Thu, 22 Aug 2019

Land Stewardship Grant Helps Protect Habitat on Denman Island

Denman Conservancy Association volunteer removing English Holly

BC Land Trusts own and protect 103,000[1] hectares of conservation lands in BC. Although securement of conservation lands is a critical first step, the work doesn’t end there because it is equally important to maintain and enhance the ecological values for which the property was protected. For many land trusts, finding funding to cover management costs can be difficult, particularly following fundraising campaigns to purchase the property. HCTF’s Land Stewardship Grant is one option for non-government organizations to access funding to cover management expenses on conservation lands.

For instance, the Denman Conservancy Association (DCA) received a Land Stewardship Grant from HCTF for $19,500 over three years to help with management costs on their Settlement Lands property. Located at the northern extent of the Coastal Douglas Fir (CDF) ecosystem, the Settlement Lands contain diverse habitats including wetlands, rocky outcrops, and mature second growth forest, which support a wide range of wildlife and habitats, including 14 wildlife species at risk.

Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly – courtesy of Erika Bland

Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly – courtesy of Erika Bland

One of these species at risk is the Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly which is red-listed in BC, and listed as Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act. Denman Island is the only known breeding location in Canada. Some of the funds were used for habitat enhancement, including planting larval host plants and pollinator nectar plants, as well as butterfly monitoring and planning to improve habitat in the future. Other activities HCTF funded at the property include invasive species removal, fencing, wetland monitoring, trail decommissioning and maintenance, and information signage.

Beaver dam area at Homestead Marsh – courtesy of John Millen

Beaver dam area at Homestead Marsh – courtesy of John Millen

“This funding was very important to ensure ecological values will be maintained and enhanced,” says Erika Bland, DCA Land Manger. “The fencing project in particular, which was carried out in collaboration with a neighbouring farmer, was critical to protecting the wetland on the property from cattle trespass.”

New fence to prevent cattle access

New fence to prevent cattle access.

The next funding intake for Land Stewardship Grants is now open, with an application deadline of October 16th. Visit our Land Stewardship Grant webpage for more information, including how to apply. This program was made possible through an endowment provided by the Province of British Columbia. This funding opportunity only comes once every three years, so don’t miss out!

 

 

 

[1] British Columbia NGO Conservation Areas Technical Working Group. 2017. BC NGO Conservation Areas Database – Fee Simple, Registerable Interests, and Unregisterable Interests (secured as of December 31, 2016). Digital data files. Last updated June 27, 2017.

 

Tue, 20 Aug 2019
Tags: Wildlife

Seeking ways to protect western bats from deadly white-nose syndrome

Cori Lausen glues a transmitter onto a bat in fall which will help locate roosts as well as provide valuable information about hibernation behaviours and physiology, needed to understand how white-nose syndrome may impact bats in BC.

The first time Cori Lausen held a big brown bat in her hands, it was love at first sight. “She was so tiny, she fit in my hand. And the band showed that she was older than I was.”

The more Cori learned about bats, the more she realized how unique they are – and when she asked questions about them there were often no answers. “There are so many things we just don’t know about them.”

So she took a leave of absence as a high school teacher in 1999, earned a Masters’ degree on bat ecology at the University of Calgary and a PhD in bat population genetics.

Today as associate conservation scientist with Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, Cori is looking for ways to protect western bat populations from deadly white-nose syndrome (WNS). This includes cutting-edge research supported by Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) to develop and apply a probiotic cocktail that can help bats survive the disease. HCTF has contributed nearly one fifth of the $583,000 budget for the two-year project.

WNS originated in Europe and is caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. It first appeared in North America in New York State in 2006, and has since killed millions of bats. “Many of us shed tears when we first heard of it,” Cori says. “We did not understand it, but knew its devastation was going to spread like wildfire.”

The disease started in the east and gradually moved south and north. Its spread west was slower because of migration patterns, until 2016 when it made a giant leap into Washington State. “The jump was a big shock,” says Cori. She expects the infected bat hitched a long-distance ride on a transport truck going to the port in Seattle, highlighting the importance of checking trailers, campers, and trucks for stowaway bats.

WNS causes a white fungal growth across a bat’s muzzle and wings, and has a death rate of up to 100 per cent. It disrupts winter hibernation, rousing the bats so they use up the valuable fat reserves they need to survive until spring.

