Update: Another 20 hectares of grassland and forest treated on Tobacco Plains Indian Reserve
Keefer Ecological Services Ltd. and Tobacco Plains Indian Band are working together to restore grassland and open forest habitat. The area is home to several federal at-risk species, including Spalding’s Campion, American Badger, Lewis’s Woodpecker, and Long-billed Curlew. It provides important grazing habitat for Mule Deer and Rocky Mountain Elk. Restoring grassland and open forest habitat to help these species is a priority for the FWCP.
Invasive plants pose a significant challenge to restoration activities. For example, Sulphur Cinquefoil is widespread throughout the reserve, dominating over 700 hectares of grassland. It’s also found in open forests, past burns, logged areas, and along roadsides. Goat grazing — an alternative to herbicides— is being used, and in 2018, a further 18 hectares of land was successfully treated by goats.
Given the large infestations of spotted knapweed that act as seed sources, management efforts are focused on controlling its spread rather than eradicating it from the reserve. Other plants being treated or monitored include Leafy Spurge, Orange Hawkweed, Canada Thistle, Yellow Toadflax, Scentless Chamomile, and Field Bindweed.
Forest encroachment is another factor that threatens open grassland habitat. In 2018, an ecomulcher was used, in addition to manual thinning, to manage forest encroachment on about two hectares within Tobacco Plains Indian Reserve. The project was funded through the Upper Kootenay Ecosystem Enhancement Plan — a partnership between the Columbia Basin Trust and FWCP.
Tobacco Plains grassland and open forest restoration
Invasive plant control on grasslands and open forests on Tobacco Plains Indian Reserve (TPIR) will improve habitat for multiple species, including ungulates; support rare and threatened species recovery; improve habitat connectivity with surrounding Provincial Crown land; and engage First Nations and community members in land stewardship. This is year four of a proposed five-year project collaboration between Keefer Ecological Services Ltd. (KES) and Tobacco Plains Indian Band (TPIB). Year one identified distribution and density of invasive plant infestations on TPIR and steps for invasive plant management. Years two and three involved treating and monitoring infested areas, and year four will continue treatment and monitoring to restore grassland and open forest habitat.
Final report: executive summary
Tobacco Plains Indian Reserve (TPIR) is located within the southern Rocky Mountain Trench and spans 5,261 ha of historically fire-regulated grassland and open forested ecosystems. The reserve provides winter range for mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and elk (Cervus canadensis). As well, TPIR is home to several federally listed species at risk, including American badger (Taxidea taxus), Lewis’s woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis), long-billed curlew (Numenius americanus), and the Spalding’s campion (Silene spaldingii) plant. Forest encroachment and ingrowth threaten each of these species and invasive plant species directly threaten Spalding’s campion and longbilled curlew habitat and also reduce habitat quality for ungulates.
Keefer Ecological Services Ltd. (KES) and Tobacco Plains Indian Band (TPIB) have worked to recover critical grassland and open forest habitat on TPIR since 2006. Efforts in 2018 focused on invasive plant management, including herbicide application and targeted goat grazing, and forest thinning. Efforts align with the Upper Kootenay Ecosystem Enhancement Plan (UKEEP), specifically, actions under the Upland and Dryland Areas and Species of Interest Action Plans. Under these Action Plans, conducting ecosystem restoration efforts, such as forest thinning, to support species of interest, including American badger, Lewis’s woodpecker, long-billed curlew, mule deer, white-tailed deer, and elk, as well as invasive plant monitoring and management, are priorities.
Click the provincial database link below to read the full final report for this project.