Featured

Conservation in Action

Conservation in Action
With support from HCTF’s Public Conservation Assistance Fund (PCAF), the  Salt Spring Island Conservancy is making a different to species-at-risk on  Salt Spring Island . Salt Spring Island is home to a number of vulnerable wildlife species, including the red-listed Western Bluebird ( Sialia mexicana ) , Western Painted Turtles ( Chrysemys picta bellii ), Barn Owls ( Tyto alba ) and   Western Screech Owls ( Megascops kennicottii ). With over 70% of land on the island being privately owned, the Salt Spring Island Conservancy (SSIC) focuses on working together with landowners to conserve and protect wildlife habitat on their properties. Through outreach, education and organization of on-the-ground conservation activities, SSIC is making great strides in the preservation and improvement of wildlife habitat on this jewel of the Southern Gulf Islands. Left: A volunteer installs a bluebird nest box on Salt Spring Island. PCAF grants are designed to get more people actively involved in conservation work. SSIC embodies this principle through mobilization of volunteers to enhance habitat, including building nest boxes for bluebirds and installing protective cages at turtle nesting sites. Volunteers are also encouraged to participate in monitoring programs to help guide future conservation activities. Above:   A volunteer participates in a wildlife monitoring program organized by SSIC HCTF is pleased to have supported the Salt Spring Island Conservancy in their conservation efforts through the PCAF program. For more information on how to apply for a PCAF grant for your organization, click here .
Continue reading
2992 Hits
0 Comments
Featured

PCAF Project Makes Ancient Forest Accessible to All

PCAF Project Makes Ancient Forest Accessible to All
Earlier this month, hundreds of people turned out for the Grand Opening of the Universal Boardwalk, near Dome Creek, BC . The newly-constructed boardwalk allows people of all ages and abilities to experience hiking through a unique inland temperate rainforest. The Ancient Forest is one of only a few surviving stands of old-growth cedar forest in the Upper Fraser River and Robson Valley, and is home to a rich abundance of native flora and fauna. There are more tree species within the inland rain forests than anywhere else in BC, and these include some impressive specimens: a number of the Ancient Forest's giant cedars are over 1000 years old and nearly 16 feet in diameter. More than 200 different kinds of lichen have been found here, some of which researchers believe may be newly-discovered species. And the forest and surrounding area provides habitat for a suite of iconic BC carnivores, including grizzly bears, lynx, wolves, wolverines, and cougars. Before the boardwalk was constructed, the rough terrain of the Ancient Forest Trail made it extremely difficult for people with physical limitations to experience this spectacular ecosystem first-hand. Now, the boardwalk provides full access for visitors requiring wheelchairs or other mobility devices.   The completed boardwalk is the result of over three years of hard work by nearly 200 volunteers, who came together to turn the idea of a fully accessible trail through the forest into a realty. The project was funded through contributions from multiple partner organizations, including $10,000 in PCAF grants from HCTF. Through the many people and partners working towards its completion, the Universal Boardwalk project has helped to increase awareness of this special ecosystem, and has culminated in the creation of a recreational and educational resource that will inspire conservationists from all walks of life. Congratulations to project leader Nowell Senior and the many dedicated volunteers on a job well done! You can watch a video of the official boardwalk opening here>>  
Continue reading
2413 Hits
0 Comments
Featured

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 manage. At the heart of these conservation lands there used to be a healthy, vibrant wetland – complete with bulrushes, ducks and a source of drinking water for wildlife – a rare commodity in the dry South Okanagan landscape. The Antler’s Saddle area is also important historically as it is part of the two-hundred year old Fur Brigade Trail that followed an ancient Aboriginal trail. Unfortunately, within the last ten or so years Ritchie Lake became a popular hangout for a small, but impactful group of off-road vehicle drivers who illegally drove in and out of the wet area repeatedly – grinding up the vegetation and sub-soils. It is hard to overstate the impact that “mudbogging” can have on a sensitive spot like Ritchie Lake. The vehicle destruction, combined with cattle accessing the wetland for water, a few dry years, and maybe even disruption to water flows from a gas pipeline and road development – Ritchie Lake was in a sad state. As one of the only potential wetlands of its kind left in Garnet Valley, and armed with a couple people who had memory of seeing it in is former glory – a group set together to “bring it back”. A partnership quickly hatched between the SOSCP Program Manager, Summerland Sportsmen’s Association, the local rancher, the BC Conservation Officer Service and the land manager – Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO). Provincial range staff provided support and in-kind contribution of materials. An application was made to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) – funded by hunter and angler licensing dollars and the original source of the purchase dollars for the properties back in the 80”s. Soon the group had cash, materials and enough volunteer elbow grease to complete the project. It took about four days to complete the project –and about 10 volunteers in total.   In September of 2012, a wildlife –friendly range fence was completed around the former wetland perimeter complete with a gate to remove the odd cow or calf that may get in. A number of boulders were carefully placed in the low areas and an interpretive sign written and posted to provide background on the wildlife values, the sensitivity of the ecosystem, funders who contributed and the hard working volunteers that put their time into the project. Continued monitoring of the fence and the wetland itself is underway through a number of mechanisms. In addition, the Province is also implementing an Access Management Strategy for Garnet Valley to protect wildlife habitat through identifying approved routes and closing illegal and secondary trails to motor vehicle traffic at critical times of the year. One year after the project the results are no less than stunning. Granted, it was a wet year, but the pictures speak for themselves. Yes, those are sedges….and ducks. Congratulations to everyone involved!  
Continue reading
2945 Hits
0 Comments
Featured

