Region 4E- East Kootenay

Rick Hoar - Lake Windermere District Rod & Gun Club 

“We shall not destroy what we have not the power to replace.”

---Lake Windermere District Rod & Gun Club motto

When I approached Lake Windermere District Rod & Gun Club’s (LWDR&GC) Vice President, Rick Hoar, for an interview involving the club’s conservation work, he immediately contacted several long-time members to dig up a rich history dating back over 50 years.

One project that the club is particularly proud of is the Goose Nesting Box project, which ran from 1967-2005. Inspired by the Golden District Rod & Gun Club’s installation of goose nesting boxes in the previous year, the LWDR&GC applied for funding from Ducks Unlimited (DU) to begin a similar project. With sufficient funding and wood donated from local business, club members constructed, installed, and maintained several goose nesting boxes around the communities of Wilmer and Fairmount Hot Springs. Over 28 years, the LWDR&GC installed 100 boxes. They are particularly proud of this project because it involved a large number of members of all ages and helped forge a long lasting relationship with DU. Similarly, the club spent 5 years constructing and installing Wood Duck and Blue Bird nesting boxes along the Columbia River Wetland.

Another bird-related enhancement project involved the protection of Heron rookeries in 2007 and 2008. During the winter (when rookeries are not in use), the LWDR&GC worked with the BC Hydro Wildlife Compensation Program to wrap stucco wire around several nesting trees to prevent beavers from cutting down this valuable habitat.

Over the years, the LWDR&GC has also been involved in multiple game-related projects. For example, during severe winter conditions, they participated in feeding programs for elk and deer. Members have also generously donated their time and trailers to capture and relocate mountain sheep, elk, goats, and turkeys. In addition, the club has assisted in Mountain Sheep recovery and turkey re-introduction.  Following a large Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep die off in 1966 and 1967, the LWDR&GC and the province of BC constructed the Stoddard Creek Experimental Plots to determine how to increase winter range forage for the sheep and assist in their recovery. For this effort, the LWDR&GC received the O’Keefe Conservation Award.

Habitat enhancement is also a key part of game enhancement. Due to large scale fire suppression, many areas that were traditional winter ranges for many game species have disappeared. One way that the LWDR&GC helps is by manually thinning areas since 2006. In the past, the club has paid in part or whole for prescribed burns to increase valuable habitat for wildlife.

The LWDR&GC is also an active proponent of land acquisition. According to Rick, the Lake Windermere area is a desirable location for tourism and year round residential living, which can  reduce the extent of healthy wildlife habitat. By purchasing parcels of these lands the club is able to protect them and also use them for conservation projects.  Lands protected for conservation include parcels in the Fernie area, Wilmer Wildlife Refuge, Nature Trust Spur Lake, and Columbia Lake.

With many more successful projects than those listed above and a long history of contributing to conservation, we thought we would ask Rick and LWDR&GC members what their advice would be to clubs or members that wish to get involved. They returned with a few key points:

1. Get as many members involved as possible. By having a large group of people working together, you increase your chance of overcoming obstacles, such as conflicting schedules.

2. Speak to organizations that have experience in similar projects. They will be able to help you avoid making mistakes and might know of some shortcuts.

3. Make sure you have the funding to carry out your project.

4. For first timers, choose a small project with a quick turnaround. This will give members a feeling of accomplishment and provide the experience necessary to take on larger or more long-term projects.

-Written by Jason Jobin