A one-of-a-kind property on the eastern shores of Columbia Lake has moved one step closer to conservation.
On March 5, the Columbia Basin Trust dedicated $1 million to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to conserve Lot 48, an ecologically and culturally important private property, five kilometres south of Fairmont Hot Springs.
That’s in addition to $900,000 committed to the purchase and long-term protection of the property by the Regional District of East Kootenay last August.
Lot 48 has been considered a regional treasure for decades, but moves to protect it didn’t begin until 2005 when private owners slated plans to create a golf resort on the land.
To stop the development, the regional district tabled a rare motion to down-zone the land to an agricultural use only. The issue has gone back and forth since then, and in 2010 the private owners, who have owned the land since 1966, petitioned the regional district to work with them towards finding a solution that would both protect the land and ease their financial burden.
Since then, Area F Director Wendy Booth has worked closely with the owners, the province, the Ktunaxa and environmental groups to broker a conservation plan.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is now in negotiations to purchase Lot 48, but it comes with a $7.2 million bill to secure the property and create a stewardship endowment. The Nature Conservancy is in the process of confirming other contributions in order to complete the purchase.
Bounded by Columbia Lake Provincial Park, the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area and the East Side Columbia Lake Wildlife Management Area, Lot 48 is 127 hectares of undeveloped land.
Columbia Lake and its shoreline hold great spiritual significance to the Ktunaxa Nation. For thousands of years the Ktunaxa used the area as a transportation route to the prairies and built villages and camps there. They held ceremonial events there, plus harvested salmon, hunted game and gathered food in the area. Archaeological evidence remains, including pictographs and burial sites.
“The east side of Columbia Lake is an integral part of Ktunaxa history,” said Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Chair. “It is the foundation of the Ktunaxa Creation Story, and has been used by our people for thousands of years.
“Lot 48 is a significant piece of the cultural landscape of that area. The Ktunaxa Nation supports all efforts to conserve this area for future generations, and we would like to commend Columbia Basin Trust and the Nature Conservancy of Canada for their work and dedication to this common goal.”
Lot 48 is home to mixed forests and grasslands that provide habitat for rare and endangered animal species like badgers, owls and grizzly bears.