There’s an added challenge in western North America because there are no large bat hibernacula like in the east. Instead, bats overwinter in smaller numbers in rock crevices, trees, caves and mines, and even in some buildings.

Cori was already interested in what bats in western Canada do in winter when WNS appeared in Washington State, and thanks to help from many BC naturalists, had detected eight of the 14 species that overwinter in British Columbia. “When the fungus first showed up, we realized that understanding where bats are is now more than curiosity – it is absolutely urgent.”

 

Cori Lausen tracks bats in winter in the West Kootenay region. Telemetry is used to locate hibernacula, as well as provide valuable information about hibernation behaviours and physiology, needed to understand how white-nose syndrome may impact bats in BC.

Cori Lausen tracks bats in winter in the West Kootenay region. Telemetry is used to locate hibernacula, as well as provide valuable information about hibernation behaviours and physiology, needed to understand how white-nose syndrome may impact bats in BC.

But with few locations and few bats, these winter hibernacula are unlikely to yield a solution to the WNS problem. “We need a ‘made in the west’ approach to fight off the fungus, and set them up to come back in the spring alive,” Cori says. “We decided to target our vulnerable building-roosting bats as we know where thousands of them roost in the summer.”

Through the HCTF project, the researchers developed a probiotic using bacteria sourced from local healthy bats. They first tested it on captive bats at the British Columbia Wildlife Park in Kamloops in 2018.

This spring, they developed an application method, and will test it in the Vancouver region where WNS will probably appear first in British Columbia. At roost entrances, they will dust powdered clay infused with the probiotic, so it sticks to the bats and they get a small dose every time they come and go.

“We are the first to propose treating bats in summer, introducing probiotic gradually so it does not overwhelm their immune system,” Cori says. “We will take wing swab samples from the bats now, and repeat in spring to see if the probiotic is still there and still viable.”

A California Myotis bat from Lillooet BC is wing-swabbed to look for bacteria that naturally prevent growth of Pd to use in the development of the probiotic cocktail. Photo by Ian Routley.

Purnima Govindarajulu, acting head of the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy’s Conservation Science Section, is part of an advisory committee supporting the project. “Bats are an important part of a healthy ecosystem,” she says. “White nose syndrome could have serious repercussions in British Columbia because bats eat huge number of insects, and this benefits agricultural crops, forests and people.”

British Columbia is better positioned than many other western regions thanks to BC Community Bat Programs (www.bcbats.ca/) that encourage individuals to identify roost sites and show landowners how to protect these sites or install bat-houses.

“We know white nose is coming so we have nothing to lose,” says Cori. “It does not cost a lot to give a landowner a little bag of clay that they can dust into bat boxes or building roosts. If it looks like it will save bats, we will apply for further research support to develop a widespread approach.”

 

Mon, 29 Jul 2019

Nature Clubs Program Connects BC Families with the Outdoors

Learning about BC wildlife with nature mentor Jo Style. Photo credit H. Datoo.

More BC families will get outdoors to explore, learn and take action for nature, thanks to a $37,977 grant to NatureKids BC’s Nature Clubs program. The program’s network of more than 25 volunteer-led nature clubs encourages kids and their families to learn about BC’s wildlife, plants and wild spaces by connecting with the outdoors.

Sarah Lockman, Executive Director of NatureKids BC, says that strengthening the connection between people and the outdoors is more important than ever, as increasing numbers of British Columbians live in urban environments. Over the next year, more than 1,500 BC youth and their families will participate in over 2,500 outdoor adventures and projects through the Nature Clubs program. Activities include maintaining nest boxes, creating interpretive signage, bird counts and other citizen science projects.

The grant to support the Nature Clubs program was one of 170 provided by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) this year for BC conservation projects.

“HCTF has been a core funder of NatureKids BC for more than 10 years and we are privileged to have them as a partner,” said Lockman. “Relationships like these are critical to creating the next generation of nature lovers and environmental stewards and to ensuring that families are supported to get in touch with nature in their own backyards.”

HCTF Chair Dr. Winifred Kessler agrees. “Getting youth involved in conservation helps them build a lifelong connection to nature and feel that they can make a difference,” said Dr. Kessler. “We fund Nature Clubs and other environmental education projects because we know how important it is to create stewards – people who understand, value and help conserve biodiversity in BC.”

