One of the defining characteristics of Coalmont is the cottonwoods. These floodplain pioneers have laid the foundation of our local ecosystem but have mostly been pushed away by the invasion of people. This is the case everywhere in this corner of the continent where these interesting trees live.
Cottonwood riparian forests are a biological treasure. They house an amazing variety of plants and animals. Unfortunately, these ecosystems are at risk in British Columbia. The problem is that they are located on level and fertile land, which is exactly where people like to settle. Human activities have destroyed many old cottonwood forests and only fragments remain. It is estimated that we have lost 85 percent of valley bottom riparian habitat and much of what is left is in poor health.
In semi-arid areas like the South Okanagan and Lower Similkameen, riparian areas are important for maintaining plant and animal diversity for the whole region. Studies have shown that 80 percent of wildlife are either directly dependent on riparian ecosystems or use them more frequently than other habitats. Extensive, healthy riparian systems are critical for wildlife, and habitat restoration and protection are high priorities for wildlife management. Since wetland and riparian areas cover only 4 percent of the region yet are critical for so many species, the loss of small areas can have a dramatic effect on local wildlife populations.
Here in Coalmont we have cut down many of the large old trees because they are unsafe to have near our houses. This is unfortunate, but cannot be avoided. However, we are lucky that there are still some intact areas nearby which can serve their important environmental purpose if we take care of them.