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Nature Trust board coming to tour local properties

Members of the board of directors of the Nature Trust of British Columbia will be coming to the East Kootenay to tour a number of its properties this week.

On Thursday, June 12, the Nature Trust board, which is comprised of members from around B.C., will meet at St. Eugene, before touring properties on the Wigwam Flats near Elko, Big Ranch in the Elk Valley and Silvertip Ranch in Bull River.

Rob Neil, Kootenay Conservation Land Manager for the Nature Trust of B.C. and a registered professional biologist, said it is a chance for the board to take a closer look at some of the Trust properties.

"What these tours do is provide an opportunity for our boards to actually see the properties that they are looking at and reviewing," Neil said. "Instead of just reading about them and looking at documentation, they actually get onsite and look at them."

At Big Ranch they will have a barbecue lunch and Neil invited representatives from other Kootenay-region organizations.

"It's a great opportunity for the board to meet those people and engage in a conversation on how they support conservation lands and what they do," he said.

The Nature Trust alternates visits between locations on Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, the Okanagan and the Kootenays.

"We alternate the tour on each of those regions of British Columbia," he said.

The tours are part of the land purchase review process of the Trust.

"When we look at a prospective purchase of a conservation property, we draft up a summer report that outlines the ecological and biological values of that property and provide rationale for purchase," he said. "That goes to the board of directors who review the report."

Neil said from his position as the regional manager for the Nature Trust, it also affords him the opportunity to showcase the land for the board.

"We really focus on dry grassland habitats," he said of the Kootenay-branch of the Nature Trust. "On Vancouver Island they look at wetland habitats. We do too, but they are few and far between."

He said the wetlands are a priority because they are so biologically diverse, adding the grasslands are also important in conservation efforts.

The Trust looks at properties that exhibit specific ecological values that they look for.

"Then we will approach the landowner and tell him we're interested in the property," he said. "But what usually happens is people approach us and say they have a property."

Then the owners ask whether the Trust is interested in purchasing that property.

"We have a set of evaluation criteria that we go through and rate the property against," he said. "Then the challenge really comes from where do we generate the funds?"

Neil said they also take into account things like connectivity and proximity to other Nature Trust land.

The board of directors will also be discussing other matters of the Nature Trust, such as solving issues surrounding some of the different properties.

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