NatureKids BC also publishes NatureWILD, a quarterly magazine for families and elementary school students. This year they have also launched a Citizen Science project focused on bat education and advocacy. For more information, or to find a Nature Club near you, visit https://www.naturekidsbc.ca/


Photo:

Bird banding. Photo credit: C. McQuillan

 

HCTF Contact:
Shannon West
Manager, Program Development
Shannon.west@hctf.ca
250 940-9789

 

NatureKids BC Contact:
Sarah Lockman
Executive Director, NatureKids BC
sarahlockman@naturekids.bc.ca
604 985-3059


Quick Facts:

  • The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) began as an initiative of BC anglers, hunters, trappers and guide outfitters.
  • Since 1981, HCTF has provided over $180 million in grants for more than 2600 conservation projects across BC. This year, a total of $9 million has been awarded for projects in all regions of the province. You can find a complete list of HCTF-funded projects at https://hctf.ca/achievements/project-list/
  • Since 2000, more than 20,000 BC children aged 5-12 have participated in NatureKids BC Explorer Days and enjoyed NatureWILD magazine and other programs
Wed, 24 Jul 2019
Tags: Wildlife

Community Goshawk Project Gets Funding Boost

Northern Goshawk nest on the Sunshine Coast

On-going efforts to help the threatened Northern Goshawk population on the Sunshine Coast just got a lift— through a $14,700 grant to locate occupied breeding areas of this unique member of the raptor family.

Northern goshawks are found in mature forests with a heavy canopy and minimal undergrowth. Their relatively short wings and long tails make these birds extremely agile hunters in the forest. Pairs will often build multiple nests within a territory using branches and fresh evergreens. The loss and fragmentation of habitats used by Northern Goshawks for nesting and hunting threatens the future of these birds in coastal BC.

The Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project will use the grant to conduct field surveys to search for goshawk breeding areas, and to carry out community engagement to improve awareness and participation in raptor stewardship programs, through such activities as construction and installation of nest boxes for threatened Western Screech-owls.

The grant comes from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and Forest Enhancement Society of BC . “We are so grateful for this funding,” says Wildlife Project Leader, Dr. Michelle Evelyn. “Goshawks have huge home ranges, thousands of hectares in size, so finding the birds and their nests is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. But with support from HCTF and FESBC, over the past two years, we have been able to identify three new goshawk breeding territories on the Sunshine Coast.”

The Province of BC is now working with forest companies, the shíshálh Nation, and other stakeholders to establish Wildlife Habitat Areas that will permanently protect these territories.

“Seeing healthy babies in the nests and knowing that these vital areas will be protected for the goshawks, along with the many other wildlife species that share their mature forest habitats, makes us incredibly happy,” says Evelyn.

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation recently received additional funding to support conservation projects focused on Northern Goshawk and another threatened coastal bird, the Marbled Murrelet. Earlier this year, the Province of British Columbia made a $500,000 contribution to the Foundation for the conservation of these two species. Individuals or organizations interested in applying for funding are encouraged to contact HCTF for further information.

Conserving Threatened Raptors on the Sunshine Coast is one of 170 BC fish and wildlife projects receiving grants from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation this year. For a complete list of grant recipients, visit https://hctf.ca/achievements/project-list/

 


 

Photo (click to download larger version of the file)

 

A project team member surveying for Northern Goshawks.

 

HCTF Contact:

Shannon West, Manager of Program Development
shannon.west@hctf.ca
250-940-9789

 

Project Contact:
Michelle Evelyn, Project Leader
Sunshine Coast Wildlife Project
coastwildlife@gmail.com
604-989-1007

 

Quick Facts:

 

 

Sun, 21 Jul 2019

Saving Land for Bears and Badgers

Edgewater property

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation is pleased to announce a new conservation property in the Kootenays.

Located near the community of Edgewater, the Columbia River Wetlands – Edgewater property covers 423 acres (171.5 hectares) and features outstanding habitat and connectivity for Grizzly Bears and American Badgers. It also provides winter range for Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer and Moose.

