Tim Ennis

British Columbia

  • Number of Completed Projects (2014-2015)
  • 5
  • Acres Conserved
  • 1,849
  • Land Value
  • $5,172,000
  • Stewardship Volunteers
  • 911

A hat trick for conservation

The British Columbia Region scored a hat trick for conservation this year by successfully acquiring new conservation lands in all three of our program areas: the West Coast, the Southern Interior and the Canadian Rockies.

The British Columbia region scored a hat trick for conservation this year by successfully acquiring new conservation lands in all three of our program areas: the West Coast, the Southern Interior and the Canadian Rockies.

Located near Bella Bella on BC’s wild west coast, the Gullchucks Estuary Conservation Area protects 50 acres (20 hectares) of undeveloped coastal temperate rainforest that encompasses the lower reaches and estuary of the salmon-rich Gullchucks River. These habitats support an astonishing array of wildlife, including wolves, bears, eagles and significant runs of Pacific salmon.

NCC is proud to be working in partnership with the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department to jointly manage the new conservation area in keeping with First Nations traditional use and ecological sensitivities.

In the Southern Interior, we partnered with rancher Agnes Jackson to protect 1,300 acres (525 hectares) of native grassland in BC’s Nicola Valley. Napier Lake Ranch is strategically located along a flyway for many species of birds and connects to other conservation properties across the Douglas Lake Plateau – a large area designated as an Important Bird Area for its diversity. This project was NCC’s 100th conservation success in British Columbia!

“Grasslands provide habitat for more endangered species than any other ecosystem,” says Jackson. “Keeping large tracts of land intact is really the only way to protect them. Cows, grouse and burrowing owls can all live together. We should encourage diversity, not monoculture.”

Also in the Southern Interior, we added a fourth parcel to the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area near Osoyoos. This important conservation assembly now spans 3,340 acres (1,350 hectares) of one of BC’s rarest ecosystems: native grasslands.

And in the East Kootenay, we added to existing conservation lands with the acquisition of Pine Butte South: a healthy complex of native grassland, ponderosa pine woodlands and wetlands situated in a provincially-recognized wildlife corridor. Pine Butte South and the surrounding conservation lands provide key winter range for elk and deer, and habitat for badger and Lewis’s woodpecker (both species at risk).

Phil Vernon

Finding a graceful solution

Grace Islet is small — less than an acre in size — but it has a big history.

For many centuries the islet was used by various Coast Salish nations as a burial site, until it passed into private ownership in 1913. It remained undeveloped until 2014, when the then-landowner began to build a home on the islet despite the presence of at least 16 burial cairns.

In response to the significant concern over residential development on Grace Islet, which was voiced by local Coast Salish leaders as well as the broader public, the Province of British Columbia partnered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to negotiate a settlement with the landowner. Negotiations were successful and led to NCC assuming the care and management of Grace Islet in February 2015, in collaboration with nine Coast Salish groups who have historically used Grace Islet.

In addition to its cultural value, Grace Islet contains important Garry oak habitat, including 200-year-old juniper trees, the rare yellow variety of chocolate lily and Douglas-fir. The islet’s marine environment supports herring and other marine life, and its intertidal zone contains sea grass meadows that are particularly valuable spawning habitat and are in decline region-wide.

Richard McGuire/Osoyoos Times

Bat blitz!

With white-nose syndrome devastating bat populations across eastern North America, bat biologists in British Columbia are scrambling to document bat populations across the province in an effort to prepare for when – not if – the deadly fungus arrives west of the Rockies.

In May, close to 30 volunteer biologists from British Columbia and Alberta camped out on the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area. They had travelled there to compile an inventory of bat species found on these lands. Sage and Sparrow offers ideal habitat for an estimated 14 bat species, some of which are extremely rare and appear nowhere else in Canada.

During four sleepless nights the biologists netted and identified  70 bats from 11 different species, including an endangered pallid bat.

“I was over the moon,” said biologist Leigh Anne Isaac about finding the pallid bat. “For me personally, it’s something I’ve never seen before, so I immediately started acting like a six-year-old with that sense of wonder.”

This research helps us establish a benchmark on bat populations in this ecosystem. It will guide our conservation management in the area, instruct us how best to protect bat habitats and help us in future recovery efforts when population numbers are low.