Ryan Durand is an ecologist living in the south Slocan Valley who does consulting work all over the province and beyond, including locally for the Slocan Lake Stewardship Society (SLSS).

He is thrilled that the Kootenay Connect Priority Places initiative was expanded last year, and his backyard of the Slocan Valley was chosen as one of three new focal areas. The valley happens to have a diversity of habitats for many species that are federally listed as SARA (Species at Risk Act) and COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) species.

“It has been amazing what Kootenay Connect has been able to do for the first 5 years, and now for 2 more years, as far as funding and matching funding goes. The number of doors that these projects have opened has just been amazing. Kootenay Connect and all the matching grants that have come out of it have been able to support many local people working on all these projects in our communities throughout the East and West Kootenay. We had talked about this work with members of SWAMP (Slocan Wetlands Assessment & Monitoring Project) for years but weren’t able to get the funding to support it, so the fact that Kootenay Conservation Program (KCP) was successful in getting big, multi-year funding from Environmental & Climate Change Canada was transformational.”

A current SLSS project that Ryan is most excited about is the Species at Risk Biodiversity Survey, focusing on low elevation floodplain cottonwood forests. Because the main stem of the Slocan River valley is known relatively well, Ryan and his colleague Tyson Elhers are also surveying the Little Slocan River and Little Slocan Lakes, a relatively pristine area where there has been less human impact. They are capturing data through wildlife cameras and bird song recorders, which record birds daily at intervals during dawn and dusk. In addition, they are adding to and updating the 2012 Slocan River Streamkeepers Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory Mapping project, which focuses on lowland floodplains, cottonwood forests, and wetlands.

“This year we are starting to fill in some of the knowledge gaps as we move towards the “what can we do next?” stage. What kind of strategies can be put in place to try to protect some of these rare species? And because most of the lowland elevation along the main stem of the river is private land, education is probably the most important thing in terms of helping to protect these areas. Next year we will be focusing more on looking at habitat and wildlife connectivity and the conservation planning side of things. We have all this data accumulated, and now what can we really do with it to make meaningful change?”

Ryan and SLSS are continuing some monitoring work in the Bonanza Biodiversity Corridor (BBC), in the North Slocan Valley from Summit Lake to Hills. They concluded a three-year study that included ecosystem mapping, habitat assessments, and an in-depth inventory of the full range of biodiversity that occurs in the watershed, and then created a conservation plan for the corridor. As well as the ongoing monitoring, SLSS has worked with the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society (CKISS) to do some invasive plant removal annually in the spring.

So far, between the biodiversity surveys that Ryan and Tyson have done, as well as all the other literature sources they could find, they have documented about 4,000 species in the Slocan Watershed.

Ryan explains that, “The number of species is increasing all the time. The most amazing part for us is that this is probably the most well documented place in the world now for slime molds. We have found about 150 species here, which is quite exciting! We have found dozens of species that are new to the province, Canada, or North America, and one new to science.”

Ryan is also working with Gregoire Lamoureux of Slocan River Streamkeepers to do riparian planting on public land at Perry’s Bridge near Winlaw. Thousands of shrubs and trees have been planted on both sides of the bridge for about 1 or 2 km of the river.

Just upstream is the Larsen Ranch restoration project, a partnership between SLSS and Slocan Integral Forestry Cooperative (SIFCo). The Larsen Ranch is on the Slocan River just south of Lemon Creek, where SIFCo is enhancing in-stream fish habitat including re-establishing several old streams. Ryan is involved with coordinating the riparian planting part of it, and he says that “It is a fun project, to go a bit outside of the box and try to think about climate adaptability.” This project was also funded in part by the Columbia Basin Trust, who matched the federal funds from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Ryan began his career working for a land trust called the Turtle Island Earth Stewards, doing inventories for covenants and fee-simple acquisitions. He then worked for the Land Trust Alliance of BC and the Nature Conservancy of Canada, before entering the consulting world. He always knew that he wanted to work outdoors.

Ryan grew up in Christina Lake where his appreciation for plants began, as he helped in his parent’s commercial greenhouse and landscaping business. He lived all over Canada before moving back to BC in 2009. When not doing ecological consulting work, Ryan enjoys hiking with his kids or volunteering with the Crescent Valley Fire Department.

Ryan doing field work

Examples of slime moulds found in the Slocan Watershed as part of the KCP funded inventories.