Thu, 22 Aug 2013
Tags: Fisheries

New Docks for Urban Lakes

The new fishing dock at Durrance is already proving popular with anglers.


A joint venture between HCTF, FFSBC and the Province is making angling more accessible to families who may have previously found going fishing a challenge. By installing docks and making site improvements at stocked lakes near urban centres, the Vancouver Island Urban Lake Fishery Development & Improvement Program is providing new opportunities for anglers young and old to experience great fishing close to home.

Urban lake infrastructure programs have been created to help reverse the trend of declining angler numbers across BC. Research by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC) indicates that one of the best ways to increase angler participation is through creation of new fishing opportunities for youth. By constructing family-friendly fishing sites that don’t require a boat and are within easy driving distance of urban centres, project leaders hope to eliminate some of the hurdles that may have previously discouraged families from fishing.

The Vancouver Island Urban Lake Fishery Development & Improvement Program began in 2009 with seed funding from HCTF. Project leader Scott Silvestri and his team carefully selected project sites that would both maximize potential angler benefits and minimize expenditures through partnerships with local clubs and municipalities. The project has already received over $75,000 in HCTF grants, funding the completion of seven angling infrastructure projects at urban lakes on the Island. These include:

• Newly-constructed fishing floats, ramps and trails at Durrance Lake, Diver Lake and Westwood Lake.

• A new fishing float at Mayo Lake.

• Repairs to the walkway of the fishing float at Chemainus Lake.

• Development of a car-top boat launch for Quennell Lake.

• Improvements to the boat launch at Spider Lake.



Above: Map showing the location of projects completed under the HCTF-funded Vancouver Island Urban Lake Fishery Development/ Improvement Program.


The program has received an additional $56,000 in grants from HCTF for 2013-14. This money will be combined with other partner contributions to fund a number of infrastructure additions from the following potential project list:

• Construction of wheelchair-accessible fishing dock at Blinkhorn Lake.

• Construction of fishing floats at Colwood Lake and Thetis Lake.

• Creation of boat launches and fishing docks at Prospect Lake and Echo Lake.

The response to these improvements has been overwhelmingly positive. Observations of increased angler use at sites where infrastructure work is complete suggest that the upgrades and additions are working: by making fishing more accessible, this project not only has the potential to inspire new groups of conservationists through participation in angling, but also increase funding for fish enhancement and restoration projects through additional licence sales.

The success of the Vancouver Island program has paved the way for HCTF to support similar dock installation projects in the Thompson-Nicola, Cariboo and Skeena Regions. Over the past few months, new docks have been constructed at Yellow Lake (between Keremeos and Penticton), at Edith Lake (approximately 18 km south of Kamloops) and Greeny Lake (north of 100 Mile House). These docks will be used for FFSBC’s Learn to Fish programs in subsequent years, further increasing opportunities for new anglers.

The Vancouver Island Urban Lake Fishery Development & Improvement Program was presented with an HCTF Silver Award in recognition of its efforts to increase angler participation by improving fishing infrastructure at lakes near urban centres. In addition to this award from HCTF, the program has also been named a regional finalist in the BC Premier’s Innovation and Excellence Awards. The awards, which will be handed out in September 2013, recognize exceptional work by B.C. public service employees and teams whose contributions have made a positive difference in the province. You can watch the project’s award finalist video below.



Fri, 9 Aug 2013

BC’s Breeding Bird Atlas

As a follow-up to last week’s bluebird post, we thought we’d feature another HCTF wildlife project that BC birders can get involved in. The BC Breeding Bird Atlas is an ambitious project that unites the bird-watching community with biologists, management agencies, industry, academics and conservation organizations to create a comprehensive record of the status of breeding bird species in BC. Once complete, the atlas with serve as a key information source for both the wildlife management and wildlife viewing communities.

The project was initiated by Bird Studies Canada (BSC) in response to the lack of data available for many of BC’s bird species. Without current information on bird population numbers and distribution, it’s difficult to make informed decisions about their conservation and management. The task of collecting data for a province the size of BC would be insurmountable for a single organization, but by combining the enthusiasm of local birders, the expertise of professional ornithologists and the back-country access of guide outfitters, BSC has done just that. The Atlas website now allows site users to access annual data summaries, print regional checklists, and view maps visually summarizing the results of their data collection. You can choose to display the breeding distribution of hundreds of different kinds of birds, or select additional options such as the number of species recorded in a particular area.



