The Darkwoods Conservation Area in Canada’s Rocky Mountains is just one of the areas protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. (Bruce Kirkby/Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Unique habitat in Canadian Rockies expanded, preserved

Canada’s Darkwoods Conservation Area may soon grown by 7,900 hectares ensuring the protection of essential habitat for almost 40 confirmed species at risk. These include grizzly bears, wolverines, peregrine falcons, mountain caribou and whitebark pine. The area will now measure almost 63,000 hectares.

The Darkwoods Conservation Area provides the large territory which grizzly bears need to roam. (Grant MacHutchon/Nature Conservancy of Canada)

‘A very wild space’

“It is spectacular,” says Nancy Newhouse of the Nature Conservancy of Canada which spearheaded the acquisition. “If you just imagine Canada’s wild places. It’s in … the only inland temperate rainforest in the world.

“And it’s got a huge diversity of different plants and animals. (It’s) a very wild space where grizzly bears can roam and wolverines. There’s 17 watersheds, hundreds of lakes. It’s truly spectacular.”

The Nature Conservancy of Canada first acquired Darkwoods in the Rocky Mountains from a German duke who held it as a refuge since the 1960. It had been protected from large-scale development and the many wild creatures there thrived.

The forest is draped in arboreal lichen which is crucial to the survival of the woodland caribou. (Bruce Kirkby/Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Inventory and restoration planned

There was a hole in the territory that the NCC hopes to fill with the acquisition of Next Creek, an area part of which had been logged and will undergo restoration.

About 75 per of the money needed to acquire the parcel of land was raised through $14-million in grants from the governments of Canada and the province of British Columbia. Fundraising efforts will continue over the next few months.

Once the acquisition is complete, the Nature Conservancy of Canada would take an inventory of animals and plants and prepare a plan for the management and restoration of habitats. The area would be open to the public. Permits to visit would be available online and free of charge.

‘Last chance to protect…at this type of scale’

“I’m thrilled,” says Newhouse about the acquisition of Next Creek. “I think it’s so important because it’s one of our last chances to actually protect and conserve at this type of scale. We still have a functioning system here for wildlife…

“We are facing some significant challenges in the conservation world with the changing climate and we know that to protect land at scale…is really a spectacular opportunity that doesn’t come about very often.”

Nancy Newhouse explains why the expansion of the Darkwoods Conservation Area was ‘a spectacular opportunity.’

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