A Mini Documentary: Wetlands Conservation through Private Land Stewardship in the Kootenays

Last summer, the WEP team travelled to the Kootenay Region to visit and interview several of the private landowners who had worked with the B.C. Wildlife Federation in the past to create and restore wetlands on their property.  

We met and interviewed the people behind four incredible wetlands conservation projects on private land to share their stories and experiences with us.

Private land stewardship is what happens when landowners make a personal commitment to conserving and stewarding the natural areas on their land. These stewards play a pivotal role in conserving Canada’s wild spaces. With 9.7% of Canada’s land being private property, restoring and conserving wetlands on private land is crucial to protecting these at-risk ecosystems and the value they provide for both wildlife and humans. Over the past ten years, the Wetlands Education Program (WEP) has worked with private landowners across British Columbia to build, conserve and restore wetlands. 

The landowners took this opportunity to share the benefits, challenges, and motivations for restoring wetlands on their own land. Each restoration project had its own set of requirements, the one thing they all had in common was that these landowners had a powerful impact that improved their land, and often inspired their community as well. 

Judi Morton and Alex Berland have lived on Tulaberry Farm, a certified organic farm in the Slocan Valley which rests alongside the Little Slocan River, for over 40 years. The low-lying land near the river used to be a beaver-maintained wetland, however the transition to a more mature coniferous forest stand and a lack of food led the beavers to abandon the site several years ago. The dam was later washed away following an unusually high spring freshet. After noticing the impact losing the dam had on the local wildlife, the pair invited B.C. Wildlife Federation staff and volunteers to their property in 2013 to construct 0.17 hectares of marsh and swamp wetland habitat, in addition to restoring a shallow open water wetland.  

Although building a wetland on private property begins as an individual decision, it has the potential to not only positively impact wildlife, but also share the importance and benefits of conservation in a way that connects with their neighbours and the people in their communities. Terry and Michele Halleran own a farm in Meadow Creek, which is where Duncan Lake and the north end of the Kootenay Lake meet. The two created a total of 19 wetlands on their property, totaling 2.9 hectares, and have restored up to 30 wetlands on their property. Initially, their project was met by uncertainty in their community: 

Despite the initial opposition, the Halleran’s continued to restore and build wetlands on their property. The reaction to the project changed when neighbours noticed that the Halleran’s could use the extra soil from the restoration to lift and improve farmland that was otherwise unusable.  Terry cites that people seeing oats grow on land that used to barely support grass as a turnaround moment for the community, which sparked others to do conservation work on their properties as well:  

According to Terry and Michele, this project is one of the largest wetland restoration projects on private land in Canada. With the Halleran’s property being one of the last remaining wetlands on the flats between Duncan Dam and the Kootenay Lake, it has a major ecological significance, and contributes to the rich biodiversity of the region.  

This documentary and the projects and work featured within it was completed with the financial support of our funders.

Written by Dominique Bowden; adapted for this publication by Molly Dubé

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