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 public land located in Saanich on Vancouver Island. Sylvia and her husband Ron took it upon themselves to restore some love and biodiversity into this piece of abandoned land and return it to the flourishing Garry Oak ecosystem that it once was. The process started with hours of devotion by Sylvia, Ron and their enthusiastic group of friends to remove all invasive species – which made up most of the vegetative cover in the area. The next step in the process was to rebuild the nutrients and minerals within the soil with chopped leaves from the city’s annual street leaf pickup program, spreading the leaf mulch with a small bobcat. Plant roots need soil not only to anchor themselves, but also to obtain nutrients, water and oxygen. Taking into account the historical status of this area as a Garry Oak ecosystem, consideration of ideal soil types for this particular habitat was necessary. Robin Lane is the perfect example of what was once a deep soil Garry Oak site – formerly rich with a variety of shrubs, trees, flowers and grasses. Sadly, these sites have all but disappeared as the rich hearty soil was ideal for agriculture and future urban development. It is only through the tireless work of devoted groups of people – like Sylvia and Ron- that these areas can be potentially restored to their former status and function. During our afternoon at Robin Lane we engaged in our fair share of soil SOS as we added a concoction of weird and wonderful substances to each plant that we planted. The area had already been prepped over the last couple of months – a process involving layers of cardboard sheet mulch, Garry Oak and Bigleaf Maple leaf mulch, topped with sandy soil to increase permeability and drainage so that the plants don’t drown when it rains. Because the roots of the plants wouldn’t be enclosed by sandy soil (the layer of mulch underneath was so thick) we started by digging holes for plants and filling them partially with sandy top soil.  Then we added a mixture of compost, bonemeal and more topsoil–all the ingredients necessary for your juiced up plant protein shake. Each of these ingredients plays a special role in increasing the nutrient content of the soil and ensuring the continued success of the ecosystem. The bonemeal aids in ensuring enhanced root growth. The native plants that we got to work with that afternoon included Salal, Red flowering current, Evergreen Huckleberry, Red-osier dogwood, Sword fern, Oregon grape (tall and dull) and Indian plum.  Following the guidance of restorationist, and garden designer extraordinaire, Louise, we placed the plants in a “natural” but still aesthetically pleasing manner throughout the area. Future picnic sites were taken into account as we made room for small clearings and deftly placed boulders, a small pathway lined by stones meandering through the lane. Not used to the patience of planting, I at times found it hard to picture the haven these tiny shrubs would one day create....
Continue reading
2771 Hits
0 Comments
Featured

Going Batty in Peachland

Going Batty in Peachland
What was first thought to be a liability has turned into a biological treasure in Peachland, where one of the largest known maternity colonies of Yuma bats in B.C. has been welcomed—instead of being destroyed. Located in the attic of a 108-year-old building which was originally the community’s primary school, the bat roost, where as many as 2,000 bats give birth to their pups and raise those young each spring, is now home also to the community’s Chamber of Commerce, tourism centre and the Boys and Girls Club. Those humans share the main floor of the lakefront building, which has undergone extensive renovations, while the maternity colony of bats roost upstairs during the day, swooping one-by-one through the dormers each evening to forage for insects. Biologist Tanya Luszcz says it’s estimated that this number of bats can consume half to one-and-a-half tonnes of insects in a summer, including many species that are human and agriculture pests. They contribute immensely to the community’s insect control efforts, but are often taken for granted. The tiny mammals have likely made the attic their maternity roost for decades, but the size of the colony came to light when the community began discussing whether to tear down the building or re-use it—at considerable expense in restoration work. At the time, local resident Darlene Hartford worked for the Chamber of Commerce, which realized the old schoolhouse should be preserved not only for its historic value, but also to protect the bats’ roosting place. “The first thought was how to get rid of the bats, but then we realized we had a treasure; an opportunity to clear up some of the myths about bats. We realized conservation of the bat colony was not a liability. People love to watch them fly out of the dormers at dusk to hunt over the lake,” she explained. In 2011, the project to create a first-class demonstration site for bat conservation in human habitats was approved for funding by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation’s Public Conservation Assistance Fund , which provides small grants to organizations and individuals with a conservation project in need of some financial help. “The community bought right into it,” recalled Hartford. Since then, she has been instrumental in organizing educational programs for young and old, Peachland residents and visitors alike. The programs are centred around the intriguing life of bats, and include videos, live cameras in the roost and events where a biologist talks about their habits.  Today, Hartford volunteers for the bat project, conducting Bat Chats all summer for the public and networking with other chambers and at events to raise awareness of the project. As well, she conducts school tours, for which there is a charge to try and recoup some of the expenses involved in monitoring the colony and maintaining the roost. Despite her wide-ranging knowledge about bats now, Hartford notes, “I didn’t know anything about bats when we began, although I was always environmentally aware.” The first bats begin returning to the roost in late March and early April each year, bearing live young that are about the size of a thumbnail, in June. When their young are tiny, the adults go out at night to feed, leaving all the pups in one spot in the attic where a ‘babysitter’ may be left behind to tend to them. The mothers leave to feed for three or four hours before returning to nurse their young, explains Hartford. “Amazingly, the mother bat is able to find her own pup from among hundreds of others,” noted Luszcz. Three to six weeks later, the pups are able to fly and can forage for insects alongside their mothers, she explained. Along with public education and a draw to Peachland for visitors, the bat project has led to scientific research into different facets of bat behaviour, from over-wintering habits and acoustic studies to population monitoring. “We know very little about where our bats go in winter, so it is important to determine this information to help in their conservation. “In general, roost sites are thought to be more limited for bats than food, so the Peachland schoolhouse is a very valuable resource for bats. That said, food availability may be increasingly compromised in...
Continue reading
Tags:
3466 Hits
0 Comments