The Creston Valley is one of the first four focal areas of Kootenay Connect where significant conservation and restoration work has been completed to protect species at work. Photo: Steve Ogle.

What do grizzly bears, badgers, and western painted turtles have in common? They are three of the more than 30 at-risk species in the Kootenays that will continue to be helped by a large-scale habitat conservation project thanks to a big boost in federal funding.

Managed by the Kootenay Conservation Program (KCP), the Kootenay Connect Priority Places project began in 2019 as a four year project with a $2 million grant from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Community-Nominated Priority Places (CNPP) program. Kootenay Connect includes over 30 partners collaborating on over 50 restoration projects benefiting species at risk and the habitats they need for survival.

KCP recently learned the project will receive an additional $1.95 million, which will extend this habitat restoration work another three years. “Kootenay Connect is providing on the ground solutions to address the loss of biological diversity in our region,” said Marcy Mahr, KCP’s Kootenay Connect Manager. “From rolling grasslands and open dry forests to rich wetlands and towering stands of old growth cedar-hemlock, all of these habitats are essential to the day to day, seasonal, and long-term survival of the species who call the Kootenays home.”

Four landscapes totalling one million hectares have been the focus of Kootenay Connect: Bonanza Biodiversity Corridor (north of New Denver), Creston Valley, Columbia Valley Wetlands, and the Wycliffe Wildlife Corridor (north of Cranbrook).

CNPP funding will now be extended until 2026 to support conservation and restoration projects in the current areas as well as three additional hotspots for biodiversity. This funding boost will expand the Kootenay Connect project area to 16.6 million hectares, which is about 20% of the Kootenay Region.

“We’re going to see new conservation projects that address the habitat needs of more species at risk along the Slocan River, in the Duncan Lardeau Valley at the north end of Kootenay Lake, and around Columbia Lake,” explained Mahr. “It’s an exciting time for enhancing and connecting more wildlife habitat with big implications for biodiversity in the Kootenays.”

Kootenay Conservation Program