Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in Saanich, B.C. (Wolfgang Depner/Black Press Media)

Feds, B.C. to expand Darkwoods Conservation area

New funding allows the national land trust to add some 7,900 hectares to the Darkwoods Conservation Area

A conservation area near Creston and Nelson is being expanded by nearly 8,000 hectares as the federal government moves to protect critical habitat for species-at-risk such as Grizzly bears.

Catherine McKenna, federal minister of the environment, made the announcement Wednesday in Saanich, where she and her provincial environment minister George Heyman said both government would contribute a combined total of $14.65 million towards the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NNC).

This funding allows the national land trust to add some 7,900 hectares to the Darkwoods Conservation Area by adding the area around the Next Creek. It extends from Kootenay Lake into the centre of the conservation area and represents the last missing piece in a large conservation puzzle that extends over 1,100 square-kilometres.

McKenna said the expansion will help protect 39 species-at-risk and represents a piece of Canada’s ongoing response to protect the natural environment in light of climate change, with such areas acting as carbon sinks.

“Climate change is having an impact across the country, and across the world,” she said, pointing towards the current wildfires in California that have killed dozens and destroyed hundreds of homes. “We need to take climate action, and nature is also part of the solution. Protecting areas like this [acting as carbon sinks] are incredibly important as we move forward to tackle climate change.”

It also promises to create a contiguous conservation almost double the size of Banff National Park benefitting local Grizzly populations.

Michael Proctor, lead Canadian researcher with the Trans-border Grizzly Bear Project, praised the purchase.

“Over the past 15 years, human-caused mortality of grizzly bears has declined, their numbers are increasing and connectivity between beer populations [is] re-establishing,” he said. “NNC has been at the centre of this success story.”

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