Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area is located near the town of Creston in south-central British Columbia. It is situated on the floodplain of the Kootenay River, where it enters the south end of Kootenay Lake, and it extends about 20 km north along the lake. The area lies within one of British Columbias few flat valleys and is bordered by the Selkirk Mountains to the west, the Purcell Mountains to the east, and Kootenay Lake to the north. Most of the landscape is marshland, and the 15,000 ha Duck Lake is also part of the site. The valley bottom is composed of recent alluvial soils that have developed chiefly from well-sorted silty clays deposited since the last glacial period. Some local fauna are of provincial significance such as the White Sturgeon, Red-tailed Chipmunk and Coeur dAlene Salamander (one of less than five sites known in Canada). Finally, this area is the only known site in the province with Leopard Frogs.
Creston Valley is well-known as an excellent site for concentrations of birds, especially waterbirds. During spring migration, Tundra Swans can be seen in numbers often as high as 6,000 birds. This peak number is equivalent to 3% of the North American Tundra Swan population. However, numbers of Tundra Swans has decreased markedly over the last 40 years, due to changes in agricultural practices. Other waterfowl also use the valley during spring and fall migration. Waterfowl numbers are highest in fall the 16-year average is 67,000 waterfowl. Also, over 1.5% of the global population of American Coots migrate through the valley. Coot numbers are high during both spring and fall migration and many birds also breed in the area, The 24-year average of the maximum annual number of coots (during spring or fall) was 22,700. Large numbers of breeding Black Terns occur here 450 individuals or perhaps 4.5% of the poorly known national population.
This site also supports one of only three breeding colonies of Western Grebes in British Columbia. A 1998 census located 56 grebe nests, which is a decline from peak numbers (around 100 nests) recorded in the 1980s. The total number of grebes using the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area was 157 in 1997 and 166 in 1998. The only breeding location of Forsters Tern in British Columbia is also found at Creston Valley. On average, 53 terns nest here annually. Long-billed Curlews, Ospreys, and Great Blue Herons also breed in the valley. The heron colony is the largest British Columbia colony outside of the coast. Non-breeding American White Pelicans have been increasing in number; 80 were seen in 1999. Finally, winter raptor concentrations are impressive, and include a record of more than 100 Rough-legged Hawks using the marshes and meadows.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The land in the Creston Valley is mostly used for wildlife conservation and several ongoing research projects. This entire site is within a wildlife management area that is managed by a mixed group of government and non-governmental organizations. There is a 25 year management plan, and most of the marshes are dyked and managed for wildlife production. Drawdowns, mowing and water level controls are all used to maintain this marsh productivity. One concern is a lack of funding to control vegetation succession. Threats to nesting birds include disturbance from fishing, changing water levels, and natural marsh infilling.
The Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area also operates a large interpretive centre from spring through fall providing information for visitors, educational programs for school groups, and summer childrens programs. Access is controlled to parts of the site to limit the impacts of human use. Hikers, ATV users and drivers have all requested an increase in accessibility.