The sheer beauty of the Canadian Rockies

NCC’s director of conservation for B.C. talks about why the Rockies are a place worth protecting.

View of South Selkirks mountains, BC (Photo by Bruce Kirby)

View of South Selkirks mountains, BC (Photo by Bruce Kirby)

Spectacular scenery, beautiful rivers and lakes, and abundant wildlife. As I look out my office window, in the small town of Invermere, B.C., I’m struck by the sheer beauty of the landscape where I live and work. As director of conservation for the Nature Conservancy of Canada's (NCC's) British Columbia Region, part of my job is to work with our team of conservationists and with our excellent partners to figure out what lands within the Canadian Rockies we should prioritize to protect for the long term.

NCC’s goal of envisioning a world in which Canadians conserve nature in all its diversity, and safeguard the lands and waters that sustain life, aligns strongly with my own life purpose. Prior to working with NCC, I was best known as the “badger lady,” having spent more than a decade researching the endangered American badger. This included working with landowners and governments to ensure that American badgers and their habitats were protected.

My and the team’s research commonly found us visiting with ranchers, loggers and golf course owners where badgers frequented. It was, in part, through this work that it became very clear to me that people and wildlife are looking for the same qualities when they choose somewhere to live. We all look for clean water, productive soil and an ability to connect and move through the landscape. As a result, there is a natural tendency for people to settle in high-value wildlife areas.

Darkwoods, as seen from the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area at the south end of Kootney Lake, BC. (Photo by M. A. Beaucher)

Darkwoods, as seen from the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area at the south end of Kootney Lake, BC. (Photo by M. A. Beaucher)

From the East Slopes of Alberta to the South Selkirks in BC, NCC focuses on connectivity between protected areas and corridors, and collaboration with partner organizations and the community, as we engage a network of supporters behind a shared vision for conservation.

We focus our conservation efforts in the Canadian Rockies on seven priority areas in Alberta and British Columbia. Choosing the highest-priority lands to focus on in these priority areas is an art and a science. Connectivity to existing protected lands is often a key consideration, but we also look at many other factors, including size (bigger is almost always better), rare and endangered species and habitats, degree of threat, and, of course, a willing private landowner (an essential ingredient for success). NCC has a long history in the Canadian Rockies, where we have conserved more than 700,000 acres (280,000 hectares) of priority conservation lands. Our work in this area makes NCC the leading land trust organization working to protect this globally significant landscape.

When I drive through this landscape I call home, I find joy in knowing that so many people continue to strive to make sure that it will also be home for grizzlies, bull trout, butterflies and badgers for years to come.