Enhancement, restoration and conservation of Basin lands are the cornerstone of a new $10 million eco-program Columbia Basin Trust (Trust) announced last week.
Funding will be distributed over five years for projects the Trust identifies through community insight, First Nations representatives, government experts, in addition to a review of existing regional plans and research.
“The intent of this new Ecosystem Enhancement Program is to have a meaningful and measurable impact in supporting and strengthening ecosystem health in the Basin,” stated Johnny Strilaeff, Trust president and CEO, in a Dec. 5 release.
The goal is to help maintain and improve ecological health and native biodiversity in a variety of ecosystems, such as wetlands, fish habitat, forests and grasslands.
While the Trust has other programs that support ecosystem health—such as its Environment Grants program—this new initiative is unique because it will carry out large-scale, on-the-ground projects with significant benefits.
“Based on input from Basin residents, one of our strategic priorities is to support healthy, diverse and functioning ecosystems,” Strilaeff said. “This program will bring benefits to fish, wildlife and their habitats that endure into the future.”
Over the next five years, the Trust will work with organizations to implement projects identified and approved through a proposal process, which will have a meaningful and measurable impact in supporting and strengthening ecosystem health.
The Trust also will help Basin residents and groups address environmental priorities through current programs like Environment Grants, the Grassland and Rangeland Enhancement Program, the Invasive Species Partnership, the Land Conservation and Stewardship Initiative, and the Upper Kootenay Ecosystem Enhancement Plan Grants.
After a year of engaging Basin residents in 2015 , the Trust renewed its Columbia Basin Management Plan with 13 strategic priorities over four years, until 2020.
Those priorities include the environment, early childhood and childhood development, non-profit support, arts, culture and heritage, renewable/alternative energy and economic development.
Besides the new eco-focused program, the Trust invested $1 million over two years to Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, a new $3.6 million Child Care Support Program, $1 million towards new office technology for non-profits, and $11.6 million over three years in support of arts, culture and heritage programs. Earlier this year, two housing complexes in Trail and one in Fruitvale benefited from the Trust’s $2-million Energy Retrofit Program, a partnership with BC Housing and the BC Non-Profit Housing Association and the organization has invested $10 million toward new business loans and commercial properties, including the $1.5 million purchase of a high tech facility in the Waneta Industrial Area now called the i4C Innovation Centre.