Simpcw Resources LLP and Simpcw First Nation have secured funding from Natural Resources Canada through the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee (IAMC) Capacity Funding Program. The IAMC aims to enhance Indigenous participation in the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP) and facilitate direct involvement of Indigenous groups. Utilizing this funding, Simpcw Resources LLP has undertaken a study focusing on black Cottonwood riparian ecosystems and three key species at risk that rely on these ecosystems.

The term “riparian” originates from the Latin word “ripa,” meaning bank or shore. Cottonwood riparian ecosystems play a vital role in providing habitat for numerous plant and animal species. The study’s focal area encompasses the North Thompson River corridor between Avola and Barriere, BC. The study aims to gather valuable data on how wildlife utilizes these ecosystems and identify necessary preservation measures. In the initial year, the research efforts concentrated on two endangered species: Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis) and Western Screech-Owl (Megascops kennicottii kennicottii).

Lewis’s Woodpecker is a medium-sized migratory woodpecker characterized by its distinctive pink to red belly and gray collar. Primary threats to the species include housing and urban development, perennial non-timber crops (e.g., agricultural development), and fire suppression. The Western Screech-Owl is a relatively small owl with yellow eyes and prominent “ear-like” feather tufts on its head. The Western Screech-Owl faces challenges from predation by larger owls and the removal of cavity trees, which serve as nesting habitat for the species. Field surveys were conducted, and the results yielded positive findings for the presence of Western Screech-Owl, marking the first confirmed observation in the North Thompson River corridor. Notably, individuals of both species were observed beyond their currently mapped ranges. The outcomes of this study will provide crucial information about Cottonwood riparian ecosystems and the dependence of species on them, contributing to the survival and conservation of at-risk species. Simpcw Resources LLP’s Environmental Division will continue its research in 2021 by incorporating Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and vegetation surveys into their investigations. Additionally, the team is developing a program to disseminate study findings to the Simpcwemc community through visual presentations and a SurveyMonkey questionnaire for community members to provide their input.