How to Get Involved

The Atlas in now in the publication phase, and they are looking for contributions of high quality, colour photographs of every breeding bird species in BC. For more information on how to contribute photos, visit the BSC website.

The BC Breeding Bird Atlas has been an HCTF grant recipient since 2009, receiving over $150,000 in funding to date. Earlier this year, Bird Studies Canada was presented with an HCTF Silver Award for the project’s contribution to conservation.

Sun, 28 Jul 2013
Tags: Wildlife

Bluebird Update

An adult female brings food to her 5-day old nestlings inside one of the installed nestboxes.

We received a great update on the HCTF-funded Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project. It seems July has seen a number of hatchings, including the second clutches of 2013 for two of the re-introduced pairs! The spring hatchlings are now fully-fledged juveniles and are doing great: they can now hunt for wild insects on their own, and will likely help their parents with the feeding of their newly-arrived siblings. GOERT’s Julia Daly and Species-at-Risk biologist Trudy Chatwin estimate that there are over 38 Western Bluebirds flying about the Cowichan Valley these days, which includes all the juveniles and nesting parents.

Thanks to GOERT for supplying the following photos to show us how the birds are doing.







Sun, 28 Jul 2013
Tags: Wildlife

Bringing Back the Bluebirds



The Western Bluebird was once a common site on Vancouver Island. This brilliantly-coloured bird species thrived here and on the neighbouring Gulf Islands until the 1950’s, when their numbers began to steadily decline. By the 1990s, bluebirds were no longer breeding in southwestern BC, and were soon considered to be extirpated (locally extinct).

What caused this once prolific species to disappear? The primary factor is likely habitat loss. Bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters, meaning they rely on holes left by woodpeckers in standing deadwood to build their nests. If most of these dead trees are removed (either through logging practices or urban development), the birds are left with little in the way of natural nesting habitat. Bluebirds face steep competition for the few remaining cavities, as these are also sought after by introduced species such as starlings and house sparrows.

Human activity has undoubtedly impacted the bluebirds’ distribution, but there is good reason to believe that human intervention will help return the species to its former range. The Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team is working to restore self-sustaining Western Bluebird populations on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands through the HCTF-funded Bring Back the Bluebirds project. The project team has been translocating breeding pairs to the Cowichan Valley and creating habitat for them by mounting nestboxes in prime foraging locations. The first year of the project (2012) resulted in the successful fledging of the first bluebirds known to have hatched on Vancouver Island since 1995. The project plans to translocate a total of 90 adult bluebirds over the course of 5 years.

The following video by Shaw TV provides an overview of the project, including footage of a pair of bluebirds being released from their aviary at Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve.

Want to be involved in this project? Visit GOERT’s website to learn how to identify Western Bluebirds, report bluebird sightings, or get information about nestbox hosting or monitoring programs.

Fri, 12 Jul 2013
Tags: Fisheries

The Burrard Inlet Restoration Program

The following stroy was published in the 2013 July/August issue of Outdoor Edge magazine.

On July 24, 2007, construction workers punctured a pipeline in Burnaby, sending crude oil spraying 12 metres into the air. The black geyser flooded surrounding homes and oil poured into the storm sewers, eventually making its way to the waters of Burrard Inlet. The spill impacted over 1200 m of shoreline, contaminating birds and sea life.

In addition to the estimated $15 million that was spent on cleanup and rehabilitation, the convicted parties agreed to pay a total of $447,000 to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) as part of the Crown Counsel’s recommendation to use creative sentencing provisions in the Environmental Management Act. Creative sentencing provides an alternative to traditional sentencing options (such as fines or imprisonment) by allowing judges to specify payments be made to HCTF. In this case, the creative sentencing award allowed HCTF to form the Burrard Inlet Restoration Project, an innovative granting program providing funding for restoration projects on the Inlet. The first application intake provided funding for 6 projects, all of which involve students of BCIT’s Ecological Restoration program. I had the opportunity to speak with three of those students: Sarah Nathan, whose plan to daylight a creek in New Brighton Park will restore historical cutthroat trout habitat, and Michelle Holst and Deanna MacTavish, who are working together to return Mosquito Creek Estuary to an ecosystem capable of sustaining a variety of species.

