Science & Stewardship

The Elk River Alliance collects watershed science and data to prioritize community stewardship action that protects, enhances and restores aquatic ecosystems. 

Current/On-Going Science & Stewardship projects

Community-based Water Monitoring (2011-present)Healthy tributaries contribute to the health of the Elk River watershed. CBWM is a useful way to fill information gaps within existing watershed data and to increase public access to this information utilizing a citizen science approach. Elk River Alliance contractors, board members and Streamkeepers volunteers have been monitoring water quality in the watershed since 2011. Monitoring currently occurs at four locations: Lizard Creek (west of Fernie), Alexander Creek (a tributary of Michel Creek, east of Sparwood), Boivin Creek (in Elkford) and Coal Creek (in Fernie). In 2013 the Elk River Alliance released a Water Quality Monitoring Report with the goal of sharing information and supporting the public’s right to know about their water quality.  The program has also facilitated Streamkeepers training (standardized citizen science water monitoring course) and identified areas of concern leading to grants for restoration and enhancement projects. The ERA is also involved in a number of other community water quality projects, click here for more information. 

Elk River Cutthroat Trout Research Initiative (2019-present). The objectives for this project will address concerns surrounding the Westslope Cutthroat Trout (WCT) population in the Elk River watershed through WCT habitat identification, comprehensive evaluations of restoration opportunities, and the communication of easy-to-understand, current WCT information. By addressing these gaps, fisheries managers, industry and community members will be better able to actively work towards reducing threats and ensuring a sustainable and healthy WCT population. The methods for the project include: conducting redd surveys to identify important spawning and rearing habitat; reviewing and distilling available information in the form of reports and maps to identify key habitat and restoration opportunities; communicating with key members of industry, government and community to help establish restoration priorities; and holding workshops and developing online and print communication materials to increase local community awareness, engagement and knowledge about WCT health, habitat and threats to the population. Click here for more information. 

Sparwood Beaver Wetland Enhancement (2016-present). This project focused on improving habitat in the Jewel wetland through control/removal of invasive species (reed canary grass) and planting of native species. Initially a site assessment was completed, using BCWF's Wetlandkeeper protocols and ERA hosted three 3 hour workshops on the "Wonder of Wetlands". After completing an additional site assessment using Cows & Fish Habitat Management protocol, "Lotic Wetland Health Assessment for Streams and Small Rivers". Based on the results from these assessments, it was determined that a Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan be developed to address invasive species (especially Reed Canary Grass). Click here to view this report. This project is piloting multiple techniques to address this issue. There were also 4 interpretive signs designed through partnerships with Frank J Mitchell students and Wildsight/CBT Know Your Watershed program. 

Accepting Beavers and Enhancing Wetlands (2017-present). This wetland enhancement project is aimed at developing strategies to live harmoniously with beavers in order to maintain healthy and robust wetlands located in Fernie and to improve overall wetland health through community action and education. The two key goals of this project are to enhance and protect healthy wetland characteristics created by beaver activity and increase public awareness, understanding and appreciation of local wetland form and function.

Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-Up (2010-present). ERA has facilitated an annual shoreline clean-up along the banks of the Elk River between Elkford and Elko. Hundreds of volunteers have participated in this important initiatives where thousands of pounds of garbage has been removed from trails and staging areas along the Elk. This clean-up takes place in conjunction with BC Rivers Day. 

Maiden Lake knapweed pulls (2015-present). ERA has conducted several invasive weed pulls along the shores of Maiden Lake, focusing on the removal of spotted knapweed. 

Fernie Heronry monitoring (2015-present). ERA volunteers monitor an active Great-blue heron breeding colony adding data to the 530 heron sightings in the Columbian Basin.  Located at the McDougall Wetland, in a riparian forest sandwiched between a wetland and a new RV development, it is one of the 18 known breeding sites in the region.  ERA is monitoring this blue-listed, signature wetland bird, as it's decline is linked to urban development, wetland drainage and contaminants, human disturbance and increasing predators like bald eagles.

Past Science & Stewardship projects

Walk through narration of Morrissey Cottonwoods (2017). Video in partnership with Nature Conservancy of Canada, narrated by Lee-Anne Walker. Click here to view.

Removal of rock weirs on Coal Creek (2015-2017). ERA recognizes the impacts of rock weirs as barriers to spawning fish, as well as overall stream health (due to temperature increase upstream of these features).  

Alexander Creek Streamside Restoration (2016-2018). This project included both a community kiosk (click here to view) and multiple plantings of native vegetation (click here for an article on the completion of this planting inititative). 

Lizard Creek Streamside Restoration (2015). 

Silver Springs Stewardship Solutions (2014-2015). The ERA conducted a community survey and report to determine community priorities surrounding the stewardship of Silver Springs. 

Elk River Fish Salvage (2013). Along with local biologists, fly-fishers and ERA volunteers we rescued several Westslope Cutthroat Trout stranded in a side channel of the Elk River which had been cut off from the main stem. Without intervention, it is highly unlikely that these fish would have survived the winter. 

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