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Posted: January 20, 2016

Valley’s oldest working ranch to be protected

Largest covenant NCC has established in British Columbia

A conservation-minded couple has partnered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to protect 11,192 acres (4,529 hectares) of grasslands on their Columbia Valley ranch located 12 km south of Invermere.

Bob and Barb Shaunessy are the owners of SRL-K2 Ranch, a working cattle ranch that dates back to 1898. The couple has spent years restoring the ranch’s grasslands to their former vitality, efforts which have culminated in the establishment of a conservation covenant on a large portion of the ranchlands.

Their time as ranch owners has echoed that of the Hartwig family, the previous property owners, particularly that of long-time valley environmentalist / conservationist Kat Hartwig.

Photos by Richard Klafki
Photos by Richard Klafki

The conservation covenant, which is held by NCC, protects the lands from the biggest ecological threats that valley-bottom lands in the East Kootenay face: subdivision and development. Located on the west side of Lake Windermere, the SRL-K2 Ranch Conservation Project ensures that much of the west side will remain free of the development pressures that have significantly altered the ecology of the east side of the lake.

“This conservation project protects high-value lands for elk, badger, grizzlies and other wide-roaming animals that move through the Columbia Valley. These are animals that residents of the area hold near and dear to our hearts, and ensuring they can move safely across and through the valley is so important,” said Nancy Newhouse, Director of Conservation and Canadian Rockies Program Director for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “At more than 11,000 acres, the SLR-K2 Ranch conservation covenant is also now the largest covenant that the Nature Conservancy of Canada holds in British Columbia. We are very grateful to be working with Bob and Barb Shaunessy to realize our shared commitment to creating a conservation legacy on these valley-bottom lands.”

“Ever since purchasing the ranch we have been committed to restoring and conserving this land,” said Bob Shaunessy. “As the oldest working cattle ranch in the Columbia Valley, dating to 1898, the K2 Ranch deserved to be restored to her former glory. We are delighted that our partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada means that this property will remain intact over the long term.”

SRL K2 Ranch Conservation Area 3 Richard Klafki NCCThe Shaunessys have long welcomed non-motorized use of parts of their property, and are currently working with the regional district to establish a Legacy Trail that would cross through the covenanted land and connect Invermere to Fairmont Hot Springs.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada will continue to work closely with the Shaunessys to enhance the conservation value of the lands and to support the habitat needs of the wildlife that rely on this area for feeding and breeding. In particular, these lands are frequented by wide-ranging animals moving both east-west and north-south through the valley, including elk, deer, badger, bobcat and bear.

This project was generously supported by a number of local agencies: the Columbia Basin Trust, the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and the Regional District of East Kootenay. Funding was also provided by the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program.

“Our government is taking real action to protect Canada’s natural treasures. By working together and investing in our environment, we will build a Canada that we are proud of for many generations to come,” stated Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

The SRL-K2 Ranch Conservation Project would not have been possible without the considerable financial, strategic and visionary contributions of Bob and Barb Shaunessy, the NCC noted today in a media release.

With the preservation of this property, most of the west side of Lake Windermere is now under some form of protection, from Windermere Lake Provincial Park to Highway 93/95 at Dutch Creek.

The property borders two areas already protected with the Nature Trust of BC’s Hoodoo-Hofert property and Windermere Lake Provincial Park (formerly Sunshine Ranch).

Among the natural attributes of the property are wetlands that support foraging and breeding habitat for several waterfowl species, including Barrow’s goldeneye, hooded merganser, mallard and ruddy duck, the NCC noted, adding, the open forest and grasslands support high value winter range for elk and deer, as well habitat for several rare and at-risk species, including the nationally-endangered American badger.

The NCC is Canada’s leading land conservation organization, working to protect important natural areas and the species they sustain.

Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect more than 2.8 million acres (over 1.1 million hectares), coast-to-coast. More than one quarter of that area is in British Columbia.

The Government of Canada’s Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) is a unique public-private partnership led by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. To date, $345 million has been invested in the NACP by the Government of Canada to secure our natural heritage. Additionally, more than $400 million in matching contributions has been raised by NCC and its partners.


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