Q. One of the reasons we decided to write this story is because the BCIT Burrard Inlet presentations at the BCWF AGM were such a hit: what sort of feedback did you get from BCWF members?

Deanna: Everyone really seemed to enjoy hearing about the restoration plans. They liked that we were young people doing this work, but I think they also appreciated our commitment to these projects and this system. We’ve built long-term monitoring into our plans so that we can measure our results: determine what’s working, what could be improved upon, and apply that knowledge to other restoration projects. (Michelle and I) are even in the process of forming a Society, which will focus on improving survivorship of salmonids and other aquatic species in degraded estuaries within Burrard Inlet.

Mosquito-Creek_web.jpgQ. Speaking of degradation, tell me about your project sites: what environmental concerns do your restoration plans address?

Deanna: Mosquito Creek is a highly-impacted estuary. It’s had a substantial amount of development occurring on it over the past 80 years, and it’s mostly concrete. There’s no refuge or nutrients for fish or other aquatic species, so we plan to introduce complexity by adding vegetation, coarse woody debris, and terracing down some of the hard edges to create an intertidal habitat that’s more hospitable to fish and humans alike.

Sarah: At this point, Renfrew Creek is almost completely underground: it’s one of many streams around Vancouver that were infilled. Once the daylighting is complete, water quality will be the big challenge: we’re right by Highway 1, so everything that gets on the road will essentially get flushed into this system. We will be doing stormwater monitoring in the fall to find out what kind of improvements need to be made so that the stream can support cutthroat. They’re very sensitive to shifts in water quality: Reeves et. al. (1997) likened them to “canaries in a coal mine”.





Q. Deanna, the Mosquito Creek plan also emphasizes cutthroat, but I understand you’re hoping to restore populations of other types of salmonids? fishingwithroddotcom_permissionreq_outdooredge_story.jpg

Deanna: The Squamish First Nation have told us that, in the past, they’ve seen chum, coho and rainbow trout in the estuary, but not in recent years: that’s why we’re focussing on salmonids. But this restoration has the potential to positively impact a whole range of species.


Q: The Squamish First Nation are your partners in this project. What’s it been like working together?

Michelle: Working with them has been really great. It’s a bit of a different system, and maintaining an open dialogue is key. The visuals we developed for our presentations have really helped: it’s difficult to get people to envision this kind of transformation just by talking about it. But when we show them the before-and-after images, suddenly everyone’s on the same page, excited about the possibilities… especially the elders! We are already planning training sessions to get Squamish Nation youths involved with the long-term monitoring of this site, so they can really be stewards of their own land.

Q. In addition to partners, both of your projects involve working with multiple stakeholder groups. Is it difficult trying to incorporate so many different viewpoints?

Sarah: Yes! New Brighton Park (where Renfrew Creek will be daylighted) has so many different user groups: dog walkers, birdwatchers, anglers wanting a catch-and-release fishery, it’s a real challenge trying to incorporate all of these (sometimes conflicting) uses into a plan that will keep everyone happy.

Michelle: Unfortunately, there can be a real disconnect in communications between stakeholders: industrial, commercial, residential, First Nations, municipalities, government… sometimes we’re arguing the same thing, just in different languages. That’s part of the impetus for forming this Society: to act as a mediator and get everyone working together.


Q: With all the environmental pressures and habitat modification resulting from decades of intense development on the Inlet, can we really hope to maintain the ecological integrity of this ecosystem? How do we move forward?

Michelle: I think we need to find a balance between accepting that development on the Inlet inevitable: populations are growing, industry is growing, and we require resources, but we don’t have to just take. We can develop new methods to coexist with nature and try to offset some of the impacts that development has.

Sarah: People look at these very disturbed areas and think there’s no point in even trying, and I think one of the big challenges is showing people that it is possible: with a little funding, it can work.



Q. How important is the funding from HCTF to projects such as these?

Sarah: This grant money is crucial: even though we’re partnered with the City, environmental projects tend to be a lower priority when budgets are tight. Without outside funding, they might not happen at all. We’re always looking for more partners, and the money from HCTF will hopefully help in leveraging additional funds.