“The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation is very pleased to support The Nature Trust of BC’s purchase of this conservation property, which provides important connectivity to the Columbia Wetlands,” said HCTF CEO Brian Springinotic. “Since 1981, HCTF has invested millions to help purchase over 20 conservation properties in the Kootenays, using funds provided largely by anglers, hunters, trappers and guides – the Edgewater project is the latest in a long history of investing for conservation in BC.”

 

This property will complement nearby Nature Trust conservation lands that are managed as part of the Columbia National Wildlife Area and Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area. An additional benefit for wildlife is that the Edgewater property adjoins the Columbia Wetlands Wildlife Management Area which serves as significant migratory bird habitat for over 200 species.

“The Edgewater property has incredible diversity, ranging from wetlands to grasslands and open forest habitats,” said Chris Bosman, Kootenay Conservation Land Manager for The Nature Trust of BC. “From the upper benches, the views across the Columbia Valley and up and down the Rocky Mountain Trench are stunning. As a multi-generational family ranch, the land has been well cared for over the years by a conservation minded family. The Nature Trust looks forward to carrying on the tradition of responsible land stewardship.”

Sun, 14 Jul 2019
Tags: PCAF / Stewardship

Haliburton Wetland Turns Ten!

Haliburton wetland

A decade ago, a group of volunteers began an ambitious project: transform a field overgrown with invasive reed canary grass into a wetland able to support wildlife. Today, Haliburton Wetland in Saanich, BC, stands as a fantastic example of how people and nature can co-exist.

Last week, Dr. Purnima Govindarajulu gave HCTF staff members Karen Barry, Jade Neilson and Courtney Sieben a tour of the wetland located at Haliburton Community Organic Farm. Although it took some time for the constructed wetland to look natural, it is now fully functioning and has become home to a variety of wildlife species such as tree frogs, long-toed salamanders, and birds.

Over the years, HCTF has provided a total of $24,600 from the Enhancement and Restoration granting stream and from the Public Conservation Assistance Fund (PCAF) for this project. It’s great to see that this project is continuing to make a difference for wildlife species ten years on! You can read more about the Haliburton Wetland in the following HCTF project profile.


Background

The property is a former reservoir site for Saanich under the ALR. In 2001, the property was slated for a housing development but Saanich stepped in to purchase the land and lease it to the Haliburton Community Organic Farm Society. It is now run as a community farm and several producers grow food for consumption, plus there is a native plant nursery on site. The wetland was created in an adjacent area that was formally dominated by grasses.

HCTF provided $10,000 for wetland restoration and creation of a demonstration project, and later $5000 seed funding. More recently, the project received $9,600 from PCAF for tools, native plants, construction of watershed models and stream restoration expertise.

To see a video of the wetland construction (17 min), see https://haliburtonfarm.org/biodiversity/

Entrance to the wetland site

Entrance to the wetland site

Enhancement and Restoration Activities

The wetland site was overgrown with reed canary grass so early efforts focused on installing mats and removing the grass and other non-native species. Experts were called in to assist with designing the wetland. It took a few years for the constructed wetland to look natural.

Pond liner laid down to smother reed canary grass

 

Now that the wetland is functioning, tree frogs and long-toed salamanders have moved in, as well as wetland birds (herons, red-winged black birds). Other enhancement activities include installing bird nest boxes and maternal bat houses. Chickadees, Violet-green swallows, and Bewicks wrens have nested in the boxes, but the bat boxes have not been used yet.

Monitoring activities are conducted regularly and include checking bird boxes, minnow trapping the wetland, and checking wood structures and pit fall traps for amphibians.

Bird box and mason bee box

 

Wetland and replanted area

Wooden cover boards used as an active trap for salamanders

Challenges

The restored area will require ongoing maintenance. In other words, it’s not possible to leave it and “let nature take its course”. In particular, removal of invasive plants is a significant challenge (morning glory, thistles, reed canary grass, etc.). The group has limited capacity for conducting detailed monitoring, so there is a desire to have more student groups, graduate students, and volunteers involved.

Another concern is the high number of non-native European wall lizards. With the increase in these lizards, there seems to be a decline in crickets at the site and it’s possible these lizards are eating many native insects.

Future plans

  • To create more riparian area in order to provide suitable habitat for red-legged frogs.
  • To create another series of small vernal ponds.
  • To increase the involvement of students and initiate an ongoing education program linked to school curriculum.

Purnima with Jade and Courtney