Local Conservation Fund in the Slocan Valley

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Slocan Valley residents heading to the local government election polls this fall will be asked to vote on a new parcel tax to protect local conservation values. 

The Regional District of Central Kootenay’s (RDCK) electoral area H will decide whether to establish a Local Conservation Fund. These funds put money into the hands of local organizations to help protect and conserve what residents value, from water quality to wildlife habitat and more.

“These funds support important values and priorities,” says Juliet Craig, Program Director at Kootenay Conservation Program (KCP). “The contribution from the Local Conservation Fund leverages significant additional funding, and supports community-based projects and quality of life.” 

KCP relieves the administrative burden from the RDCK for the service by carrying out the  request for proposals, assembling a technical review committee, monitoring reporting and so on. This allows the local government to oversee the actual project decision-making, without the added weight of administrative responsibility needed for the fund.

A panel of local experts review applications to look at technical merits, ‘bang for the buck’ and community value alignments before making recommendations to local government, which then makes the decision to approve or not.

Students in Wildsight’s Know Your Watershed program take a field trip to Slocan to study water quality.

Proof of concept

The upper Columbia Valley pioneered the concept of a local conservation fund in Canada. While the Local Conservation Fund is a great asset to community-based projects, its leveraging power is even greater because it serves as seed money attracting more funding from other sources. Between 2008 and 2021, the $2.25 million invested by property owners in the upper Columbia Valley leveraged more than $22.6 million in partner dollars. In that time, the fund has secured four properties with high conservation values; approved 101 grants and has helped many regional projects. 2022’s funded projects included a farmland project, bat habitat, wetland restoration, bird monitoring, invasive plant control and more.

Gerry Wilkie, Area G director, says the fund has made a significant contribution to the quality of life in the Columbia Valley.

“While many of these projects are relatively modest in scope, cumulatively the Local Conservation Fund is doing what it was designed to do. It is making a significant contribution to our quality of life by providing the funding and opportunity for non-governmental organizations to enhance and conserve our local land base and biophysical environment,” says Director Wilkie.

The Columbia Valley’s proven model paved the way for more B.C. communities to establish their own local conservation fund services, including Kootenay Lake (Areas A, D and E) in 2014 and two in the Okanagan, while other communities across B.C. are exploring the possibility now based on these successful programs. The Kootenay Lake Local Conservation Fund has approved 37 grants totalling $468,000 from 2016 to 2021. The local investment has leveraged more than four times that amount in external grants and in-kind support!

Local Conservation Fund in the Slocan Valley

If approved, the  Local Conservation Fund in the Slocan Valley will cost residents $15 annually per parcel. Juliet acknowledges that while it’s a hard time economically for many people right now, for the cost of a few coffees a year, you can make a huge difference in efforts to protect what locals truly love about the Slocan Valley.

“Residents in the Slocan Valley really appreciate how special it is, the quality of water, how clean it is, and the ecosystem values of fish and wildlife and habitat — just the beauty of the place,” says Juliet. “It also makes good economic sense since the projects funded create jobs, support local businesses, hire local contractors and more.”

The referendum question will be tacked onto this October’s local government election. The vote needs 50% plus one to pass.

 “This fund is an investment in the values of the Slocan Valley,” says Juliet. “I encourage all Slocan Valley Area H residents to get out and vote in this October’s referendum!”

How can you help?

  • For more information about the proposed local conservation fund for Slocan Valley Area H visit: www.kootenayconservation.ca/LCF-Area-H-referendum
  • Learn more about local conservation funds in general
  • Encourage your friends, coworkers and neighbours to learn more leading up to the referendum, including details about several open houses KCP will be hosting to help inform the local population about the fund
    Make sure to get out and VOTE!
    If you have questions, reach out to Juliet: juliet@kootenayconservation.ca