The Nature Trust of BC: Critical Habitat in the Cariboo

By Jessica Kirby – with files from the Nature Trust of BC and Samantha Penner

The Nature Trust of British Columbia (NTBC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving ecologically significant land across the province for vulnerable wildlife, fish, and plants. Since 1971, it has acquired more than 71,000 hectares (175,000 acres) of critical habitat, and its conservation lands are located on the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, the South Okanagan, the Kootenays, the Cariboo, and the Peace River region.

Sammy Penner works for NTBC as the group’s Lower Mainland conservation field technician. In the spring and summer, she supervises the Lower Mainland Conservation Youth Crew (CYC), which maintains and monitors 22 properties between Hope and Squamish and the Sunshine Coast.

“We hire a crew of university students for field work from May to August, and we are the hands and feet that manage the Nature Trust properties,” she says. “The crew helps with assessing, inventorying, restoring, and monitoring each property depending on specific property requirements.”

Another one of her roles is assisting with checking NTBC properties that range all over BC, including remote or harder to access areas such as in Kitsault, BC. “Each property is unique and has a different management approach,” she says.

In the fall and spring, Penner coordinates management projects with the public such as restoration events/projects on various NTBC properties including tree plantings, bird nesting box programs, and shoreline cleanups.

“My favourite part of my job is contributing to the stewardship of the land and educating people about the importance of conserving diverse wildlife habitat across our province,” she says. “This is especially important as our climate changes and many species are endangered, such as salmon species. I also am grateful to have the opportunity to work on many beautiful properties with many amazing people.”

The Interior and Coastal Mainland Land Manager Carleton MacNaughton monitors NTBC’s conservation lands in the Cariboo each year, including the following key properties in that area.

Scout Island

Photo: Carleton MacNaughton

NTBC’s Scout Island property in Williams Lake conserves a marsh and wetland that are a mecca for wildlife, especially birds. Scout Island is managed in partnership with the Williams Lake Field Naturalists and the City of Williams Lake. Scout Island Nature Centre runs environmental education and community programs and there are a series of trails for self-directed nature walks and wildlife viewing platforms.

Chilcotin Lake and Marshes

Photo: Carleton MacNaughton

NTBC’s Chilcotin Lake and Marshes property northwest of Alexis Creek is a renowned waterfowl staging area due to its shallow nature and abundant vegetation. During fall migration, thousands of ducks and hundreds of Canada geese can be found here. Chilcotin Lake is also one of the two most important feeding lakes for BC’s endangered White pelican. In addition to a wide diversity of bird life, the area provides important moose winter range and supports Steelhead and Chinook salmon.

Chilanko Marsh

Photo: Carleton MacNaughton

NTBC’s Chilanko Marsh property northwest of Alexis Creek aids in the conservation and restoration of wildlife habitat in the Chilcotin River Plateau. This property forms part of the Chilanko Marsh Wildlife Management, along with adjacent crown land, covering 900 hectares/2,225 acres in total. Situated on a flyway for migratory birds, this is one of the most productive wetlands in the entire Cariboo region. White pelicans, Canada geese, Tundra swans, coots, and grebes share the marsh with mallards, pintails, canvasbacks, and others.

Tautri Creek

Photo: Carleton MacNaughton

NTBC’s Tautri Creek property north of Alexis Creek provides diverse wildlife habitat north of Stum Lake, including excellent moose and waterfowl habitat. It is also a White pelican feeding area, while Stum Lake to the south is the only known White pelican nesting area in the province.

“Due to the fires that swept through the area in 2017, and the resulting closures, I had to postpone my usual summer field trip to the Cariboo until October,” says MacNaughton.“We were quite lucky the only Nature Trust property impacted by fire was Tautri Creek.”

NTBC works on co-management activities with other organizations including Ducks Unlimited Canada and naturalist clubs. “We meet many incredible people and collaborate on fun field days and events which are great opportunities for networking,” Penner says.

The most important message the public needs to know about NTBC is that it is a non-profit charity and a trusted organization. “We are the largest provincial land trust in BC,” she adds. “We ensure your donation is going to help save endangered ecosystems and wildlife species. Every property is very different—some are remote while others are near communities and highly used, but the concept behind the organization is that the land is there for nature and never will be developed.”

If you would like to help The Nature Trust of BC with its conservation projects in the Cariboo and other regions, please visit www.naturetrust.bc.ca or call toll-free at 1-866-288-7878.

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