Students with the Mountain Adventure Skills Training Program (MAST) at the College of the Rockies – Fernie Campus, are always eager to give back and help the local environment. Here they are with the ERA Volunteer team restoring Wilson Lake, part of the Hosmer Wetland at NCC’s Elk Valley Heritage Conservation Area by planting live stakes.

“Energetic, strong, and skilled students are so valuable when they put what they’ve learned into action”, said Lee-Anne Walker, Natural History Instructor of the MAST Program for 22 years. “After gaining knowledge and experience about this special space and their new home, they are keen to help care for our valley”.

A partnership with the Elk River Alliance (ERA) offered a perfect outlet to make a difference this fall. ERA and MAST have been collaborating with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) Elk Valley Heritage Conservation Area to restore an abandoned gravel pit north of Hosmer back into a functioning wetland. This summer NCC graded and added soil to the west edge of Wilson Lake. On October 20, 2018 20 MAST students and ERA volunteers planted 400 live stakes to re-vegetate the area.

“Students helped to collect cottonwood, aspen, willow and red-osier dogwood stakes, which were mainly blow down from a recent wind event, as well as along the Highway 3 ditch”, said Beth Millions, ERA Stewardship Program Manager. “There is nothing like youthful energy to get a lot of work done efficiently. Slowly the students are helping transform a ‘gravel parking lot’ and still water ponds into a functioning wetland”, said the MAST instructor Walker.

“Wetlands have been lost in the Elk Valley due to the cumulative impacts of road, railway and urban development. They’ve been drained, filled in and cut off from the Elk River”, reminds Millions. “This project is an attempt to restore wetlands that provide important functions to locals for free. Wetlands help reduce flood risk by soaking up and storing water. They recharge groundwater and later release it back into the Elk River during dry spells, which is important for aquatic life like fish. They also provide habitat for many species at risk.”

Many thanks to the MAST students for their ‘brawn and brains’, making a difference in local wetland ecosystem restoration.

About the Elk River Alliance
The Elk River Alliance (ERA) is a non-profit, community-based water group dedicated to connecting people to the Elk River watershed keeping it drinkable, fishable and swimmable for future generations. For more information call Beth Millions, ERA Restoration and Stewardship Program Manager at (250) 423-3322 or info@elkriveralliance.ca

About The Nature Conservancy of Canada
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is Canada’s leading national land conservation organization. Since 1962, NCC and our partners have helped to conserve 2.8 million acres (more than 1.1 million hectares) of ecologically significant land nationwide. www.natureconservancy.ca

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