The 2023 season is in full swing for the Kimberley/Cranbrook Youth Climate Corps (YCC). The goal of YCC is to provide youth with the opportunity to take hands-on action to address the climate crisis and obtain entry-level experience in the environmental field.
To prepare for the season, our enthusiastic crew started off with five weeks of training with support from Kootenay Employment Services. This job training program prepares the crew for varied projects throughout the season, including certifications in fire suppression and entrapment and basic chainsaw operation from Loki Tree Services. Prior to any hands-on field work, the team also received occupational first aid. In addition, crew members learned forestry field skills and tree identification to help support their ability to show up to any field session with newfound skills and knowledge.
The first major project was tackling an area on Nature Trust property in Bull River, BC where the crew worked tirelessly for weeks using chainsaws to clear crucial winter range habitat for Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in addition to reducing wildfire risk.
To add to the Kimberley/Cranbrook YCC wildfire risk reduction and ecosystem restoration projects, there’s lots of data collection to be done on fuel accumulation. The crew has been studying plots across the Kimberley Nature Park to estimate the floor fuel and tree regeneration. All this data informs plans for future fire risk treatments in this local park.
To break up long weeks of larger-scale projects, many days have been spent on tasks related to local food security. The crew helps out where they can at the family-run Apple Quill farm in Wycliffe, the Food Recovery in Kimberley, the Public Produce Garden (PPG) in Cranbrook and Wildsight’s community garden in Kimberley. As with everything YCC does, this work contributes to the improvement of the community’s resilience and sustainability for the future.
Other ecology-related work includes White Bark pine cone collection, lake monitoring of a small lake as part of Living Lakes Canada’s National Lake Blitz, and wildflower seed collection for the Bummer’s Flats Pollinator Meadow restoration project.
Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis), a keystone species, is an endangered species threatened by an introduced fungal disease called blister rust. Seeds from whitebark are nutrient-rich food source for Clark’s nutcrackers, grizzly and black bears and many other species in the subalpine. Early in the season, the cones are caged for protection and then collected in the fall to be analyzed for genetic resistance to the fungus, grown into saplings and reintroduced.
An important component of each YCC season is public engagement. The Kimberley-Cranbrook crew hosted the second annual Fix it Fair in June, with great success; we had an 80% increase in items repaired compared to last year! All members got to spend their afternoons learning and helping to do some of the repairs themselves.
The scope of YCC continues to grow over the seasons, with 2023 being the third year in East Kootenay’s Kimberley-Cranbrook region. Plans for the future include a Lois Creek wetland project, further wildfire risk reduction in the Nature Park, and other ecosystem restoration efforts.