Hiking in the Yukon. Image: Pat Morrow
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Sara Renner, Y2Y supporter

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Helping north Idaho keep its cool

New grants fund a novel approach to climate adaptation.

New grants fund a novel approach to climate adaptation.

North Idaho’s idyllic Kootenai Valley near the U.S.–Canada border is a wetland habitat for migrating ducks, geese and swans.

Previously this area suffered decades of major land use change, transforming what was once forest into a managed landscape of agriculture and cattle grazing, impacting the ecosystem’s ability to adapt to the hotter, drier climate conditions forecasted for this region. And now, this valley in the southern end of the Yellowstone to Yukon region begins its next chapter.

Working with project partner Idaho Fish and Game, Y2Y plans to go one step further with an ambitious plan to help sensitive species in the valley’s Boundary-Smith Creek Wildlife Management Area adapt to our changing climate.

Thanks to a $224,624 grant from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s award-winning Climate Adaptation Fund, with support to establish the fund provided by a grant to the Wildlife Conservation Society from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.This is one of three grants for the project totaling more than $550,000.

Planning is now underway to find bold solutions to adjust to a warming climate. For example, to create shade and provide food sources, area managers will plant 50,000 new trees and shrubs and sow native wildflowers.

This work will help large wide-ranging wildlife such as grizzly bears that travel between the Selkirk and Purcell mountain ranges, to tiny native bumblebees and the rare pale jumping slug, all species that need cool air and moist soil to thrive.

Ultimately, we hope these restoration efforts will improve habitat quality and connectivity for many species in this important ecological linkage zone.

“Our goal is to restore a portion of the forested wetland to habitat for pollinator species and native amphibians,” says Y2Y project coordinator Lacy Robinson.

A changing climate has encouraged invasive bullfrogs to move north into this region, where they outcompete native amphibians. The solution?

“We’re really excited about a new technique to create ephemeral ponds,” says Lacy.

These special waterways are designed to dry out each year. Since bullfrog tadpoles need two years to become adults and the toads and frogs native to the area only need one, the strategy will keep competing bullfrog numbers in check. Wildlife biologists want to keep them from reaching the northern leopard frog’s last outpost in the northwest part of their range in Creston wildlife management area just across the Canadian border in B.C.

The Idaho Conservation League will also engage by bringing citizen-scientists to collect wildflower seeds, monitor temperatures, and conduct frog and pollinator surveys.

In the face of climate change, involving local people in climate adaption strategies will boost another endangered species: hope.

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