In 1999,The Land Conservancy of British Columbia negotiated a plan with Cominco Ltd (now Teck-Cominco Ltd) to purchase 940 acres of rare Ponderosa Pine/bunchgrass habitat in the East Kootenay Rocky Mountain Trench near Kimberley, B.C. These properties augment an existing wildlife corridor held by the Ministry of Environment.
In 1998, the Ministry of the Environment, in conjunction with the BC Assets and Lands Corporation, conducted a land trade with Cominco to acquire an important wildlife corridor for mule deer and elk and to protect endangered grassland species. The lands purchased by TLC surround this corridor, increasing the protected area from 660 acres to 1600 acres. TLC’s long-term vision for the area is to maintain biodiversity and ensure sustainable use of the area through a diversity of interests including ranching, recreation, and wildlife viewing. As of 2012, TLC holds a mortgage for $14,000 on Wycliffe Wildlife Corridor.
The 940 acres of deeded land are predominantly grassland. This is the principal impetus for this purchase. These areas are considered one of the most endangered ecosystems in Canada, and are home to nearly one-third of our endangered species. B.C.’s grasslands are home to 55 critical wildlife species, including the badger, long billed curlew, Lewis’ woodpecker, and bobolink (CDC – Cranbrook region red-blue listed spp). The protection of grassland is of international, national and regional significance. Less than two percent of grassland areas are protected in Canada.
The Wycliffe Wildlife Corridor contains several plant communities that have been red-listed by the BC Conservation Data Centre as well as eight red or blue listed plant species. Overgrazing by cattle, the introduction of exotic species and rural development have all taken their toll on this fragile environment.&nbps; In B.C. grassland habitats provide forage for ungulate populations, nesting areas for grassland birds, and open hunting areas for birds of prey.
This property is part of the Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince and is part of the Kootenay Dry Hot Ponderosa Pine biogeoclimatic zone that is found along the valley bottom and west-facing slopes of the southern Rocky Mountain Trench. Classified as an NDT4 forest, this ecosystem requires regular low-intensity fires to maintain grassland conditions. Historically, grasslands in the Rocky Mountain Trench were maintained through regular burning by low-intensity fire. Since the suppression of these fires over the past 100 years, grasslands in the East Kootenay region have become ‘ingrown’ due to the establishment of conifer species in grassland areas.
The Wycliffe Wildlife Corridor contains a variety of habitat types. The upland parcels contain open bluebunch wheatgrass/Ponderosa Pine grasslands combined with denser Douglas-fir/Western larch stands on the north and east facing slopes. Moister areas contain dense stands of Aspen poplar and important Saskatoon/Wild Rose shrub communities. The south and west facing slopes are more open and provide key wintering areas for ungulates. Rocky outcrops are common on the hilltops and contain unique plant species such as Bitterroot (Lewisia redivia).
The St. Mary River borders the property to the south The interface between the upland and the adjacent riparian area is steeply sloped in some areas, creating ‘hoodoo’ land formations. The riparian area is densely vegetated and contains many well-established Black Cottonwoods of considerable size. Other riparian vegetation includes red-osier dogwood, willow species, and green alder. Several small springs and seeps are present in the riparian area and create unique micro-habitats. Beaver activity is prevalent, and the riparian area is extensively used by elk, deer, and moose.
As you move north from the river, the dense riparian zone is bounded by steep hoodoo formations. This landform changes abruptly into a relatively flat grassland formed by an alluvial fan. North of the highway, the grasslands graduate to open Ponderosa Pine forest. The upland areas are rolling and densely forested in some areas. The combination of dry grasslands, moist depressions, river frontage and pine-covered hilltops makes this property highly desirable as a wildlife corridor.