Research and monitoring are required to determine the extent of wetland habitat to be restored and to guide future management decisions.
The management plan states that the parks’ wetland habitats may not be sufficient to support ecological integrity at a regional scale. Valley bottoms, and therefore wetland habitats, are the areas most affected by visitor facilities and the transportation corridor. Global warming may also influence the extent of wetlands.
Expanding the footprint of the transportation corridor may require measures to avoid wetlands. The management plan also recognizes the critical need to restore valley bottoms and ecological diversity along the Columbia River. In partnership with B.C. Hydro and other stakeholders, Parks Canada must be actively involved in wetland restoration.
14.6 Habitat Connectivity for Species-at-Risk
Certain of the plan’s proposals and external stressors may decrease habitat connectivity for species-at-risk.
Parks Canada will work with governments, adjacent communities, the public and organizations, including forestry companies, to research, monitor and influence the management of habitat for species-at-risk.
The Transportation Advisory Committee can help minimize habitat fragmentation. Expanding the footprint of the transportation corridor also has the potential to impact significantly on habitat connectivity for species-at-risk. Mitigation to reduce the impacts could include the construction of wildlife crossing structures, signage at wildlife crossing areas, speed reduction, and fencing for certain species. Parks Canada, as a responsible authority under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, would have to ensure that appropriate mitigation is considered and implemented to minimize the impacts of an expanded footprint for the Trans-Canada Highway.
14.7 Natural Disturbances
The plan’s proposals concerning natural disturbances will contribute to maintaining habitat and promoting diversity.
Many natural disturbances, at a variety of scales, affect vegetation in the Columbia Mountains – forest fires, avalanches, insect infestations, fungal diseases, wind and snow creep. A complex structure consisting of trees of various ages, dead trees still standing, fallen trees, and vegetative ground cover is frequently the result. This complexity supports diverse species, some of which depend almost exclusively on ancient old-growth forests.
Management decisions about fires can have long term results. Research in the Pacific Northwest and in the area around the parks indicates that the natural fire cycle is several hundred years. Fire suppression and forest management around the parks result in forests markedly different than those natural processes would create. In addition, forest management eliminates as much as 90% of snags, vital habitat for cavity nesting birds. Managed stands are also poor habitat for grizzly bears and other species that rely on a diverse ground cover.
The management plan allows fire to shape the landscape, where risks to the public and adjacent lands are minimal. This will have a positive effect on diversity within forest stands and on habitat for bears, woodpeckers and other species. In the long term, burned areas may serve as barriers in case of catastrophic fires. A risk analysis is required; the analysis should address loss of old-growth forest in the region, and the protection of rare or threatened habitats and species.
While habitat loss from park activities is likely to be minimal, the effect of external stressors will need to be monitored.
Habitat loss is mainly due to past practices and external stressors. Habitat loss from archaeological inventories would likely be very minor (e.g., test excavations). While trail improvements could cause some loss of habitat, restoration of unused trail sections will compensate for any impact of relocation.
To address external threats to habitat, the parks are committed to working with others in the Columbia Mountains Natural Region on integrated approaches to protecting and using the landscape. Monitoring will be used to measure the success of this approach.
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