Gaming Grant Funds Restoration Projects

On February 12, 2010

A $266,000 community gaming grant from the BC Government will contribute to East Kootenay grassland restoration in 2010.

Work is well underway on the first grant-funded contract, a thinning project on Cutts Pasture, a high-priority restoration site along Hwy 93 south of Elko.

Koootenay East MLA Bill Bennett toured the project site today with members of the Rocky Mountain Trench Ecosystem Restoration Program. Bennett, a long-time supporter of the restoration program, said he is always impressed by the wide range of benefits such projects generate.

Eight fallers and three equipment operators, employed by Scott Wills Contracting of Cranbrook, have been working since late January on the 110-hectare Cutts Pasture restoration project. The crew is hand falling dense stands of pole-sized trees, mostly ponderosa pine, then machine skidding and piling them for possible future sale as pulpwood.

Thinning will reduce forest cover from 2550 trees per hectare to 150. Removing the small trees and leaving the biggest ones restores the site’s grassland characteristics, which will provide significant benefits to a number of wildlife species as well as domestic cattle.

Two endangered birds, Lewis’s woodpecker and long-billed curlew, inhabit the site. The woodpecker requires large open spaces for foraging, and big standing dead trees for nesting. Curlews nest on the ground in grasslands and feed on the insects found there.

Cutts Pasture is also within designated ungulate winter range, and is a tenured grazing site for a local ranching operation. Opening up the forest canopy will encourage growth of the native grasses and shrubs that provide forage for elk, deer and cattle.

Soil in the thinned area is the type preferred by badgers, another endangered species that thrives in grasslands and will benefit from restoration.

Thinning will be followed within a few years by a controlled burn to remove saplings and rejuvenate grassland vegetation.

The area has high archaeological value for the Ktunaxa so machine work is carried out to minimize disturbance on locations that may contain evidence of historical First Nations use.

Ray Morello, chair of the restoration program’s steering committee, said up to 50 per cent of the region’s grasslands and open forests have been overtaken by forest ingrowth and tree encroachment.

“This grant is much appreciated. It will contribute to restoration projects from Radium Hot Springs to the US border,” Morello said.

A coalition of stakeholders representing government, industry and the public directs the restoration program. The stakeholder group, established in 1998, is responsible for planning, funding and delivering on-the-ground operations and related activities. The goal is to restore about 107,000 hectares of Crown grassland and open forest over a 30-year period.

CONTACTS:
Ray Morello, Chair
Steering Committee
Rocky Mountain Trench Ecosystem Restoration Program
c/o Rocky Mountain Forest District
Office: (250) 426-1725
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Dan Murphy, Coordinator
Rocky Mountain Trench Natural Resources Society
Home office: (250) 489-4049
Cell: (250) 421-9320
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Web: http://www.trenchsociety.com

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At the Cutts Pasture project site. From left: Mario Rocca, Fernie, East Kootenay Wildlife Association; Steve Temple, Fernie, Tembec; Dan Murphy, Cranbrook, Trench Society; Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett; Ray Morello, Cranbrook, Ecosystem Restoration Program Chair; Don Lancaster, Mayook, Kootenay Livestock Association; Randy Harris, Cranbrook, Ecosystem Restoration Program Team Leader; Scott Wills, Cranbrook, contractor.

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