The Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area is a property with outstanding ecological and historical features. Running for more than 8 km along the west side of the Columbia River, Teck Cominco Metals Ltd donated the 2200 acre property in 2006 as a split receipt under the Ecological Gifts Program. The acquisition of this property protects the ecological, historic and recreational integrity of the area.
With the largest intact area of very dry, warm Interior Cedar Hemlock in British Columbia, the Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area is ecologically unique. The dry, rocky slopes contain crevices that shelter endangered or threatened wildlife, including Canyon Wrens, Townsends’s Big-eared Bats and Racers. As many as 29 rare species of wildlife have been found or are expected to live on the property. During the winter, the property is home to deer and elk as the open benchlands provide critical food and shelter.
Historically, the property is connected to both the Dewdney Trail and the Hudson’s Bay Company, as the HBC Fort (built in 1858) was a stopping place on the route to the Kootenay Gold Rush. The Fort was also a trading place for the Sinixt people, who used the flat benches along the Columbia River as a traditional base for fishing and hunting. Although the Fort was destroyed by fire in 1872, a cairn remains to mark its location on the site.
Located just 6 km south of Trail, BC, the area is integral to the local people who hunt, fish, hike, ride horses and picnic on the property. TLC recognizes the importance of these activities and encourages activities that are compatible with the natural and cultural values of the property. The uniqueness of the property, combined with its prominence in the local community provides significant opportunities for research and education. Because of the strong connection between the Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area and the local community, TLC is committed to working in partnership with representatives from local organizations. A signed agreement between TLC and the Trail Wildlife Association will guide the future and current management of the property.
Animals, Birds and Fish
Fort Shepherd is ideal winter range for elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. The varied habitat makes it ideal for other species such as black bear, moose, mountain goat, river otter, and bobcat.
Several species of small mammals can be found on the site including bats, squirrels, and chipmunks. Fort Shepherd contains nine species of bats, more than anywhere else in BC outside of the Okanagan. Most notable of these is the Townsend’s big-eared bat which is rare in BC.
Sixty-five species of birds have been identified on the site, including songbirds such as common nighthawks, lazuli buntings and bank swallows. Birds of prey on the site include red-tailed hawks, merlins and northern saw-whet owls. Great blue herons and canyon wrens, both considered rare species in BC, have been observed.
Reptiles and Amphibians
The warm, dry climate and the numerous rocky outcrops make Fort Shepherd ideal habitat for a variety of reptile species including alligator lizards and rubber boas. Rare species include racers and western skinks. Amphibians, including Columbia spotted frogs and the Pacific tree frogs can also be found.
The Columbia River contains a diverse population of fish and as many as sixteen species may be found in the Fort Shepherd area including the endangered white sturgeon and Umatilla dace.
A Brief History of the Site
The Lower Columbia River, including Fort Shepherd, was part of the traditional territory of the Sinixt people. Although the Sinixt were declared extinct by the Canadian government in 1956, members of the Sinixt people still live in Washington state.
Fort Shepherd, a Hudson’s Bay Company fort, was built in 1857 in response to the surveying of the 49th parallel in 1846. At the time, HBC wished to maintain a trading post in British territory as its existing outpost at Fort Colville was in the United States. However, Fort Shepherd never became a successful trading post due to the lack of suitable land for farming and settlement.
Fort Shepherd was closed briefly in the early 1860’s, however, with the discovery of gold in the neighbouring Pend d’Oreille River and with the subsequent Kootenay gold rush the Fort was reopened in 1863. The construction of the Dewdney Trail from Hope to Wildhorse led through Fort Shepherd and for a time Fort Shepherd became an important trading and stopping post. Unfortunately, the gold rush was short-lived and the Fort was closed for the last time in 1870. Fort Shepherd burned down in 1872 and all that remains on the site today is a cairn erected in 1951 to mark the location
Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area News
Teck Metals Ltd. has donated $400,000 to create an endowment fund ensuring future management of the 964-hectare Fort Shepherd Conservancy area, which runs along more than 8 kilometres of the Columbia River, south [...]