In her role as a Senior Manager responsible for Development & Community Sustainability Services with the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), Sangita Sudan sees many synergies between the various services and programs that she manages.

“I love my work. I love this area. I am a systems thinker – I like to take a systems approach to how we manage land, both Crown land and private land. We try to integrate as best we can, the different service areas and what’s happening in those service areas with other programs that we offer.”

Sangita’s career began as a geologist where she had the opportunity to work in remote areas of Canada including Baffin Island. Prior to 2010 when she began working for the RDCK, Sangita worked in land use management and planning for the provincial government in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, Northern BC, and the Vancouver area. Her love of natural environments and conservation was informed by the experiences she had both working and hiking within these natural areas. Now residing in the Kootenays, Sangita is passionate about the region and loves the outdoors. She is an avid gardener, as well as an artist. She enjoys being creative by painting and sketching. Sangita also brings this creative energy to her work.

One of the lenses she views her work through is conservation, which she sees as being vital to the community planning process.

“With climate change, conservation is so important. We hear of species loss around the world, and locally we have lost mountain caribou, as well as wolverine habitat. When you start losing species it’s because of habitat loss and so the species are the canaries in the coal mine, but we often only look at the big animals like caribou. We’re not noticing the little ones that have also been impacted including plants, insects, and bats.”

Sangita lives on the north shore of Kootenay Lake and enjoys seeing wildlife on her property. “My property has a creek and we have wildlife cameras there. We see lots of animals, including ducks and other waterfowl, bats, and even moose sometimes.”

Sangita is an enthusiastic supporter of Local Conservation Funds and has been ever since the service began in the East Kootenays in 2008, and then expanded to the West Kootenays in 2014. Currently, the LCF service is established in Areas A, E, and D around Kootenay Lake. Last fall, residents of the Slocan Valley voted in favour of an LCF service for Area H. “Area F has decided they want to join, so this year we are going to Alternate Approval Process for that,” says Sudan.

“The Kootenay Conservation Program supports our Local Conservation Service which has recently raised some excitement at our Board, ” says Sudan. “As a taxpayer, paying $15 a year through a parcel tax to support local conservation is great. It’s such an easy way to support that work happening in your communities. It is local money staying local.”

Sangita explains the process: “Proposals are submitted in September, and those proposals are reviewed by a local volunteer Technical Review Committee of science professionals. Recommendations are made to the Local Conservation Fund Directors, which are then brought forward for Board approval to be funded from the RDCK Local Conservation Fund Service. The proponents end up leveraging up to four times the original funding amount to do that local conservation work. Additional funders are much more likely to fund projects once they see the local support from the RDCK.” The leveraged funds come from grants or in-kind contributions. 

Sudan sees the Local Conservation Fund expanding to Area F (see map) as being valuable because it is one of the most highly developed and higher density areas on the lake, and there has been significant habitat loss in this area. “Having a conservation service area that covers all of Kootenay Lake would enable more education and ability for people to understand that enhancing their riparian habitat is a good thing,” says Sudan.

One large collaborative project that Sangita is especially excited about, which is being funded through the RDCK Local Conservation Fund in 2023, is updating the Shoreline Guidance document for Kootenay Lake. The Ktunaxa Nation Council, a member of the Kootenay Lake Partnership, which also includes provincial, federal, and local government representatives, all came together in 2011 to address development pressures on Kootenay Lake. An outcome of their work was to create shoreline management guidelines that explain which jurisdiction has authority over various activities that occur along the shoreline of the lake, such as docks, and how these activities will impact the values on the lake including habitat, archaeology, and Ktunaxa cultural values. “The Ktunaxa have been ongoing, constant stewards of Kootenay Lake, and this partnership supports their stewardship,” says Sudan.

Other projects that have been funded by the RDCK Local Conservation Fund service can be viewed here:

Sangita emphasizes that there are a lot of choices landowners make with how they manage their property. “The synergies between the programs that we offer here at the Regional District mean that people have the opportunity to develop their properties in a way that is conservation smart.”