Potential acquisitions are prioritized based on the principles of conservation biology including:
- reducing habitat fragmentation and increasing landscape-level connectivity
- ensuring sustainable populations of keystone species (such as grizzly bears) and their necessary corridors for movement
- representing and protecting the most “at risk” habitats, and
- considering the percentage with which these habitat types occur on private land.
KCP conducts an evaluation of the property based on its criteria, and each land trust has its own methodologies to further evaluate how well individual properties fit with their mandates and priorities.
Within the Kootenays, NTBC targets the following three biogeoclimatic zones of conservation concern (Taking Nature’s Pulse) types of ecosystems that, for the most part, are found only in dry low elevation valleys: Bunchgrass, Ponderosa Pine, and Interior Douglas-Fir. Within the Columbia Basin, NTBC’s conservation efforts are primarily focused in the Rocky Mountain Trench, although they do own properties in other parts of the Basin. Prospective conservation properties are evaluated by NTBC based on the types and rarity of ecosystems and species present, biogeoclimatic zones of concern, relative threat, how much of the ecosystems found on the site are already protected elsewhere, and contiguity with other conservation lands. Ecologically significant properties are then assessed in more detail to identify management considerations for maintaining and/or enhancing the ecological values over time, along with the associated costs, to aid NTBC in making sound decisions for conserving BC’s natural diversity.
NCC uses Natural Area Conservation Plans (NACP) to direct its conservation activities. Within the Kootenays there are three natural area plans: South Selkirk (West Kootenay), Rocky Mountain Trench, and Elk Flathead. These are the priority areas within the larger landscape that, in NCC’s view, contain the greatest concentrations of ecological values. Specific ecological targets are identified at the NACP level, taking the region’s biodiversity, threats, and conservation opportunities into consideration. Depending on the area, these may include considerations for connectivity and wildlife corridors, species-at-risk habitat (e.g., Grizzly bear, Mountain Caribou, Northern leopard frog), and priority ecosystems (old growth Interior Cedar-Hemlock, dry Interior Cedar Hemlock, hydro-riparian and wetland ecosystems, rivers, streams and lakes, low elevation forests, high elevation forests, grasslands and open forests, and mesic forests).