REPORT RECAP: Kootenay & Boundary Regional Adaptation Strategies

Posted by Hailey Troock on August 09, 2019

The Columbia River in Castlegar

This post provides a summary of some key points taken directly from the 64-page Regional Adaptation Strategies: Kootenay & Boundary report, published July 2019. Questions about this project and report can be sent to emily@bcagclimateaction.ca. If you have questions about Kootenay and Boundary programming and support for your farm’s adaptation strategy or Environmental Farm Plan, contact coordinator@kbfa.ca. The full report can be accessed online here

Background

The Kootenay & Boundary Adaptation Strategies plan was initiated by the BC Agriculture & Food Climate Action Initiative to address priorities identified through both the 2012 Climate Change Risk & Opportunity Assessment and the 2010 BC Agriculture Climate Change Action Plan (both available at www.bcagclimateaction.ca).

Regional Context

The geographic scope of the Kootenay & Boundary Adaptation Strategies covers 57,721 square kilometres and includes the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) and the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK). It comprises 25 municipalities and 22 electoral areas. There are limitations to agricultural production in the region, due primarily to the mountainous topography and soil type and quality.

Farmland Value

Farmland in the Kootenays (at $45,000/acre) is more affordable than in the Okanagan and on the South Coast, but significantly more expensive than in other regions of the province (such Thompson-Nicola and Central/Northern BC). During the past few years, agriculture has trended toward smaller acreages. However, in 2018, the region as a whole saw a very limited number of farmland sales, especially for orchard properties.

Agricultural Trends

  • Total number of farms has steadily declined over the last decade and the average farm size has decreased. 
  • Gross farm receipts are increasing across the region.
  • The Central Kootenay produced the highest gross farm receipts driven by the dairy and tree fruit sectors.
  • Forage and pasture accounts for more than half of all cultivated land in the East Kootenay, and are also predominant in the Central Kootenay and Kootenay Boundary.
  • The region boasts 47 certified organic farms.

Regional Climate Science

  • Average summer temperatures are to increase more than average in other seasons, while average daytime high and night time low temperatures also expected to increase in all seasons.
  • Projections show a decrease in summer precipitation in contrast to the projected increase in precipitation in spring, fall and winter. Changes to summer and spring precipitation will be more pronounced than fall and winter changes.
  • Magnitude and frequency of extreme events and rainfall are forecast to increase.
  • Winter and spring warming will reduce snowpack throughout much of the region particularly at low elevations.

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The report outlines four priority impact areas. Each area includes several strategies, each with several associated actions.

Impact Area 1: Warmer & drier summer conditions

The amount of land under agricultural production that relies on irrigation varies, from approximately 50% of actively farmed land in the East Kootenays, to 35% in the Central Kootenays to 10% in Kootenay Boundary.

Strategy 1.1 – Improve tools and resources for irrigation efficiency and water management best practices

  • Develop resources to improve water use efficiency and communicate benefits of water conservation
  • Develop tools(s) to measure, track and optimize water use
  • Provide knowledge transfer for practices to maintain/ enhance soil moisture

Strategy 1.2 – Support the enhancement of existing, and development of new, water storage capacity

  • Identify and evaluate options for shared (sub-regional) water storage 
  • Strengthen availability of technical, regulatory and economic information on development/ enhancement of on-farm/ranch water storage 

Strategy 1.3 – Enhance representation of agricultural interests in landscape level water management and planning 

  • Identify and fill information and data gaps relating to water resources in the region 
  • Strengthen regional capacity for a coordinated, cross-sector approach to water management and planning 

Impact Area 2: Increasing wildfire risk

Wildfires jeopardize crop production and quality, livestock health, farm workers’ health and agricultural infrastructure. For example, in 2018, most of the region experienced more than 20 days of Air Quality Health Index above 7 (high health risk) due to significant smoke cover.

Strategy 2.1 – Promote wildfire preparedness planning at the farm and regional levels

  • Encourage adoption of farm-level wildfire planning preparedness tools and resources
  • Develop a wildfire communication protocol to guide communication between response agencies and producers

Strategy 2.2 – Pilot and demonstrate fuel management practices for private and Crown range land 

  • Identify and address barriers to fuel management on private land
  • Develop and pilot collaborative fuel management approaches to reduce fuel on high-risk Crown land

Impact Area 3: Increasing variability

Critical windows in the production season (such as planting and harvesting) are becoming less predictable. Variable temperatures and abrupt temperature swings can result in increased risk of frost or heat damage to crops, and winter storm events are of particular concern for livestock and forage producers. Parameters for crop suitability may shift in some areas, reducing the viability of current crops/varieties and increasing the potential of others. Variability is also anticipated to increase pest pressure in the region. 

Strategy 3.1 – Enhance weather data collection/analysis and availability of decision support tools

  • Expand weather station coverage and improve producer access to station data
  • Develop decision support tools and resources linked to weather data

Strategy 3.2 – Support local research and demonstration for crop trials and farm management practices

  • Create a producer-led research network
  • Develop an online producer knowledge hub
  • Identify and undertake applied research to support innovative farm practices to mitigate risk from climate change impacts

Strategy 3.3 – Improve education and awareness for effective management of pests

  • Determine economically significant pests/ emerging pests of concern to the agricultural sector
  • Enhance producer knowledge of, and access to, pest and invasive species management information
  • Provide knowledge transfer about biological/mechanical treatments for pests and invasive species

Impact Area 4 – Increasing risk of spring flooding

Much of the agricultural land in the region follows the valley floors and rivers, and is therefore vulnerable to flood events. Addressing flood risk on agricultural land requires both farm-level and landscape-level planning and mitigation approaches. 

Strategy 4.1 – Slow and capture runoff through enhancement of small-scale green infrastructure

  • Identify suitable green infrastructure options and priority pilot areas
  • Establish pilot site(s) and evaluate benefits

Strategy 4.2 – Support knowledge transfer for effective management and enhancement of on-farm riparian areas

  • Consolidate, create and share information on riparian management and enhancement
  • Establish demonstration sites to facilitate knowledge transfer
  • Develop/improve financial supports available for riparian enhancement

Strategy 4.3 – Improve tools and resources for farm-level flood readiness

  • Develop and/or distribute farm-level flood readiness resources
  • Enhance integration of agriculture-specific issues into community-level emergency planning

Strategy 4.4 – Support a cooperative and consistent approach to dike management in the Creston Valley 

  • Support improved communication among diking districts and between diking districts and the agricultural sector
  • Establish demonstration sites to encourage adoption of riparian management practices that enhance flood mitigation on dike banks and set-backs

Implementation and Monitoring 

As the final stage in plan development, an implementation meeting was held with key partners (25 individuals) to prioritize actions and determine how to move them forward. Members of the Advisory Committee that supported the development of this plan will transition into a local working group to oversee implementation and monitor progress. This group will continue to include agricultural organizations, local government and provincial government representatives.

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