Scientists converge on BC’s Flathead Valley to catalogue species

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Image: CPAWS BC
Image: CPAWS BC

Fernie – Fourteen scientists are gathering in B.C.’s Flathead and Elk valleys for a BioBlitz to catalogue species on three undeveloped parcels of land belonging to Teck Resources Ltd.

After consultations with the Flathead Wild team, a group conservation organizations aiming to protect much of the Flathead River Valley, Teck purchased the land for conservation in October 2013. One parcel is the former Flathead Townsite, a 1,000-hectare section along the Flathead River that is important for bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, grizzly bears and birds, and the other two 3,000-hectare parcels are at Alexander Creek and Grave Prairie in the adjoining Elk Valley.

“Teck purchased these lands for conservation because they are home to an incredible diversity of wildlife and are culturally significant to the Ktunaxa Nation,” said Marcia Smith, Teck’s Senior Vice President of Sustainability and External Affairs. “We are excited to see the results of this year’s BioBlitz, which will build on our shared knowledge of this special part of the world, and help guide our work to ensure it is protected for future generations.”

Scientists, including two from the Royal BC Museum, will collect specimens of everything from bugs to plants, and will document all the wildlife they spot, including bird species and small mammals like the endangered badger.

“We already know that the Flathead and Alexander Creek parcels are critically important for wildlife connectivity,” said Wildsight Conservation Director John Bergenske. “They are part of an essential corridor for grizzlies, lynx and other wildlife that move up and down the Rocky Mountains, from Montana’s Glacier National Park to Banff and Jasper National Parks.”

Three BioBlitzes have already been held in the Flathead, starting in 2012. Scientists found no introduced bug, mollusc (clam, snail and slug) or bird species in the Flathead, and confirmed that the area is rich in biodiversity. Among other finds, they discovered a brand new species of spider so speedy that they named it Apostenus ducati after the Italian motorcycle. They also found a fingernail clam that had not been sighted in B.C. in 100 years, several rare butterfly species, and all four species of chickadee.

“The Flathead is a mixing zone for species from four different eco-regions,” said Peter Wood, Director of Terrestrial Campaigns for the BC Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “It’s a special place and deserves permanent protection.”

The Flathead Wild team is comprised of six Canadian and U.S. conservation groups: Wildsight, CPAWS BC, Sierra Club BC, Headwaters Montana, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y).

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