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  • Writer's picture Lorna Visser

It's all connected, from Yellowstone to the Yukon, and we're happy to be a part of it

Updated: May 6

Restoration at the Valhalla Foundation for Ecology's nature sanctuary receives support from 'Yellowstone to the Yukon,' a project to build a network of protected areas across the continent

At the Snk'mip Marsh Sanctuary, local school students help by digging out invasive plants. [Photo: Amber Peters]

Each year the Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Conservation Initiative funds local community work to support their mission to protect and connect habitat so that wildlife and people thrive. This year, that includes us. Funds from a Y2Y grant will be used to support our work at the Snk'mip Marsh Sanctuary, for a project to restore and enhance a biodiversity-rich wetland complex at the heart of a major wildlife corridor.

Because it's at the heart of this wildlife corridor between Valhalla and Goat Range Provincial Parks, Snk’mip Marsh Sanctuary is an important ecosystem for many migratory and resident wildlife species and a rich abundance of plants, lichens, insects and fungi.

Battling Invasives

Our project involves a massive effort to control, and eventually eradicate, invasive plant species such as knapweed, hawkweed and burdock. Because soil on the property was disturbed by road-building and clearing (done by a previous owner, before VFE purchased the property for conservation), there is a considerable seed-bank of invasive plant seeds to be dealt with.

If left unchecked, invasive plants can drastically alter sensitive habitats, lower biodiversity, and even cause direct mortality to wildlife (for example, knapweed roots can strangle and break turtle eggs).

In areas we've restored we are seeing a variety of invasive plants spring up year after year. It's a constant effort to pull out or dig up these invasive plants, then bag and remove them for safe disposal.

No pesticides or chemical control agents are used because this is a nature sanctuary that now provides habitat for many sensitive and threatened species including frogs, toads, salamanders, snakes, and turtles.

Two Coeur d'Alene salamanders in leaf litter. [Photo: Amber Peters]

Following the initial restoration that took place since the acquisition of the Sanctuary, our ecological monitoring study in 2022 confirmed that multiple at-risk wildlife species are using the protected area, including Grizzly Bears and previously undocumented Western Painted Turtles and Coeur d’Alene Salamanders.

These findings highlight the importance of Snk’mip Marsh beyond what anyone had imagined. Previously, Western Painted Turtles had only been documented in the surrounding area and Coeur d’Alene Salamanders were not previously known to inhabit the north Slocan Valley area. The marsh also provides a safe haven for a panoply of rare migratory bird species.

Making Better Habitat

This year we will be working to further identify habitats of these at-risk species. This information will be used to help us steward and enhance habitats, including through eradication of invasive plants brought in by the previous landowner’s heavy-equipment activities.

We will be looking for contractors to help pull invasive plants so if you live in the local area (Slocan Valley), please reach out if you can lend a hand. Please hop over to the "Let's Talk" contact form on the home page of this website -- we would love to hear from you.

Stewardship of Snk’mip Marsh depends on support from individuals and our partner organizations including the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. We thank Y2Y and all of our supporters for empowering our crucial habitat-enhancement work.

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