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Feds, BC invest in expansion of Darkwoods Conservation Area

The announcement increases the essential habitat in the Darkwoods area for close to 40 confirmed species at risk, including grizzly bear, wolverine, peregrine falcon, mountain caribou and whitebark pine. — Submitted photo

The Kootenays received a major contribution to support habitat conservation in the Selkirk Mountain Range between Nelson and Creston following a major announcement Wednesday in Victoria.

The Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia announced total $14.65 million ($7 million from the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program and $7.65 million from the Province of British Columbia) to be used to support the addition of 7,900 hectares (19,500 acres) to the Darkwoods Conservation Area between Nelson and Creston.

This funding will help to expand Darkwoods by 14 per cent and bring essential habitat for dozens of species at risk under conservation management. It will enhance protection within the world’s only inland temperate rainforest.

“There has never been a more important time to invest in the natural areas that sustain us all,” said John Lounds, president and CEO, Nature Conservancy of Canada.

“We are grateful to the Governments of Canada and British Columbia for their bold commitments to the expansion of the Darkwoods Conservation Area. The investment kick starts our work in the Next Creek watershed and is a catalyst for conservation of global significance.” 

Lounds was joined by Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada and George Heyman, BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy for the media briefing in Victoria.

The Darkwoods expansion will conserve lands in the Next Creek watershed in the heart of the former Darkwoods Forestry lands.

The watershed is nestled in the heart of the Darkwoods conservation area but remains an unprotected private forestry property. Darkwoods and Next Creek are located along Kootenay Lake, between Nelson and Creston. The threat of industrial or recreational activity makes the acquisition of this area in the Next Creek Watershed NCC’s highest conservation priority in BC. Darkwoods provides essential habitat for close to 40 confirmed species at risk, including grizzly bear, wolverine, peregrine falcon, mountain caribou and whitebark pine. 

“Canadians love nature,” said the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada.  

“By doubling Canada’s amount of protected nature, we are safeguarding our natural heritage, growing a clean economy and reducing pollution. This important expansion of Darkwoods will not only protect nature and the wildlife that depend on it, it will also increase conservation measures for the only inland temperate rainforest in the entire world. By working together, we can ensure a healthy and prosperous future for our kids and grandkids.” 

The Darkwoods expansion is part of NCC’s initiative to raise and invest at least $25 million to significantly expand its conservation work in the Canadian Rockies region. NCC is a national land trust. It aims to acquire more land for conservation, undertake restoration of high priority degraded sites and work with partners to protect natural areas and the species and ecological systems they contain. 

“The British Columbia government is proud to support the important work of the Nature Conservancy of Canada,” said George Heyman, BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

“The joint investment in the Next Creek watershed property between NCC and the provincial and federal governments reflects the shared commitment to preserve lands essential to protect threatened species. B.C. has already achieved our targets as part of the national land conservation objective, but today’s investment shows we will continue to make meaningful contributions to conservation and biodiversity.” ~ 

To learn more and to donate, go to natureconservancy.ca/darkwoods.

Facts

  • Conserving wildlife corridors in the Canadian Rockies is essential to the long-term viability of wide-ranging mammals such as grizzly and black bear, elk, wolverine, caribou, bighorn sheep and mountain goat. 
  • Expanding Darkwoods by acquiring the Next Creek property is an opportunity to undertake a substantial restoration plan for previously logged portions of the Next Creek property. 
  • The conservation of the Next Creek watershed will grow a network of conservation lands in the South Selkirk Mountains to more than 1,100 km². 
  • This network is anchored by NCC’s Darkwoods Conservation Area, which was established in 2008. At the time, Darkwoods made history as the single largest private acquisition for conservation in Canadian history. 
  • The unique forests found here, sometimes known as snow forests because they receive most of their moisture from the snowpack, harbour the highest tree diversity in BC. 
  • Darkwoods and Next Creek feed 17 watersheds and more than 120 alpine lakes. The freshwater systems are important for the overall health of fisheries in Kootenay Lake. 
  • Darkwoods and Next Creek are located in the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa, the Syilx and the Sinixt peoples.
  • NCC’s $25 million Canadian Rockies conservation initiative is part of the organization’s $750 million Landmark Campaign, the largest charitable investment in conservation in Canadian history. The Landmark Campaign will help us to conserve more land faster, connect more Canadians to nature and inspire the next generation of conservation leaders

A map shows the purchase of land that completes the protected lands. — Submitted

The natural beauty of the Darkwoods property is forever protected. — Submitted photo