The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has achieved one of its highest conservation priorities: protecting a British Columbia watershed containing a rare temperate rainforest from development. This type of “snow forest,” which receives most of its moisture from snow, is found almost nowhere else on Earth.

The national land trust hailed its purchase of the Next Creek Watershed as “filling the hole that has been in the center” of the Darkwoods Conservation Area, the largest private land conservation project ever achieved in Canada. Darkwoods protects the habitats of nearly 40 confirmed species at-risk, including the grizzly bear, wolverine, peregrine falcon, and the only remaining herd of mountain caribou in the region.

Darkwoods’ forest ecosystem is home to the highest tree diversity in BC. Its forests store more than 2 million tons of carbon, roughly equal to the annual carbon footprint of over 500,000 Canadians.

The purchase of the Next Creek property expands the size of Darkwoods by 14%—adding 79-square kilometers (30 sq-mi).  NCC raised close to CAD$20 million in order to purchase the land from its private owners. In addition to support from private donors, businesses and foundations, the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia made foundational investments.

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The Minister of Environment in Canada, Catherine McKenna, congratulated the group for their dedication to expanding and managing the Darkwoods forest tract, saying, “With efforts made by partners like the Nature Conservancy of Canada to preserve our natural heritage, our government is making progress towards doubling the amount of protected nature across Canada’s lands and oceans.”

Photo by Darren Kirby, CC license

Located between Nelson and Creston, the watershed extends from Kootenay Lake, a popular tourist destination, to the center of Darkwoods. NCC now intends to undertake a restoration project on parts of the property which had been subject to logging.

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“The threat of intensified or unsustainable industrial or recreational activity made the acquisition of the Next Creek property NCC’s highest conservation priority in BC,” according to a NCC press release. “With the addition of Next Creek, the network of conservation lands in the South Selkirk Mountains now spans more than 1,100 square kilometers.”

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