To provide natural habitat for local wildlife, a section of farmland in the Creston Vally is being recreated into wetlands.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is leading the restoration project in the Frog Bear Conservation Corridor, just south of Duck Lake off Channel Road.
In November 2021, the project began with the excavation of three dugouts with heavy equipment, which have since filled with water.
The field was formerly used to farm timothy crops but faced drainage issues due to its location on a floodplain.
“With this project, I want to integrate a relationship with wildlife into the farming community,” said Adrian Leslie, West Kootenay program manager for NCC.
“We chose to dig the wetlands out in the area that was wet and tough for any crops to grow. The good soil was then spread to higher ground to improve the farming elsewhere.”
To ensure the area is duel-use and beneficial for both agriculture and wildlife, NCC is working alongside the farmer on the adjacent property.
“We’ve got a hard line between where he manages the crops, and where we have riparian vegetation,” said Leslie.
Invasive weeds have been a problem near the fields, so part of the restoration project includes replanting native trees and shrubs.
On April 21 and 22, a group of 28 students from the Recreation, Fish and Wildlife Program at Selkirk College were brought on site to help with planting on 1.5 hectares of the farm field around the new wetlands.
“The students had a lot of excitement and were eager to learn and get involved,” said Leslie.
“This was a great opportunity to expose them to a real-life restoration program.”
The native varieties planted include cottonwood, red osier dogwood, wild rose, hawthorn, water birch, chokecherry, elderberry, and a couple types of willow.
“By next year, I think it will look remarkably different here,” said Leslie.
The new wetlands and native plants will improve habitat for pollinators, western painted turtles, western toads, dozens of migratory bird species, and the endangered northern leopard frog.
The Creston Valley is home to one of the last breeding populations of northern leopard frogs. To protect their migration during the fall and spring, the road to Duck Lake is closed bi-annually for several weeks.
“These new wetlands are intended to be provide more friendly habitat for the frogs to rear their young and lay eggs,” said Leslie.
Once grown, the trees and shrubs will also provide cover for grizzly bears as they travel across the valley from the Purcells to the Selkirks.
“This is called the ‘Frog Bear’ property, because those are the two focal species,” said Leslie.
“Animals of all kinds prefer some sort of cover, so that they’re not just exposed on open fields. The plants will provide some contour on the land that is currently flat as a pancake.”