

“The American Badger Habitat Capability Model identified that 41 per cent of the property has ‘Very High’ capability to support badgers,” said NTBC Kootenay Conservation Land Manager Chris Bosman. “There are active badger burrows on the property and the former owners had seen badgers there in the past.”

Once Wells learned badgers were present in the area where the highway resurfacing project was taking place, he quickly contacted the MOTI program manager to ask if there were any extra funds to cover the installation of badger crossings.

“I realized this seemed to be a good win if we could get two or three culverts in there,” he said. “We managed to find $30,000 in the project budget to install two culverts with a lot of quick action from the Ministry Representative, Arnold Van Reekum, out on site to find the locations and install these culverts before the paving crew came through.”

Planning for the re-surfacing project had been in the works since last year and Wells’ discovery of the FWCP Action Plan happened just a week before the actual paving took place.

“It was a very quick turnaround on our part, which I’m so happy for,” he said. “Our paving costs for the project were already covered; we just needed to install the culverts.”

KCP Photo by Marcy Mahr

NTBC and MOTI staff worked to identify the locations and two 800 mm diameter culverts were installed, which now link the property under the highway. The culverts are located at ground level, giving badgers a safe alternative to crossing over the highway. NTBC land management staff hope to install game cameras or track plates to monitor the culverts for badger and other wildlife use into the future.

Bosman said NTBC was unaware of the road construction plans and extremely surprised by the proactive thinking and offer made by Wells. According to the Recovery Strategy for the Badger in British Columbia, road mortality on highways is the single leading cause of mortality for badgers in B.C.

“This is a great example of MOTI recognizing an opportunity: to help provide safe passage to American Badgers on our newly acquired conservation property,” he said. “With road mortality being the single greatest threat to this species at risk in British Columbia, it’s great the Province is taking a leadership role.”

Wells said the Environmental Services team is always looking for wins likes this, especially when there is already a project going through, which helps to dramatically reduce costs.

“The Environmental Services staff of MOTI are always on the lookout for these opportunities, and I’m extremely pleased we could install the passage culverts prior to the paving crew completing their work,” he said. “The timing was perfect.”

One of two culverts allowing American Badgers to cross under Highway 95 at the Nature Trust of BC Columbia River Wetlands-Edgewater property north of Radium Hot Springs. KCP Photo by Marcy Mahr