Valley conservation program gaining national exposure

A new agricultural and ecological maintenance and conservation program can proudly say it calls the Kootenays home.

A new agricultural and ecological maintenance and conservation program can proudly say it calls the Kootenays home.

The new Ecological Services Initiative (ESI), is a producer-led approach to conservation activities, providing financial incentives to farmers who adopt beneficial management practices on their lands.

The ESI was originally fostered by the Windermere District Farmers’ Institute, and had its official launch party at the Granville Public Market November 17. What may have caused more than a few people to stop was the presence of a 2,000 lb bull named Rambo, that ESI co-ordinator David Zehnder says, “provided an interesting backdrop.”

“The concept is about working with farmers to enhance parts of their farms that produce things like clean water, clean air and wildlife habitats,” Zehnder said. “We want to get these concepts demonstrated in order to provoke discussion and get a long term program set up for farms in B.C. and across Canada.”

The institute’s current approach is to demonstrate some of these conservation practices across the region. University researchers, including economists, then study the projects to measure results.

One current project in the Lower Mainland involves enhancing salmon habitats on farms, and then paying the farmers and producers small sums of money to maintain these areas.

“The initiative has really taken off provincially, and we’re also getting calls from the US as well,” Zehnder said. “The focus is to get this tool available to a lot of people… its considered to be one of the ways that ecology is heading in the future. With seven billion people on the planet you have to find a way to produce food and maintain the ecosystems that provide that food at the same time.”

Zehnder says that almost weekly there are new opportunities for projects across both the valley and nationwide, as members of the Alberta Institute for Land Use Innovation have also come calling, as Zehnder says Alberta really doesn’t have any programs of this nature.

“It’s really exciting, because (the initiative) has tremendous potential to enhance everyone’s quality of life and our environment,” Zehnder said. “It’s really about enhancing food security and ecological integrity at the same time, and we have huge hopes for its potential.”

For more information about the ESI, visit http://gorsuch.ca/EGS/2011/04/26/welcome/.

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