Protecting our water has always been central to Wildsight’s work. The Columbia River headwaters, near Canal Flats in the East Kootenays, is the beginning of a river basin of life that supports human communities and provides habitat for hundreds of species. The Columbia Wetlands stretch for 180km, the only part of the 2000km-long Columbia River unaffected by hydroelectric dams, and are recognized internationally as wetlands of importance through the RAMSAR convention. The Columbia Basin is our home and we have been working to protect the waterways of this very special part of the world for 30 years.
In 2004, the International Living Lakes Conference “Balancing Our Needs, Protecting Our Future” was hosted by Wildsight (then the East Kootenay Environmental Society) in Fairmont. The conference showcased the Columbia Headwaters and the Columbia Wetlands as Canada’s first “Living Lake”. The 5-year Lake Windermere Project was launched shortly after, demonstrating the power of community based water monitoring and led to the development of many of our water stewardship partnerships throughout the Columbia Basin.
In 2010, Living Lakes Canada, a project of Wildsight, was launched as a joint partnership with the Global Nature Fund and the Lake Winnipeg Foundation. Living Lakes Canada co-hosted the Columbia Basin Watershed Network Symposium “Think Like A Watershed”, alongside CCRIFC’s annual Salmon Festival, with a plenary speaker, celebrated Canadian author John Ralston Saul as a highlight. This symposium was the catalyst for a watershed governance dialogue between FIrst Nations and non-indigenous communities in the Columbia Basin. In 2016, Living Lakes Canada co-hosted the North American Lake Management Society conference in Banff to build bridges between scientists and citizen scientists to discuss the challenges and opportunities for community based water monitoring. We advocated for new models of watershed governance and conducted a national survey of community based monitoring groups. The results of this survey are the foundation for a forthcoming national white paper supporting the potential of citizen science and community based water monitoring in Canada.
Now, in our 30th year, we are happy to share that Living Lakes Canada has become an independent organization. We are excited about this transition, which allows continued collaboration on joint water initiatives. Wildsight and Living Lakes Canada will continue to steward our water throughout the Columbia Basin, as part of our work to protect ecosystems across the landscape.