Located within the historic ranchlands of the Cariboo Region, the 148 Mile Marshes are a combination of Mother Nature’s keen eye for design and ability to dazzle. The picturesque marshes dot the landscape near the Cariboo Plateau in the Fraser River watershed, adding a splash of blue in the rolling green hills.
They are also part of DUC’s long-standing commitment to conservation and working with the agricultural community. The marshes, lakes, and creek diversions spread across 346 acres of grassy slopes. Swales offers a diverse landscape productive for waterfowl and wildlife. A combination of a local rancher looking to improve productivity and a good steward of the land is what makes the 148 Mile Marshes a successful project.
John Miller, now retired, saw the need to partner with DUC in 1975. Irrigation needs and water diversion on the ranch were becoming paramount to protect his land. Miller, along with the Cornwall family, built water controls on Jones Lake to back flood for haying in 1967. The Cornwalls also constructed simple water diversion on Borland Creek, along with controls on Redeau Lake in 1970. But it soon became apparent that they needed some additional engineering capacity. So in 1975, they entered into a partnership with DUC.
Partnerships Make A Difference
“When we first started this project, there was some trepidation from neighbours about the partnership,” explains Miller.
He said people were concerned they may lose autonomy over their land. But Miller says he only saw positives of teaming with DUC.
“The project was only going to enhance the ranch and improve the bottom line,” says Miller. “From Ducks’ point of view, there was a benefit to the ducks, geese, and migratory birds that pass through. It was a pretty easy decision, truthfully.”
So DUC set out to enhance the work the Millers and Cornwalls started. DUC installed inlet/outlet controls on all remaining segments and dug conveyance ditches between all segments.
“The success of the ranch hinged on being able to control the threat of flooding and get the water that was there to where it was needed most. I’m not sure that would have been possible without our partnership with Ducks,” says Miller.
For DUC, the project offers enormous potential when it comes to protecting and enhancing waterfowl and migratory bird habitat. It also provides benefits to a wide range of wildlife, including moose, muskrat, beavers, black bears, coyotes, and mule deer. All wildlife are dependent on the more than 21 kilometres of shoreline the ranch offers.
“Partnering with ranchers and farmers is a core part of our conservation program,” says Sarah Nathan, manager of provincial operations for DUC in British Columbia. “Agricultural producers are important stewards of many landscapes in B.C. It’s a big win when we can partner in a way that benefits both agriculture and wildlife as we have at 148 Mile .”
The project upgrades are also being funded thanks to the Conservation Habitat Trust Foundation.
While Miller has now retired, DUC is still hard at work on the 148 Mile Ranch. A new agreement is in place with the current owners, Jared and Shelley Fletcher, who also appreciate the mutual benefits of collaborating with DUC.
Over this year and next year, DUC will complete upgrades to all 26 water controls associated with the 148 Mile Marshes. These works will ensure that all the infrastructure complies with new provincial safety requirements.
Ducks Unlimited Canada’s Vision
DUC’s vision for the Intermountain Region is of a landscape that supports healthy populations of birds, maintains biodiversity and fosters sustainable resource use. The project provides regionally significant breeding wetlands, which move DUC closer to achieving that vision. The location also serves as a migration staging point for waterfowl moving through and within B.C. It also contributes to other bird populations and biodiversity in the province. It supports two of DUC’s overarching habitat goals: ensuring no loss of wetlands with value to waterfowl, and restoration of wetlands to support waterfowl.
For Miller, watching this spring’s rising runoff reaching a once in a 200-year flood level, the decision to partner with DUC seems logical.
“In my experience, there has been no downside at all. Anyone interested in protecting the water on their property shouldn’t hesitate to call. I’ve seen the benefits first hand.”