Q. What would you say to potential partners to convince them these projects are a worthwhile investment?

Sarah: Because these sites are located in such urban areas, they have a huge potential to increase public awareness about the importance of streams and estuaries. Renfrew Creek is in a popular park, right next to a swimming pool and in close proximity to the PNE grounds: what a great audience for the work being done! In Vancouver, around 120 creeks that were historically good cutthroat habitat have all been paved over as part of urbanization, and likely a number of those could be daylighted. I hope that successfully completing these initial projects will give us the support we need to restore other creeks and estuaries, and that would be a really good thing for people and salmonids alike.

Read more about HCTF’s Burrard Inlet Restoration Pilot Program>>


Thu, 20 Jun 2013

Experiential Learning at Hakai


Students in the remote village of Hagensborg, BC rarely get to connect with learning opportunities outside the Bella Coola Valley. But thanks to the fundraising efforts of teacher Sara Germain, fifteen lucky students from Sir Alexander Mackenzie School got the chance of a lifetime to travel to the Hakai Beach Institute for a week of hands-on, ecosystem-based learning in a spectacular coastal environment. Here’s Sara story about how an HCTF CEAF grant helped her students connect with the outdoors and bring classroom concepts to life:

“Students in BC’s Science 10 focus a quarter of their curriculum on the sustainability of life’s ecosystems, so this week-long field trip was designed to solidify many of the concepts learned in the classroom relating to ecology, evolution, food webs, humans impact on ecosystems, climate change and more. I’ve found that when studying for their Provincial Exam, students who’ve been on this trip are much more successful at applying these concepts because they can connect questions with ideas they ‘lived and applied’ out in the field at Hakai.

Upon arrival, we did an intertidal species scavenger hunt to introduce students to the new ecosystem they would be exploring for the week. The next day, we hiked up to the lookout, which took us from an intertidal zone, through different forest ecosystems, all the way up to a subalpine bog. Students took pictures of different plant species along the way to start their week-long “Digital Species Project”; where students photographed and identified 50 different species (intertidal, plant, bird, mammal species) and used them to create PowerPoint presentations complete with Latin names, common names, location of organism, and more. Students spent about an hour a day in the intertidal zone working on this project, as well as time in the classroom compiling their data.

Another outdoor project involved collecting different species of seaweed and pressing them. When specimens were dry, students framed their “works of art” and identified the types of seaweed they had pressed. We did a “caboose activity” during one of our hikes, where I would teach the student hiking behind me about a plant or aspect of forest ecology, and then that student would teach the concept to everyone hiking behind them as they passed by their “station”. Students really owned and learned their ‘stations’ well! Later in the week, we registered for “The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup” and did a longer day hike along a number of pocket beaches; we carried out garbage and documented it with the organization upon our return. This same day, the students also made their own trail maps, including an interesting geological/biological feature along each section of the trail. They turned out beautifully!

During our week at Hakai, students had the opportunity to learn from and work with a number of professional scientists. One gave an outdoor presentation and tour of the sustainable infrastructure featured at Hakai Institute (water, power generation, waste treatment, etc). An archaeologist talked to the students about his work, then took us out in boats to observe an actual dig site. A biologist took us on an intertidal zone beach walk, showing us many new species we’d missed on our own. Another scientist showed the kids how to collect samples of plankton, and later took them back to the lab to identify the different species under the microscope. All of these encounters allowed the students many informal opportunities to chat about their careers and how they got to where they are today.

I have found that taking my students out to Hakai has been one of the most beneficial and rewarding teaching experiences of my career. It’s given me the opportunity to develop many hands-on outdoor activities for students that give them real-life, applied knowledge in the Prescribed Learning Outcomes outlined by the province. Beyond that, I have found this trip invigorates students’ passion for science, develops their skills as budding scientists, exposes them to what a career in science can offer at its best, and lets them learn by osmosis while having so much fun in a unique place on Earth that normally they would never have the opportunity to be exposed to.”

In 2011 HCTF created the Conservation Education Assistance Fund (CEAF) to help educators connect students with the outdoors. Read more about the CEAF granting program, including how to apply >>