Benchlands important for future

The District of Invermere’s Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) branch's office staff met at Kicking Horse Coffee Cafe on February 10 for an information session regarding their work, specifically with the conservation of the Marion Creek Benchlands.

  • Feb. 15, 2011 6:00 a.m.

The District of Invermere’s Nature Conservancy Canada (NCC) branch’s office staff met at Kicking Horse Coffee Cafe on February 10 for an information session regarding their work, specifically with the conservation of the Marion Creek Benchlands.

The Benchlands is a 504 acre plot of land, located on the west side of Columbia Lake in the Upper Columbia Valley and Rocky Mountain Trench, close to Fairmont, Canal Flats, and Invermere.

The property ranges from grassland and open Douglas fir forests to a wetland complex of marsh and riparian habitat.

Wildlife flourishes in this diverse ecosystem, and the NCC have made it a priority over the last several years to see the Benchlands preserved.

“By purchasing the Marion Creek Benchlands, the NCC can protect the property from subdivison or other development that could harm the natural features of the area,” said Nancy Newhouse, Canadian Rockies Program Manager and East Kootenay Conservation Program Chair.

The Marion Creek Benchlands is located between two other conservation lands; the Columbia Lake Westside, operated and owned by the Nature Trust of B.C., and the Thunder Hill Ranch, operated and owned by the McKersie family and the NCC.

By obtaining the Marion Creek Benchlands the two conservation areas would be connected and would allow for even greater environmental and wildlife conservation.

The connection of these three areas would create a total protected area of over 7,400 acres on the west side of Columbia Lake.

Surrounding properties of the Benchlands also help support its wetlands complex, and the connection will help create a wild land corridor, which is vitally important in the Rocky Mountain Trench to support the movement of wide-ranging animals, such as grizzly bears, elk and cougars.

The Marion Creek Benchlands also act as the home to several endangered species, such as the prairie falcon, the dryland sedge, and the badger.

The NCC must raise $1.7 million by June 20 of this year to protect the Marion Creek Benchlands, and is beginning to close in on their goal.

“Given the enthusiasm for this project by everyone we have talked to, we are confident we will reach our goal,” said Newhouse of the remaining funds needed, some of which are still pending from other organizations.

The NCC in Invermere will be having a fundraising day during the May long weekend with Spirits Reach that will involve property tours of the area, but an exact date has not yet been announced. Kicking Horse Coffee has also been promoting the cause, and the NCC are being backed by several organizations such as the Columbia Basin Trust, the Wildlife Compensation Program and BC Hydro Fish on this project as well.

“Nine per cent of all the land that’s ever been protected by the NCC across Canada is in the Kootenays,” said Newhouse. “This region maintains some of the most important wildlife habitat in the country for large mammals such as bears, elk and deer. And those of us who live here know it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world! That’s why it’s so worth protecting.”

The NCC is running an online campaign for the Marion Creek Benchlands as well. For more information, visit www.natureconservancy.ca/bc.

Invermere Valley Echo

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