Submitted by Columbia Wetlands
A group charged with protecting the Columbia Wetlands have identified some overaching threats to the wetlands, and have developed a plan to address each one of those concerns over the next five years.
The Columbia Wetlands
The Columbia Wetlands are a large wetland and river system located on the Upper Columbia River. Stretching 180 kilometres from Canal Flats to Donald (north of Golden), the Columbia Wetlands are one of the largest intact floodplain systems in North America. Comprising 26,000 hectares, these wetlands support a high biodiversity of plants, animals and habitats. Its 16 habitat types include marshes, open waters, shrub levees and floodplain forest, providing homes to elk, deer, wolves, cougars, grizzly bears, fish, amphibians, insects, more than 260 bird species and nearly 40 threatened animal and plant species.
The wetlands also support human well-being. Like a giant sponge, the Columbia Wetlands filter and store water for flood and drought control, groundwater recharge, store carbon and other nutrients, provide erosion control, and benefit local livelihoods such as agriculture, economic development and outdoor recreation. The wetlands will help buffer the anticipated impacts of climate change by providing micro-climates and moist refuges for fish, wildlife and plants as warmer and drier conditions increase in the coming decades.
Internationally Important Landscapes
In 2005, the Ramsar Convention recognized the Columbia Wetlands as internationally important for their ecological diversity and waterfowl habitats. These wetlands and adjacent lands include the provincial Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area, the Columbia National Wildlife Area, and provincial and national parks. The Columbia River Wetlands are Canada’s only area with international Living Lake Network designation.
Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners
Due to the biological and ecological importance of the Columbia Wetlands and their complex mix of federal, provincial, First Nations, municipal and private ownership, their management involves many jurisdictions. In 2006, to help coordinate the conservation of the wetlands, the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners (CWSP) was created. The CWSP is a non-profit society consisting of over 30 partner organizations representing governments at all levels, local First Nations, conservation, hunting, recreation, farming, business and tourism interests. The CWSP is, in effect, local people taking responsibility for a natural landscape that they care deeply about.
CWSP facilitates information sharing and collaboration on research, habitat protection and restoration, and assists governments to make decisions on issues affecting the river and wetlands. Since its creation, the Partners have conducted over $2 million in projects including wetland and tributary assessments, dump cleanups, and waterfowl inventories.
The Partners recently authored the “Columbia Wetlands Conservation Action Framework for 2020 – 2025,” a five-year strategy to strengthen CWSP’s leadership and effectiveness in conserving the exceptional ecological and cultural values of the Columbia Wetlands.
The document identifies six categories of threats to the wetlands; most are due to direct or indirect human actions. These include: direct loss or impairment of habitats and species (such as dredging, land clearing); transportation and utilities (rail and roadways); invasive species; increasing human use pressure; and the effects of climate change. Often these threats to habitats and species interact and are cumulative.
In response to these threats, the Partners have identified five strategic directions (partnership, awareness, research, stewardship, and management) that will guide CWSP activities.
Please visit the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners’ website, www.wetlandstewards.eco, for additional information including project reports, an inventory of 1,400 research papers, projects and land use plans, and downloadable river maps.