The Nazko area has been hard hit by wildfires over the last two years, and a new multi-year project will work to restore critical Chinook and Coho salmon habitat in this area. File photo

Pacific Salmon Foundation supports major restoration project in Nazko area

Baker Creek Enhancement Society and Nazko First Nation working together on the multi-year initiative

A grant from the Pacific Salmon Foundation will help a major, multi-year salmon habitat restoration project in the Nazko area move ahead.

The Pacific Salmon Foundation announced it is providing more than $200,000 to help mitigate the impacts of wildfires to critical Chinook and Coho salmon habitat in the BC Interior.

The funding will be provided to the Baker Creek Enhancement Society, which is co-managing the initiative with the Nazko First Nation.

“The cumulative impacts of wildfires over the last two years on salmon habitat in the region have been significant,” Dr. Brian Riddell, science advisor for Pacific Salmon Foundation, said in a press release.

“This is a complex challenge to deal with, and it requires the kind of comprehensive group initiative being undertaken by the Baker Creek Enhancement Society and Nazko First Nation.”

Several years of wildfires across the Interior have had devastating impacts on the community, environment and economy of the area. In the summer of 2017 alone, the Plateau Fire burned over 521,000 hectares of land, much of this in the area impacted by the mountain pine beetle. Important Chinook and Coho runs were seriously affected, both with respect to their spawning grounds and rearing habitat.

“The last two wildfire seasons in B.C. were record-breaking in terms of their damage, which not only affected forests and ecosystems, but also affected the fish which rely on those ecosystems,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “The partnership between the Nazko First Nation, the Baker Creek Enhancement Society and the Pacific Salmon Foundation is providing leadership in improving outcomes for salmon in this wildfire-impacted area.”

Work will include live staking of pioneer plant species along rivers and streams, as well as underplanting and upslope planting of conifers and other trees. In addition, a nursery will be constructed to grow plants to support the restoration of the complete plant community in the area.

“It is going to take substantial efforts and focus from all levels of government, community groups, volunteers and citizens to restore critical salmon habitat devastated by wildfires,” said Tracy Bond, Executive Director, Baker Creek Enhancement Society. “We need to find creative ways to work together to ensure the juvenile salmon have food and cover so they can make the journey from the Interior to the ocean and so the adults coming back in the fall have the habitat they require to complete the spawning cycle. The Pacific Salmon Foundation has provided the initial funding to get this project off the ground and to help us attract the many partners we will need to complete this work.”

This initiative to mitigate the impact of the wildfires on salmon habitat will be done over a three-year period.

It could serve as a model for further wildfire mitigation efforts across B.C., according to the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

“There are many other areas of the province that have similar impacts on salmon habitat from years of wildfire activity,” said Riddell. “The initiative being led by the Baker Creek Enhancement Society and Nazko First Nation will be a catalyst for similar efforts in other regions in order to mitigate the damage that has been done.”

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