Current conservation programs
Waterfowl conservation programs began in earnest in the Intermountain in 1968, when at the invitation of the provincial government, Ducks Unlimited moved to BC and opened an office in Creston. Since then, DU has expanded activities throughout the Intermountain with key focus areas in the Kootenay and Columbia River valley’s, the grasslands of the Thompson Okanagan River valleys, the vast Cariboo-Chilcotin plateaus and the Nechako River valley.
The primary emphasis in the Intermountain until the late 1980s was to provide adequate water for waterfowl breeding habitat to the arid wetland landscapes. This resulted in the construction of over 550 water control projects, in cooperation with other partners, covering more than 50,607 ha at a cost of approximately $30 million. A major shift in DU’s approach to waterfowl conservation programs began in the late 1980s when funding partners were actively recruited to help deliver broader, landscape projects extending beyond water management to include uplands. In 1992, Ducks Unlimited and the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) embarked on the Interior Wetlands Program (IWP) to encourage new approaches to land use and management that would benefit waterfowl, other wildlife, fisheries resources and agriculture. The main objectives were to promote land use practices that would result in healthy wetland and upland vegetation for food, nesting and escape cover for waterfowl and other wildlife, maintained or improved water quality and quantity and sustainable agriculture. The six year, $4.2 million program delivered by DU secured 10,121 ha of high quality habitat and involved over 100 partners and cooperators who provided time, resources and expertise. Each of the 31 projects contained an extension component whereby information was shared with many other landowners to protect high quality habitat from incompatible use. Projects were evaluated to ensure that future waterfowl needs could be more accurately addressed.
The final report of the IWP was completed in 1998 and recommended that future programs would include the entire Intermountain, increase partnerships, expand extension activities, and continue program evaluation. Although the program created an awareness of the overall functioning of wetland landscapes, surveys indicated that the job had just begun. As a result, DU and CWS, together with other potential partners, developed the Intermountain Wetland Conservation Program (IWCP). The IWCP became a partnership of 12 organizations with a mission to maintain, enhance, restore or manage BS’s intermountain wetland landscapes. Delivery of the IWCP will commence in the year 2000.
Goals and strategic directions for BC Intermountain landscapes
- To increase waterfowl populations and recruitment to levels that may have been experienced prior to the destructive grazing practices which began in the 1850s.
- To increase average pair density on approximately 55,000 ha of productive wetlands (0 to 20 ha in size) by 2.5 pairs/ha. This would double the duck population to 575,000 breeding birds.
- To increase production to 2 broods/ha.
- Waterfowl populations are below historical levels due to habitat impacts.
- Improving habitat conditions will increase breeding populations.
- Maintain and enhance the regulations, legislation and policies that improve habitat quality.
- Increase public and land user awareness of the importance of wetlands and beneficial range management practices.
- Minimize or eliminate practices that destroy or degrade waterfowl habitat.
- Identify key research on waterfowl ecology to identify limiting factors.