Several projects in the Thompson region are among more than 170 fish and wildlife projects throughout the province that will benefit from more than $9 million in funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF).
Almost $29,000 has been awarded for the operation and maintenance of the Bonaparte River fishway and the Bonaparte Lake Dam. The fishway has been the subject of major ongoing repairs following damage sustained in flood events after the Elephant Hill wildfire in 2017.
That work is still underway, with the HCTF funding intended for routine operation of the fishway rather than major repairs. Among the items the funding will assist with are ensuring water flow through the fishway, maintenance of the road leading to the site, and minor maintenance of the fishway itself once it is up and running again.
Maintenance of the fishway has been a longstanding project, as has monitoring of the wild Interior Fraser steelhead, which includes the Thompson and Chilcotin steelhead. Monitoring of these species has been ongoing for more than four decades, and the HCTF has just given $79,000 in funding to the work, which will continue to estimate the spawning populations of steelhead in the Thompson and Chilcotin Rivers.
The HCTF has also earmarked almost $29,000 for the River Guardians program. In the case of the steelhead fishery, guardians ensure that people follow the regulations, observe catch and release rules, and practice good fishing. They also note how many people are fishing, where, and how many fish they are catching.
With the closure of the steelhead fishery for the 2018/19 season—the first closure in the fishery’s history—consultation will take place in order to look at ways to move forward with the River Guardians program.
The HCTF has also dedicated $6,000 for a project that aims to collar close to three dozen bighorn sheep rams in the Thompson region. The rams will be from different herds, in order to better quantify the connectivity of different herds in the region. The data collected will also clarify core home range use and summer and winter range migration timing.
Other highlights of this year’s funded projects include:
· More than $600,000 for projects to conserve white sturgeon.
· $80,000 to the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC for its province-wide “Learn to Fish” program which has introduced more than 25,000 youth and adults to the sport.
· Over $95,000 to UBC Okanagan’s Department of Biology to identify the effects of wildfire on mule deer habitat selection and population growth in the Boundary Region, West Okanagan, and Bonaparte Plateau areas.
HCTF CEO Brian Springinotic says that the $9 million in funding this year represents a record annual investment in conservation projects by the Foundation, made possible in part by a contribution from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC. However, Springinotic says the majority of project funding comes from conservation surcharges on freshwater angling, hunting, guide outfitting, and trapping licenses sold in B.C.
“HCTF’s funding model is unique in channeling the users’ investment back to benefit the resource,” he says. “Anglers, hunters, guide outfitters, and trappers fund much of the critical conservation work taking place in BC.
“Projects support important species for anglers and hunters as well as benefiting whole ecosystems, species-at-risk, and environmental education programs across the province.”
Approved projects are led by provincial government biologists, municipalities, universities, local land trusts, and First Nations.
A complete list of HCTF-funded projects can be found on the Foundation’s website at www.hctf.ca.