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Lot 48 preservation celebrated on-sitePosted: July 31, 2012

Ecologically and culturally significant Columbia Lake property protected after many decades of effort

(See photo gallery at bottom of story.)

It was a day many thought would never come.

The back and forth and up and down issue that is Lot 48 has come to a conclusion that the majority of people feel is the best and wisest course – complete preservation.

On July 23 the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and its funding and project partners celebrated the completion of their bid to conserve the ecologically and culturally important property on the east shore of Columbia Lake, with a special celebration on the property.

From being zoned for a golf resort, to forced back-zoning by the Regional District of East Kootenay to steer clear of a searing hot backlash from First Nations, which consider the east side of Columbia Lake spiritually and culturally significant, as well as to dodge road concerns and environmental  worries, to the sale to a new owner who sought to make a land swap with the province, to finally NCC’s concerted push to obtain the property – Lot 48 has been a hot button issue in the Columbia Valley and region for more than two decades.

The NCC had to dig deep and go far and wide in order to secure the property, with Teck Resources recently providing a $2 million boost to push them over the top – bringing their $7.2 million target within range.

Major support for Lot 48 has come from Columbia Basin Trust, Regional District of East Kootenay, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP), Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Teck, the BC Government and the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, as well as many other groups and individuals.

“Protecting Lot 48 is essential to maintaining the integrity of the entire east side of the lake forever,” said Nancy Newhouse, Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Canadian Rockies program manager. “This is an incredible win for the conservation community in British Columbia, and we couldn’t have succeeded without the support of so many partners.”

Lot 48 was the last parcel not designated for conservation on the east side of the Columbia Lake.

Preventing recreational development and further road construction in the area will safeguard the many natural and cultural values of the whole eastern side of Columbia Lake, notes a NCC press release. The area supports some of the most valuable winter range for bighorn sheep, elk and other ungulates, several rare and endangered species, and is a sacred landscape to the Ktunaxa Nation.

Efforts to purchase the property have spanned decades and are supported by several regional planning initiatives.

“This acquisition marks another achievement under our government’s Natural Areas Conservation Program,” said Dan Albas, MP for Okanagan‐Coquihalla, on behalf of the Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment. “With this investment, we are taking real action to protect and conserve our country’s ecosystems and sensitive species for present and future generations.”

A host of regional, provincial and federal dignitaries were on hand July 23 at Lot 48, with commemorative speeches, entertainment from the valley’s deacon of the guitar, John Cronin, along with First Nations dancing and a riveting presentation of the Ktunaxa Creation Story by Joe Pierre Jr., who noted the significance of telling the story on “sacred land,” with the Hoodoos shining in the mid-day sun to the northwest. Representing Ktunaxa Nation chair Kathryn Teneese, who couldn’t attend, Pierre said it was a great day for his nation and the region.

“The east side of Columbia Lake is an integral part of Ktunaxa history,” said Teneese stated in a press release. “It is the foundation of the Ktunaxa Creation Story, and has been used by our people for thousands of years. Lot 48 is a significant piece of the cultural landscape of that area, and the Ktunaxa Nation has continuously supported all efforts to conserve this area for future generations. We would like to commend the Nature Conservancy of Canada and all the contributors for their work and dedication to this common goal. We now look forward to the next step of working with NCC in the development of a management plan that will ensure the long term preservation of this area.”

The gathering at Lot 48 featured some traditional opponents in the political and conservation game, but differences were put aside on this day as both sides of political line hailed the day as an important one. For example, if one was looking, they may have noticed Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett speaking with Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald, or Macdonald having a private chat with Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Steve Thomson.

Macdonald told e-KNOW he was pleased to see that differences could be set aside in order to preserve Lot 48.
RDEK Electoral Area F director Wendy Booth recently told the NCC, “A great many people have worked for many years to get to this point. I encourage anyone who cares about the cultural and natural heritage of Columbia Lake to consider lending their support to protecting Lot 48.”

Not surprisingly, Columbia Basin Trust (CBT), which provided $1 million to the effort, was well-represented at the gathering, with board chair Garry Merkel and several directors in attendance, along with president and CEO Neil Muth.

“Congratulations to the Nature Conservancy of Canada for all of their efforts to acquire this ecologically important and culturally significant parcel of land,” said Muth. “CBT encourages long‐term stewardship of the Basin’s natural assets, and we’re pleased we were able to help create an unbroken network of protected lands on the east shore of Columbia Lake.”

Lot 48 was a complicated issue well before the current RDEK board of directors assumed their seats, but board chair, Electoral Area C director Rob Gay, one of the longer serving directors, said he was honoured to be a part of the celebration.

“The Regional District of East Kootenay has long recognized the cultural and environmental significance of this land,” Gay said. “We are pleased to be able to support the purchase of Lot 48 with funding from Electoral Area F, the Columbia Valley Subregion and the entire East Kootenay region. Playing a role in the long‐term protection of this precious resource is truly an honour.”

The conservation of Lot 48 is supported by several regional planning initiatives, including the East Kootenay Conservation Program, the Regional District of East Kootenay’s Regional Growth Strategy and Fairmont Hot Springs’s Official Community Plan.

Along with the larger funding agencies and the NCC, several wildlife management bodies also poured efforts into preserving Lot 48.

“We are very happy to support the Nature Conservancy of Canada in the purchase of this property in order to continue to protect fish, wildlife and their habitats, which are priorities for the FWCP,” said FWCP‐Columbia program manager Trevor Oussoren. “It will also help maintain the cultural values of the site and allow us to build on previous conservation land investments we’ve made in the Basin.”

“Lot 48 is a critical piece of the conservation puzzle in the Columbia Valley,” noted Anna Fontana, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation vice-chair. “On behalf of the hunters, guides, trappers and anglers who fund the Foundation, I’m very pleased that we could support this purchase.”

Lot 48, easily seen from the west side of the lake, is bounded by Columbia Lake Provincial Park, the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area and the East Side Columbia Lake Wildlife Management Area.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is the nation’s leading land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962,

NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 2.6 million acres (over 1 million hectares), coast to coast. More than one quarter of these acres are in British Columbia.

Click on an image to enlarge and to begin self-directed slide show.

 Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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