Home » NCC and partners join forces to protect critical grassland habitat in the Columbia Valley

Posted: September 16, 2011

NCC and partners join forces to protect critical grassland habitat in the Columbia Valley

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), regional and national funding partners, and the local community have come together to secure Marion Creek Benchlands, a 504-acre (204-hectare) native grassland property perched on the benchlands above Columbia Lake.

Marion Creek Benchlands sits on the west side of Columbia Lake, and affords spectacular vistas of the Rocky Mountains and the internationally significant Columbia Wetlands. The property hosts an incredible diversity of habitats, including grasslands, wetlands, deciduous forests and ecologically unique cold springs. This mosaic of habitat types supports an abundance of native wildlife and plant species such as American badger, spotted frog, wood duck, common butterwort and Rocky Mountain elk.

Recognizing the incredible natural value of Marion Creek Benchlands, many groups and individuals rallied around this conservation project. Columbia Basin Trust (CBT), East Kootenay Wildlife Association, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Government of Canada, the Regional District of East Kootenay’s Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund and others have contributed to the $1.7 million required to protect these benchlands in perpetuity.

Now that the property is secured, the Nature Conservancy of Canada will conduct a complete inventory of the ecological values on the property, which will form the basis for a property management plan that will take into account environmental, First Nation and community values.

“I am thrilled that so many people and organizations have come together to make this project a success,” said Nancy Newhouse, Canadian Rockies Program Manager for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “This important tract of grassland habitat will now be protected thanks to the foresight and generosity of the local community and our partners.”

Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of Environment, stated, “This acquisition marks another achievement under our government’s Natural Areas Conservation Program. With this investment, we are taking real action to protect and conserve our ecosystems and sensitive species for present and future generations. Your actions today will help to protect the abundance and variety of life that will constitute an integral part of our natural heritage tomorrow.”

“We are extremely happy to be a part of this project given its ecological importance,” said Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program crew lead and senior wildlife biologist John Krebs. “Land acquisition is just one of the many tools we are using to ensure that biodiversity is maintained in the region for generations to come.”

“CBT is pleased it was able to provide resources to support the costs associated with purchasing the Marion Creek Benchlands for conservation purposes,” said Neil Muth, CBT President and CEO. “We are committed to the stewardship of the Basin’s natural assets and protecting these important lands will mean Basin residents can enjoy them for generations to come.”

“The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation is proud to provide $250,000 to NCC to help purchase this valuable property,” said Dr. Winifred Kessler, Chair of the Foundation. “The property provides critical habitat connections between existing conservation lands, and also provides non-motorized recreational opportunities for hunters, hikers and others.”


Grasslands support over 30% of species at risk in British Columbia.

Marion Creek Benchlands bridges two existing conservation areas: The Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Thunder Hill Ranch and McKersie covenant lands, and The Nature Trust of BC’s Columbia Lake – Westside property. Together these properties form an unbroken natural corridor that spans more than 30 square kilometres.

Threats to the property include residential development and invasive species.

The conservation of Marion Creek Benchlands brings the total amount of land protected in the Columbia Valley by the Nature Conservancy of Canada to over 6,400 acres (2,600 hectares).

Find Marion Creek Benchlands background information online.

Since 1981, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation has provided more than $130 million in project funding to more than 2,700 conservation, enhancement, and educational projects across BC. In the past five years alone, the Foundation has invested over $5 million in conservation projects throughout the Kootenay region using funding provided by the anglers, hunters, guide‐outfitters and trappers of British Columbia. www.hctf.ca

By Lesley Marian Neilson

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