Glacial peaks give way to winding river valleys, each with its own unique world of plants and wildlife. A bird’s eye view reveals a land of contrasts — a land where the parkland of the Cariboo plateau is just a few kilometers from the semi-desert of the Okanagan. One thing that unifies the Pacific Interior is wetlands. It’s prime waterfowl habitat.
Between the Rockies and the Coast Mountains, the wetlands, lakes and streams of the Pacific Interior region offer superb breeding and migration grounds for waterfowl.
Nearly 1.5 million waterfowl breed in the Interior, with several hundred thousand more passing through on their way to and from the boreal forest. It’s no surprise that the region hosts the majority of Ducks Unlimited Canada’s projects in the province.
The Southern Interior has become the most densely-populated part of the region, with more communities added every year. In the Okanagan Valley alone, human activities have resulted in the loss of 85 per cent of the wetlands along the valley floor and degraded the water quality in local lakes and streams.
Why the Pacific Interior Matters
Although the region is small in size, the wetlands in the Pacific Interior offer immense benefits to waterfowl and people.
The Pacific Interior supports over one million breeding and migrating waterfowl from 24 different species.
Mallard, Barrow’s goldeneye, bufflehead and many other duck species breed in its wetlands. Still more pass through on their way to and from the boreal forest each spring and fall.
Cabins line many of the lakes of the Pacific Interior. This is where much of British Columbia comes to play. Canoes wind along the many rivers and anglers line the shore.
Wetlands in the Pacific Interior are key places for activities like fishing, hunting, paddling, hiking and camping. They provide the opportunities that make this such an exciting place to visit and live.
Wetlands act as filters to reduce the amount of nutrients and other pollutants that can enter our streams, rivers and lakes.
Nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are good for crops but not for our waters. Wetlands stop nutrients from being swept downstream into our rivers, lakes and our drinking water. The Pacific Interior relies on its waterways for survival, and wetlands help keep them clean.
Wetlands act like giant sponges, storing water in seasons of high precipitation and absorbing the snowmelt. During droughts, they release moisture for crops and people.
The Pacific Interior needs an immense amount of water for its crops and people. With climate change projected to dry out the region, wetlands are on the defence. In an area where an expanding agriculture industry is competing for water and glaciers are rapidly disappearing, conservation is critical.
The threats and effects of Agriculture and Urban Expansion
Up to 85 per cent of wetlands in parts of the Pacific Interior have been lost to expanding communities.
Farms that overgraze and drain wetlands are taking their toll. So too is development. Booming cities like Kamloops and Kelowna are encroaching on some of the most valuable low-elevation wetlands.
Loss of wetlands is compounding the effects of climate change. In the Pacific Interior, water levels in remaining wetlands are unreliable. Some areas are drying up completely, causing further problems.
How We’re Saving the Pacific Interior
This region includes the best of BC’s wetlands. It is home to our largest concentration of projects in that province.
Our projects in the Pacific Interior are making a big difference for conservation. But they need ongoing maintenance and repair. Many are more than 30 years old.
Maintaining, repairing and rebuilding these projects is vital to the area. In addition to providing essential habitat for wildlife, these projects enhance water quality and provide water for ranching communities.
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At DUC, our work focuses on science-based solutions. We are fortunate to draw some of the best and brightest in the field of conservation.