(file photo)

Eight Northwest salmon conservation projects receive funding for grassroots work

Pacific Salmon Foundation awards $1.2 million total to B.C. community-driven initiatives

The Pacific Salmon Foundation is doling out $1.2 million in grants to 117 grassroots salmon projects in B.C., including $65,800 to eight projects in the Northwest.

Michael Meneer, PSF President and CEO said the Community Salmon Program is the heart of the foundation’s work, and the funding announcement is especially significant this year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Given this challenging time … our announcement today is to send a strong and clear message that the work of salmon stewardship at the community level is vital, and will carry on,” Meneer stated in a press release. “We will have to adapt within public health guidelines, but want our community and First Nations partners to know their good ideas will still be supported.”

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The PSF grants target projects with a focus on habitat stewardship, salmon enhancement, science and education.

At $22,500, the largest grant in the Northwest went to the Buck Creek CANFOR hatchery in Houston, run by A Rocha’s Upper Bulkley River Streamkeepers.

Spokesperson Cindy Verbeek said support of small, community-led stewardship programs is crucial to the sustainability of B.C.’s salmon stocks.

“A big project is great, but it brings in someone from outside the community who wanders away when the work is done. These small projects can be upheld by the community over the long term. That’s really what’s going to make the difference, because it provides buy-in from the community.”

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The Buck Creek CANFOR Hatchery sits on one of the most threatened salmon-bearing rivers in the Skeena watershed. Because the river is closed to fishing, the work of the Streamkeepers provides eyes on the river in the absence of anglers and provincial authorities.

The hatchery will put the PSF grant toward a new structure for year-round indoor environmental education and interpretive displays. The money has pushed the Streamkeepers to just $25,000 short of their $200,000 fundraising goal. The group will apply for the building permit this week with hopes of breaking ground early June.

In the Terrace Area, the Lakelse Watershed Stewards Society received a $1,470 grant for their Scully Creek Salmon Escapement project. The society uses an underwater camera to count sockeye and coho during spawning. It’s a small but critical project in a vast habitat, spokesperson Summer Schulte said.

“The Lakelse watershed is a unique system with residential and industrial development, and we need to make sure those activities aren’t impacting the salmon runs. Every little piece matters. If we want to protect our fisheries we’re the ones who have to do something about it.”

The PSF’s Community Salmon Program is funded primarily from sales of the federal government’s $6 Salmon Conservation Stamp to saltwater anglers in the public fishery, generating nearly $1.5 million annually for the PSF program. The province also contributed funds as part of a $5 million grant, through 2023, to address the immediate and ongoing needs of Pacific salmon and their habitats. Other monies come from individual and cooperate donations and annual fundraisers.

The remainder of the Northwest recipients of this year’s grant are the Gitksan Watershed Authority’s McCully Creek Restoration Initiative Phase 2 in Hazelton ($21,000); Gitanyow Fisheries Authority’s Kitwanga Sockeye Salmon Stewardship and Survival Project ($13,250); Smithers Bulkley Valley Rod and Gun Club Club’s Creek Restoration project ($1,487); North Coast Skeena First Nations Stewardship Society’ Restoration and Rehabilitation project in Prince Rupert ($1,100); Prince Rupert Salmonid Enhancement Society’s Visualizing our Streams project ($1,440); and the Lake Babine Nation’s Invisible Migration Event 2020 ($3,560).

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