A decade after Columbia Valley residents voted to increase their taxes to protect the environment, residents, environmental groups and elected officials gathered to celebrate the work the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund has been supporting.

More than 75 projects have received support through the fund over the years, said Juliet Craig, a manager with the Kootenay Conservation Program. Ms. Craig said the fund, which was the first local conservation fund in Canada, “has been envied and modelled around the province.”

Representatives from a smattering of the environmental groups that received funding shared about their efforts to keep the Valley wild and wonderful during the evening event on Tuesday, April 10th, held at the Columbia Valley Centre.

Todd Larsen of the East Kootenay Invasive Species Council tossed a metre or two of rope into the audience to demonstrate how far into the soil leafy spurge roots grow. Yet with years of funding, the sites where the toxic plant can be found in the Valley are getting smaller and more contained, he said.

Other environmental groups have received funding to monitor groundwater, care for the forest and protect creatures ranging from bats to grizzlies to fish.

Funding has also been provided for projects that involve citizen scientists and to teach residents how to help monitor and protect local ecosystems and species.

Gerry Wilke, Area G Director, said the fund was initially approved to last for 10 years and came with a “sunset clause.” But the clause itself is all that faded into the night as the anniversary passed by. In 2016 the Regional District of East Kootenay voted to continue the fund indefinitely.

“A lot of people here have invested a lot of time and energy and love into the Valley,” Mr. Wilke said, adding that residents are fortunate to live here and involve themselves in the projects the fund supports.

“It’s going so well,” Mr. Wilke said. “Let’s keep the momentum going.”

Since the fund began, it has invested $1.77 million in local conservation efforts.

To learn more about the Kootenay Conservation program, visit https://kootenayconservation.ca/.