The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is aiming to close out their efforts to conserve Columbia Lake Lot 48 with one final push.
“It’s an amazing piece of land,” said Nancy Newhouse, Canadian Rockies Program Manager for the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Lot 48, located five kilometres south of Fairmont Hot Springs, is an ecologically and culturally sensitive parcel of land over 300 acres located on the eastern shore of Columbia Lake.
Efforts to conserve the property first began in 2005, when the land’s private owners made plans to create a golf resort in the area. This began a back-and-forth discussion that resulted in the Regional District of East Kootenday (RDEK) down-zoning the land to agricultural use only. In 2010, the longtime owners then petitioned the regional district to work with them to find a solution that would both protect the land and compensate the owners financially.
The NCC then began negotiations to purchase the land at a $7.2 million price tag that includes funds to create a stewardship endowment for long-term management of the property.
To date, the NCC has raised 95 per cent of the necessary funds and — with a deadline of June 1, 2012 — are now turning to local communities and major funders alike in an effort to raise the final $366,000.
“It’s really exciting to be this close,” said Newhouse. “There are so many layers about this project that are exciting, but for us, in part, it’s just how much it has brought all different interests together… it’s really a classic example of effective partnership.”
A large variety of groups and organizations have supported the project over the years, including but not limited to the Columbia Basin Trust, the Regional District of East Kootenay, BC Hydro Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and a number of local groups and organizations.
“[Lot 48] is hugely significant because it lays at the headwaters of the whole Columbia system,” Newhouse said. “This 315 acre parcel will connect and create an 18,000 acre conservation network on the east side of the lake.”
Aside from the land being an important habitat for animals such as elk, bighorn sheep, badgers, grizzly bears, black bears, cougars and bobcats, the land also holds special significance for the Ktunaxa Nation, as for thousands of years the Ktunaxa used the area as a transportation route and, to this day, archaeological evidence of this 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 in a March release. “It is the foundation of the Ktunaxa Creation Story, and has been used by our people for thousands of years.”
The NCC is now asking any and all individuals who are interested in seeing this parcel of land conserved to make a donation. Newhouse said a large number of people had expressed interest in being a part of the solution in the past, but they were unable to accept donations up until this point as they were not 100 per cent confident the project would go through. Now, with the final goal of $7.2 million so close, the NCC is hopeful they can raise the necessary funds by June 1.
“Protecting Lot 48 is essential to maintaining the integrity of the entire east side of the lake forever,” Newhouse said. “This is an opportunity for everyone who cares about this amazing property to show their support in ways great or small.”
To donate, or to learn more about the efforts to conserve Lot 48, contact Newhouse at (250) 342-5521 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.