16 environmental initiatives will be funded thanks to nearly $650,000 in grants from the Columbia Basin Trust’s (CBT) Environment Grants.

“These grants will support people of the Basin to better understand and celebrate nature, study ecological changes taking place, as well as creating on-the-ground improvements to the environment,” said Brianna Burley, Manager of Environment with CBT. “Monitoring and restoration of sensitive ecosystems, land-based education built on partnerships with Indigenous community groups, and species reintroduction are just some of the community-driven projects we are proud to support.”

CBT said $29,260 will go to fund a partnership program between the ʔaq̓am community, ʔaq̓amnik’ Elementary School, key Ktunaxa Nation Council staff and Columbia Outdoor School. The organizations will work together to develop a program that highlights history, culture and environmental stewardship practices. It aims to teach students to connect with their surroundings while considering and respecting traditional and current Indigenous ways of thinking.

“With help from ʔaq̓am staff and community, we will aid in the transfer of Indigenous teachings to the outdoors by building a progressive, culturally aligned curriculum that will help teachers throughout the Basin deliver outdoor programming,” said Shonna Murphy, Director of Programs with the Columbia Outdoor School. “While connecting to the land, students will also build leadership skills, develop positive self-identity and share their personal skills and traditional knowledge.”

The Trust will also give $60,000 to one of the three approved projects proposed by the Rocky Mountain Trench Natural Resouces Society (RMTNRS) to restore and enhance wildlife habitat in the Cranbrook airport Grassland Area. CBT said the RMTNRS will remove some Douglas fir and ponderosa pine trees that are encroaching on the grasslands, manually and through prescribed burns, as well as manage invasive plants, inventory American badger habitat and create wildlife trees that appeal to species that use features like holes or loose bark.

“Thanks to decades of fire suppression, trees have gradually encroached upon these grasslands,” said Marc Trudeau, Coordinator with the Rocky Mountain Trench Natural Resources Society. “This project will mitigate this shift, while also helping to create a more resilient ecosystem by reintroducing fire to the landscape and reducing the chance of a catastrophic wildfire.”

In the Columbia Valley, the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners will be adding logs for painted turtles and upgrading abandoned beaver dams to help the wetlands retain water. The program will also look to determine which areas of the Columbia Wetlands are considered biodiversity hotspots so conservation efforts can be focused on where they’re most needed.

CBT said it will provide $40,000 for the project.

“To protect species-at-risk, ungulates and predators in the Columbia Wetlands, we also need to protect the upland watersheds and habitats that those species need for their survival,” said Suzanne Bayley, President of the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners. “The habitats we will focus on are those affected by development or climate change here in the valley, or those which offer species a refuge from climate change elsewhere.”

All 16 projects and the amounts they will each receive can be found below.

More: CBT 2020 Environmental Grant recipients (Columbia Basin Trust)