The Elk River Regional Land Trust seeks to safeguard forests around Fernie and beyond. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Regional Land Trust launch fundraising efforts

The Trust seeks to protect swathes of forest around Fernie and beyond

The Elk Valley Regional Land Trust has formally launched community fundraising efforts to support the organizations’ goal to protect forests around Fernie and beyond.

The volunteer-run, not-for-profit organization has been working on its conservation efforts since late 2019 when the land trust was founded.

Currently the organization has a goal of raising $20 million to acquire up to 25,000 acres of Elk Valley forest land, in a bid to preserve recreational access, protect wildlife habitat and to future-proof the region’s vibrancy and economic well-being.

“Although the mountains in the Elk Valley offer world-class views, trails, recreation and ecology, most of these lands are privately owned. The only way to protect the forest and secure the community’s access for generations to come is to raise enough money for the purchase,” said trust land director Dave Hozjan.

The funding goal is large but the team behind the Land Trust say they are up for the challenge.

“The Trust is partnering with ‘Impact Investors’ (investors who focus on social and environmental benefits) to achieve this target”, said director Roger Swierstra.

“The impact investors will buy the assets from the current owners, and the Trust will purchase a protective covenant that establishes limits for sustainable industrial use. All donations, grants and funding to the Trust will be used to purchase this covenant,” he explained.

Numerous stakeholder groups have been consulted with in order to design the protective covenant to reflect the values of the community.

The directors said they believed that healthy, intact forests “are the community’s most valuable natural resource,” given there were over 300,000 tourist visits to Fernie each year.

“Preserving the attractiveness of region’s forests is extremely important to the local economy. And a vibrant economy makes Fernie more livable for residents by supporting local culture, heritage, social welfare and recreation.”

Land Trust Director Aysha Haines said that the clock was ticking.

“We need the full support of the community to help us achieve our goal.

“The future of this valley depends on it”.

For more information or to donate, visit their website at elkvalleylandtrust.org.

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scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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