Upper Kootenay wetlands-at-risk restoration project
This project will test a rapid wetland health assessment field technique in range areas of the East Kootenay. These rapid assessment methods (Hansen et al., 2000) have been developed through decades of field research in Montana and are achievable with minimal training. Rapid wetland health assessments are the first step toward simple restoration efforts, such as exclusion fencing, off-site watering, treatment of invasive plants, and the restoration of water levels through mechanical methods. Smaller, more isolated wetlands in the driest habitat are likely the most critical for species and ecosystem health (and for cattle watering), and so these will be emphasized.
32 wetlands assessed as “seed” project grows
There’s thinking big, and then there’s thinking really big. In 2016, wildlife biologist, Jakob Dulisse, received an FWCP seed grant to develop his idea to restore and protect small wetlands in the Upper Kootenay River watershed. Then, in 2017, field testing was implemented with the help of a large project grant from the FWCP, with funding from the Columbia Basin Trust under the Upper Kootenay Ecosystem Enhancement Plan (UKEEP).
Dulisse used the rapid Wetland Health Assessment protocol, developed in Montana and Alberta that enables field workers to quickly score the relative ecological function of riparian areas (wetlands, lakes, and creeks), based on a rigorous scientific scoring system. This is critical because biologists need to know the effectiveness of any restoration treatment implemented, such as fence installation, alternative drinking sources for cattle, or the removal of invasive species. The wetlands are assessed both pre- and post-treatment. This assessment method is effective, efficient, and engages local stewards.
Due to the success of this field testing, when 32 small wetlands were assessed, the Province of B.C. is now interested in expanding the work to a larger provincial scale. It is working with BC Wildlife Federation’s Wetlands Education Program (WEP) to develop a province-wide protocol.
Columbia Region wetlands were significantly impacted by reservoirs resulting from construction of BC Hydro dams, and Libby Dam in the United States. This project aligns with UKEEP’s Wetland Action Plan.
Now, across the province, it appears that many more wetlands, and the species that call them home, will benefit from this work that started with an FWCP seed grant.