Restoring grassland and open forest habitat in our Columbia Region

Project Year: 2019-2020

Multi-year Project

View Provincial Database Record

Photo: iStock

Project Lead



Columbia Region

East Kootenay

Project Type

Habitat-Based Actions

FWCP Contribution


Action Plan Alignment

Upland & Dryland Action Plan

Project ID


ʔaq̓am ecosystem enhancement project

This project will restore a natural Ponderosa Pine ecosystem and enhance a wildlife corridor/linkage, while managing for ecosystem threats, including wildfire and invasive plants. This project will benefit several species, including Long-billed Curlew, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Flammulated Owl, Common Nighthawk, Yellow Badger, Williamson’s Sapsucker, and Little Brown Bat. Potentially Scarlet Gaura, Scarlet Globe Mallow, Prairie Gold Bean, Hairstem Ground Smoke, and Flat Top Broom Rape.

Update: ʔaq̓am records over 700 wildlife trees

ʔaq’am is starting a five-year project to turn a dense Douglas-fir forest into open range and open forest to benefit flammulated owls, long-billed curlews, Lewis’s woodpeckers, common nighthawks, and yellow badgers.

The ecosystem restoration project is on ʔaq’am’s Indian Reserve, near Cranbrook. Adjacent lands have already been restored and the planned thinning and burning treatments will support important wildlife corridors for bears and ungulates.

ʔaq’am, an Indigenous community—formerly St. Mary’s Indian Band—within the traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation, is leading the project. It has completed planning, mapping, and an archaeological overview assessment, and identified 725 wildlife trees to be conserved and inventoried. An inventory of species at risk frequently detected fringed myotis bat, a Blue-listed species with very few previous records in the East Kootenay.

Extensive flammulated owl activity was recorded and project biologists believe that ʔaq’am is still the only location where these at-risk birds reside in the East Kootenay west of the Kootenay River.

Returning the landscape to more open-forest habitat and re-introducing prescribed burns will also help local communities by reducing the risk of future catastrophic wildfires.

News Release Ponderosa Pine Jun 27 2019


Final report: executive summary

ʔaq̓am’s 5-year Ecosystem Enhancement project will apply forest thinning and prescribed fire to enhance ecosystem function and restore natural processes to over 1,300 hectares of habitat on lands forming Kootenay Indian Reserve No. 1 (Kootenay IR 1). Classified as a Natural Disturbance Type 4 ecosystem, these lands historically saw frequent, stand-maintaining fires consume fine fuels and revitalize plant communities for the benefit of wildlife forage, nesting and travel corridors. A century of fire suppression has seen these fires (both cultural and natural) removed from the landscape resulting in overstocking, grassland encroachment and an overall loss in ecosystem function for wildlife Species at Risk.

2019-2020 marked the first year of this multi-year project. Activities in this year focused on pretreatment data collection, analysis and treatment planning, including: Archaeological Overview Assessment, Species at Risk Inventory, Effectiveness Monitoring Plot Installation, Wildlife Tree Assessment, Invasive Plant Inventory, Block Boundary and Road Layout, and Prescription Development.


Click the provincial database link below to read the full final report for this project.

View more about this project on the provincial database