Wetlands partnership continues to make a splash

Local conservation organization Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partnership (CWSP) continues to move forward.

Local conservation organization Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partnership (CWSP) continues to move forward.

The partnership involves more than 30 valley groups from a wide range of sectors as well as municipal governments. Several months ago it welcomed a new president — Brisco resident and University of Alberta ecologist Suzanne Bayley.

“It’s fantastic that we have the kind of partnership we do. We have a representative from just about every single group in the valley that has an interest in the wetlands,” said Ms. Bayley. “It (the Partnership) really does gets its strength from having all the major players all coming to consensus. That’s what makes it so valuable. We’ve also had excellent support from a whole fleet of private landowners.”

The partnership was formed in 2007 to help the Province manage the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area. It has since had a hand in a number of projects that both help users appreciate the wetlands (such as its downloadable river guides) and help to further scientific knowledge of the area with

research.

“With the river guides, we felt that the Columbia River is quite an interesting river and we have a lot of people coming here to canoe, but the river is complex, with multiple channels, so why not create a guide, one that people can pick the section of the river they want and then print it out?” said Ms. Bayley.

The partnership’s latest project is trying to bring the northern leopard frog back to the wetlands.

“Right now, we’re trying to get enough tadpoles to survive into adulthood that the species can be reintroduced,” Ms. Bayley, adding that other science-based projects include simply gathering data on the Columbia Wetlands, which are in such good condition that they have not been studied as much as more at-risk wetlands.

“It’s (the wetland) almost too good for its own good. It’s a beautiful, relatively intact wetland — one of the best in Western Canada — and as a consequence there’s really been relatively little research done on it. Research often tends to focus on wetlands that are in more immediate danger. So we want to get to know it better, to ensure we continue to manage it well,” said Ms. Bayley. “It’s good to have a healthy wetland, but there could be threats coming down the pipe. One of the things we are concerned about is climate change and how that might affect our wetland. We don’t have any information about that.”

The key to the Columbia Wetlands’ considerable biodiversity is its high variation of habitat, with some areas flooding seasonally and other drained most of the time, according to  Ms. Bayley.

Another important aspect is the naturally occurring levees in the wetlands.

“Without those levees, we wouldn’t have a wetland, but we don’t know much about them yet,” she said.

Ms. Bayley said the Columbia Wetlands are unique compared with other large East Kootenay wetlands, such as those in Creston and Bummer Flats, since those others are managed by humans (with water pumped in and drained) while the Columbia Wetlands are more or less completely natural.

Other projects involving the partnership include the Dutch Creek stream restoration proposal; the Fairmont Hot Springs riparian habitat enhancement; the annual Columbia Salmon Festival; the Wilmer slough cleanup; the Habitat Linkage project; examining the impact of human activities on river levees and perched wetlands; the northern leopard frog habitat assessment; water monitoring in the Upper Columbia watershed; dealing with invasive species; combating noxious weeds on private lands; developing soil science; creating an Adaptive Management Strategy for the area; conducting a photo plot survey; developing the “Columbia Wetlands: A Natural Inspiration” art project; and a firefly project.

To learn more and to download the updated river guide, visit www.cwsp.ca.

 

CWSP members include:

Parks Canada

Canadian Wildlife Service

Ministry of Transport (federal)

Ministry of Environment (provincial)

Akisqnuk First Nation

University of Alberta

Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) staff and electied officials

Various municipal elected officials (from Canal Flats, Radium Hot Springs, Invermere and Golden)

Wildsight (Golden and Invermere

Golden Outdoor Rec Association

Golden District Rod and Gun Club

Brisco Recreation Society

Friends of the Columbia Wetlands

Residents of the Upper Columbia River Group

Windermere District Farmers’ Institute

Canal Flats Rod and Gun Club

Windermere District Rod and Gun Club

Wings Over the Rockies

Lake Windermere Ambassadors

Nature Conservancy of Canada

Greenways Trail Alliance

B.C. Trappers’ Association

Tourism Golden

Golden Heritage Tourism Group

various guides and outfitters

various commercial tourism operators

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