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Connecting youth, climate crisis and water

Connecting youth, climate crisis and water

Connecting youth, the climate crisis and water

Submitted by Living Lakes Canada, Wildsight

Youth Climate Corps members attach chicken wire and cottonwood trees. These trees can become excellent hunting, perching, and nesting habitats for many bird species as they age if they are protected from beaver activity. Photo: Living Lakes Canada

We watch as a pair of beavers slowly slip through the water. Their lodge is located just below us, nestled between a bank of Columbia Wetlands in Brisco.

We’ve disturbed their quiet abode, but for a good cause. This team of experts and enthusiasts, armed with shovels and pickaxes, buckets and chicken wire, are here to help conserve Canada’s 5 cent stars. We are surrounded by wispy brown grass. Freshly chewed tree branches are evidence of beaver activity.

Under the direction of Living Lakes Canada, a team from Wildsight’s Youth Climate Corps (YCC)This November, the Columbia Valley saw two weeks of excitement. The team received a crash-course in water monitoring. This included hands-on experience and learning how to assess water quality and quantity parameters. Additionally, the team was introduced to techniques that can be used to monitor aquatic invasive species.

Week one was spent in and around Invermere including at Kinsmen, James Chabot beaches and Abel Creek, Dorothy Lake, and in the creeks, streams, and lakes surrounding Columbia Lake.

“This program provided a hands-on collaborative snapshot of water monitoring in the Columbia Basin and the importance to climate change resilience,” said Shannon McGinty with Living Lakes Canada. “Youth were provided a paid opportunity to develop their technical skills, engage with local organizations, and expand their knowledge.”

Youth Climate Corps crew members learn their CABIN skills near Hardie Creek. It flows into Columbia Lake, on the southwest side, close to Canal Flats. CABIN (Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network), is the federal protocol that assesses the health of freshwater ecosystems. Wildsight

In week two, Living Lakes Canada staff turned the crew’s focus towards beaver conservation in the Columbia Wetlands, including conducting beaver surveys, establishing protective wiring around several high-value cottonwood trees, and assisting in upgrades to an artificial beaver dam designed to encourage these natural ecosystem engineers to stay in the wetlands. Week two of work was done in Brisco and Spillimacheen as well as Radium Hot Springs.

The six-member YCC team will never forget the overall experience.

“Water systems are so delicate,” reflects crew member Noah Ko. “Stewardship is all-encompassing: whether it is measuring the size of 100 rocks (to determine bug habitat in a stream), or ensuring a pair of beavers have enough food to survive the winter, all of these elements exist in an interconnected system and are important in their own right.”

The Youth Climate Corps program was created in 2020 with the goal to empower young people to create and implement solutions for the climate crisis through training, employment, leadership development, and training.  Living Lakes Canada applies a climate change lens  to enhance the protection, restoration, and health of watersheds in the Columbia Basin and with partners from across Canada.

“Beaver activity indications, aquatic plant identification, water quality/quantity monitoring techniques and the theory behind them, beaver dam building techniques, beaver deterrent techniques, invasive species prevention principals, etc — it is almost shocking how much information was offered and how varied our days were,” describes crew member Tracey Mitchell. “This strengthened my knowledge about how broad the effects of the climate crisis are. I now have a much better understanding of how I am able to contribute to the mitigation of this crisis, for example with career opportunities, or volunteer water quality monitoring.”

Both organizations were delighted with the collaboration project and look forward to working together again.

“We have amazing resources in the Columbia Valley and have incredible strength when we work together; this program showed how well we have been able to do this,” said McGinty.

Climate Corps crew members learn lake quality monitoring at Pete’s Marina on Lake Windermere in Invermere. Photo by Living Lakes Canada

Tim Chapman, YCC Kim/Cran coordinator, echoes the sentiment: “The partnership between the two environmental groups was an easy fit. It was a wonderful experience to have so many like minded individuals working together, and one the Kimberley/Cranbrook-based Youth Climate Corps team agreed was informative, valuable and fun.”

For Youth Climate Corps members, the water project helped them understand climate-focused career opportunities.

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“The theme of land and water stewardship illustrated the importance of pursuing environmental conservation at the local level,” summed up Ko.

Living Lakes Canada facilitates collaboration in monitoring, restoration, and policy development initiatives for the long-term protection of Canada’s lakes, rivers, wetlands and watersheds impacted by climate risk.

Wildsight defends wildlife, wild spaces, and clean water — and teaches the next generation to love the wild — in the Kootenay and Columbia regions of BC, and beyond.

This collaborative project was also supported by the Columbia Wetland Stewardship Partners and the Lake Windermere Ambassadors.

Image of the leader: Living Lakes Canada and Wildsight’s Youth Climate Corps joined forces for a two-week project in the Columbia Wetlands this November. Photo by Living Lakes Canada

Crew member Amanda Weatherall cuts grass for the artificial dam that will enhance the beaver habitat in Columbia Wetlands. Wildsight

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