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Good, Clean Dirt

Good, Clean Dirt
UVic student Nathalie Vogel submitted the following narrative about PCAF Project 976, the Restoration of Robin Lane. HCTF contributed over $5000 to this project, which involved more than twenty volunteers removing invasives and restoring native plants to a former Garry Oak site in Saanich, BC. Thank you, Nathalie, for sharing your story.   What do you get when you combine sunshine, fresh lemongrass tea, Salal, Oregon grape, some restoration veterans and the smell of earth in your nostrils? A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon spent at Robin Lane, sharing in ecological restoration, and bodily rejuvenation. Fellow classmate and restoration rookie Jenna and I had the pleasure of sharing an afternoon with two ladies who know this business like the dirt under their nails. Sylvia Samborski and Louise Goulet have been working with plants for decades – both through their careers as naturalists and biologist/teachers and now through their hobbies of gardening, restoration and the continued desire to learn.  The fortune was truly ours that afternoon as the women passed along words of wisdom and knowledge about plants and life – the line sometimes blurring between the two. Robin Lane, our Eden of escape on that brisk January afternoon, is a piece of...
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Students Help Transform MacKay Creek

Students Help Transform MacKay Creek
Over the past two months, MacKay Creek estuary has undergone an amazing transformation. The estuary's revival is the keystone project in HCTF's Burrard Inlet Restoration Program , a pilot created using funds from a creative sentencing award and designed to maximize habitat benefits through innovative partnerships. One of the project partners is Bodwell High School , located just steps away from the MacKay Creek restoration site on Vancouver's North Shore. The restoration of the MacKay Creek estuary began in September with the removal of a large concrete weir which had previously prevented migrating chum salmon, coho salmon and cutthroat trout from entering the creek. Next, the elevation of the estuary's tidal benches was re-graded, creating a substrate that could support saltmarsh vegetation such as eelgrass and sedges. Large pieces of wood were strategically placed in the water and the tidal benches, both to provide refuge for fish and wildlife and to help discourage Canada geese from  overgrazing the new vegetation. Once the heavy equipment work was complete, it was the students' turn to start planting native species along the banks of the estuary. Bodwell's Green Team, mentored by teacher Bianca Ferrajohn, had previously been involved in removing invasive plants from...
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BC's Wild/ Domestic Sheep Separation Program

BC's Wild/ Domestic Sheep Separation Program
The November rut is a magnificent display of strength and agility, a refined ritual that has been practiced by bighorns for centuries. The sights and sounds of these iconic B.C. mammals vying for dominance evoke a sense of respect for the ruggedness of a species that Theodore Roosevelt referred to as "one of the noblest beasts". Yet the rut can be a treacherous time for bighorns, far beyond the risk of injury from their intra-species tussles. For these highly social animals, the real danger can lie with the company they keep. Wild sheep share a number of similarities with their domestic cousins: they will use the same forage and water sources, and can even interbreed. Where bighorn range and domestic sheep operations overlap, it's understandable that a randy ram might find a large flock of domestic ewes worth a closer look. Unfortunately, these forays can have deadly consequences. Even nose-to-nose contact between the two species can result in the transfer of a pathogen lethal to wild sheep. And because it takes time for animals to become symptomatic, an infected (but visibly healthy) bighorn that returns to its herd will spread the disease, potentially decimating an entire population. For nearly a...
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Ritchie Lake Wetland Restoration: From Bad to Rad!

Ritchie Lake Wetland Restoration: From Bad to Rad!
The following story was provided by the South Okanagan-Similkameen Conservation Program , detailing the amazing transformation of a damaged bog into a key piece of wildlife habitat. The Summerland Sportsmen’s Association received an HCTF PCAF grant to fence and restore the Ritchie Lake wetland, one of the last intact wetlands in the Garnet Valley. Through partnerships with Province, local conservation organizations and the incredible efforts of a dedicated group of volunteers, they have certainly provided a helping hand for wildlife in BC. In the 1980’s the Province of BC had the foresight to purchase a number of properties in Garnet Valley just north of Summerland to augment existing crown lands and conserve some of the highest quality ungulate winter range some wildlife biologists had ever seen. The area, known as “Antler’s Saddle” is low elevation and highly suitable winter and early spring ranges for mule deer. The valley and hillside also supports sensitive grasslands, wetlands and open forest ecosystems – habitat for other wildlife species, some of which are federally listed as “at risk”. The area is managed by the Province of BC through the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and what a challenge it is to...
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Elkink South Block, Sagebrush Slopes and Sparrow Grasslands

The South Okanagan-Similkameen region is a biodiversity hotspot, home to unique assemblages of plants and animals. The Bunchgrass Zone ecosystem of this region is found in less than one percent of BC, yet it supports a tremendous diversity and density of wildlife.  Unfortunately, agricultural use and urbanization have resulted in this delicate ecosystem becoming one of the three most endangered in Canada. With thirty percent of the province’s at-risk species dependent on it, there has been a great impetus to conserve grassland properties before the ecosystem and its inhabitants are lost. HCTF contributed $800,000 to NCC ’s purchase of three properties in the South Okanagan Similkameen that contain significant amounts of grassland habitat.  Sagebrush Slopes, Sparrow Grasslands and Elkink South Block added a total of 1,263 hectares of invaluable habitat to existing protected areas. Together, these parcels comprise the most extensive sagebrush community in the region. Their protection preserves migration corridors and allows wildlife to move freely between the Similkameen and Okanagan Valleys, and through to the desert areas of the western United States. Red-listed species on site include the Grasshopper, Lark and Brewer’s Sparrows, Lewis’s Woodpecker, American Badger and Burrowing Owl. Once the management plan for the recently-purchased Elkink...
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