Hiking in the Yukon. Image: Pat Morrow
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"I left inspired to protect the special places in my own backyard."
Sara Renner, Y2Y supporter

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Safe Passage for Grizzlies: 95 Percent Complete

Tracked by trans-border study, grizzly bear movements were identified in three sections of undeveloped private land near B.C.’s Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area.

“It was ambitious, strategic, and based on science,” described Y2Y co-founder and strategic advisor Harvey Locke about the collaboratively-created plan to purchase private lands throughout the trans-boundary Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor (CPMC). These lands were identified as crucial to restore the entire region as a healthy conduit for wildlife movement.

“I’m overwhelmed and proud to say that, as of this November, 95 percent of the lands that were identified for protection near Creston, B.C., have been conserved. We are close to fully protecting the valley-bottom wildlife corridor,” explained Locke.

Grizzly Bear Population Under Threat

For years, the valley has been used by the South Selkirk grizzly population to move between the Selkirk and Purcell mountains. Over time a network of farmlands and other human settlement expanded into the area and put the grizzly population at risk.

Photo: Kent Nelson

Researchers concluded that between 1995 to 2004 60 percent of non-hunting grizzly bear deaths in the South Selkirk population were the result of grizzly bears being killed after they were attracted to human-produced foods including garbage, livestock and fruit trees.

With an estimate of less than 100 bears in the genetically and demographically isolated population, Y2Y and the Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor Collaborative set out to secure an area of land, called a linkage zone, where grizzlies could travel with limited interactions with humans and connect to other grizzly bear populations.

Safe Passage for Grizzlies – Expanded
Grizzly bear movements, tracked by the Trans-border Grizzly Bear Project, identified three sections of undeveloped private land, located at the south end of Duck Lake (north of Creston) and connected to the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area, which grizzlies were going out of their way to use. The area is also the only known breeding ground for the endangered northern leopard frog within B.C.

The pink and yellow lines represent the movements of two radio-collared grizzly bears in the area. Photo: courtesy of Trans-boundary Grizzly Bear Project.

The first 306 acre (123 ha) parcel of land was purchased from Creston-based Wyndel Box and Lumber in 2012 in the amount of $1.1 million.

This November two other parcels were obtained for $1.4 million, which includes an endowment to fund the long-term management of the project. One parcel is a 162-acre (65-ha) forested property on the western edge of the valley that serves as a gateway for bears moving down from the mountains. The other is a 211-acres (85-ha) lot, which is protected through a conservation covenant and prevents the subdivision of the valley-bottom land.

This protection is noteworthy as it is the first time ever that the B.C. Agricultural Lands Commission agreed to a stipulation of no fencing due to conservation concerns. The land will continue to be used for agriculture.

These properties make up the Frog Bear Conservation Corridor, named for the two key species that will benefit from the lands’ conservation.

Safe Haven for Other Species At Risk

Grizzly bears and leopard frogs are not the only species to benefit from this new conservation corridor.

The Creston Valley is the only known breeding site for the Forster’s Tern, a bird that breeds inland in North America and winters south to the Caribbean and northern South America.

Some 30 other species listed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada as endangered, threatened or as a species of special concern also reside in the area.

“We use grizzly bears as an indicator species because when their populations are healthy 80 percent of other species are healthy too,” said Y2Y Program Director Wendy Francis. “Our work in the Creston Valley is an example of how well this strategy works.”

Working Together in Collaboration

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) led the acquisition of these properties, and Y2Y raised over half of the funds for the purchases from our supporters.

“This is one of the most successful collaboratively planned and coordinated private-land efforts for conservation,” explained Y2Y President Karsten Heuer. “Cooperation among multiple partners from the NCC to the over 60 partners in the Cabinet-Purcell Mountain Corridor Collaborative provided the scientific information to pursue this strategy as well as the relationships to pull it together. Most importantly though, Y2Y donors, who understand the value of these lands to Y2Y’s continental-scale vision, made this achievement a reality.”

“These valley bottom lands located near Highway 3 – the most significant barrier to wildlife connectivity in the region – are high on the list of most important private lands for conservation in the entire Yellowstone to Yukon region,” added Heuer. “By working together, we are creating a tapestry of lands along the Canada-U.S. border through which bears and other animals can move safely.”

Y2Y will now focus its attention on other lands in B.C. and Montana that research has identified as critical to wildlife movement.

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