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: E&R / 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

Tue, 2 Jul 2019

East Kootenay Invasive Mussels Monitoring Continues

East Kootenay Invasive Species Council (EKISC) invasive mussels lake monitoring

More than ten lakes in the East Kootenay region will be sampled for invasive Zebra and Quagga mussels this year, thanks to a $17,305 grant approved as part of the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation’s annual funding program in partnership with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

Lakes included in the project are: Tie, Windermere, Koocanusa, Premier, Wasa, Whitetail, Whiteswan, Columbia, Moyie, St Mary, Surveyor’s and Lillian.

Zebra and Quagga mussels have not yet been detected B.C. but constant vigilance is needed as these invasive species can have dramatic impacts on fish populations and human use and have been moving across fresh-water bodies from the east to the west in North America.

“Recreationists have a huge responsibility on their shoulders,” said Jessie Paloposki, Education and Communications Manager for the East Kootenay Invasive Species Council (EKISC). “To continue enjoying the rivers and lakes as we do, we have to ensure we’re not cross-contaminating the water as we move from one lake or river to another. Mussel larvae is microscopic, so the only way we can confirm they’re not hitch-hiking on our gear or watercraft is to ensure that we Clean, Drain, and Dry this equipment before moving to another waterbody.”

The East Kootenay Invasive Species Council will use the grant to carry out plankton tow sampling, using the British Columbia Dreissenid Mussel Lake Monitoring Field Protocol.

The samples are sent to a designated lab by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy to check for the presence of veligers, the microscopic free-swimming stage of the mussels’ larva. Sampling is done by using a cone-shaped fine-mesh net. Sampling is usually done between May and October around boat launches, marinas and docks, as the invaders can spread through water-based recreation activities.

This grant was one of 12 awarded by the Habitat Conservation trust Foundation for invasive mussel early detection monitoring in 2019 after a thorough technical evaluation. The grants are part of a record $9 million in funding for 170 conservation projects announced by the Foundation earlier this year.


 

HCTF Contact:

Shannon West

Manager, Program Development, HCTF

shannon.west@hctf.ca

250-940-9789

 

Project Contact:

Jessie Paloposki

East Kootenay Invasive Species Council

jessie@ekisc.com

(250) 939-8649

 

BC Government Contact:

Martina Beck

Invasive Fauna Unit Head

BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy

Martina.Beck@gov.bc.ca

 


 

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 conservation projects in all regions of the province.
Thu, 27 Jun 2019
Tags: Wildlife

Tackling Invasive Plant Species Improves Bighorn Sheep Habitat in the East Kootenays

2008 photo of the Bull River bighorn herd. Beginning in 2009, wildlife managers noticed a rapid spread of yellow hawkweed and other invasive plant species in this herd’s winter range.

Bighorn sheep are well suited to the rugged mountains of southeast British Columbia. But it’s a tough life, and it’s even tougher when invasive plant species crowd out nutritious native forage.

The BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is in the midst of a five-year project to manage invasive species on three critical sheep winter ranges in the region – near Bull River, at Wigwam Flats east of Elko, and at Columbia Lake East north of Canal Flats. The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation is contributing approximately $160,000 to this project.

“Loss of habitat is one of the reasons why Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep are blue listed as vulnerable in BC,” says ministry wildlife biologist Irene Teske of Cranbrook, who is leading the initiative. “By reducing invasive plant species, we can increase the quality of grasslands in southeast BC and improve habitat for bighorn sheep and other ungulates.”

Invasive plants alter habitat by displacing native vegetation. They reduce soil productivity, impact water quality and quantity, threaten biodiversity, and alter natural fire regimes. They can be bitter tasting and some even cause health issues or death. A 2016 Forest Practices Board report on rangelands identified invasive plants as an issue that threatens the sustainability of rangelands in the long term.

St John’s Wort in flower in Wigwam Flats

Early in the 2000s, it appeared that spread of invasive species was somewhat under control in Bull River, and herbicide treatments focused on transportation corridors. The situation in Wigwam Flats was similar thanks to previous herbicide treatments (HCTF project 4-303) and biocontrol for knapweed and St. John’s wort. In about 2009, wildlife managers noticed reduced habitat quality for low-elevation ungulate winter ranges due to a rapid spread of yellow hawkweed, declining effectiveness of biocontrol for St. John’s wort, and continuing infestations of sulphur cinquefoil and spotted knapweed.

“We proposed a five-year project using a variety of methods to control these invasive species and try to restore natural grasslands, including chemical treatments, biocontrol and seeding/fertilizing,” Irene says. “We have also established vegetation sampling plots so we can monitor the change over time.”

Close up of Yellow Hawkweed taken at the Wigwam Flats study area.

So far it appears the treatments are working. In some plots, the coverage of invasive plants dropped from as much as 13% to as little as 1.6%. And bighorn sheep populations are up slightly, although this could be for a variety of reasons such as low snowfall or reduced predation. “We are certainly under no illusion that the problem has been fixed,” Irene says. “It is vitally important to keep these areas free of aggressive invasive plants so we will need ongoing periodic management to maintain the positive outcomes.”

A literature review in 2017 showed that the best option to control the invasive plants is through early detection and treatment of small sites. If the infestation gets too extensive, it requires a long-term management plan to replace weeds with desirable species, manage the land carefully, and prevent new infestations.

In 2018, 18 plots were resampled in Bull River and Wigwam Flats following treatment. The monitoring showed that invasive plant coverage in the two study areas had dropped substantially, total grass cover had increased slightly, and there was more bare ground where weeds had been removed. It is important to re‑establish vegetation on this bare ground as soon as possible to discourage the return of the unwanted species.

There are plans to continue herbicide treatments in spring 2019, with seeding in selected areas in the fall and fertilization trials in spring 2019 and 2020. Permanent vegetation plots have been installed and will continue to be monitored to determine the success of the treatments.

This project includes ministry staff from the wildlife, habitat and range divisions, and landowners such as BC Hydro, Nature Trust of BC, Nature Conservancy of Canada, and TransCanada Pipelines. The East Kootenay Invasive Species Council has been involved in some of the herbicide spraying, and Irene says that all contractors have done exceptional work, adding “we could not have done much of this without the dedication and high standards of the backpack herbicide crew from Crabbe Contracting who have been working in some very difficult terrain.”

Irene says a lot has been learned through the project, and many of the findings can be applied to other areas. Range agrologist Hanna McIntyre from the ministry’s range program agrees: “In areas where cattle grazing and bighorn sheep winter range overlap in the Bull River, we are working closely with range agreement holders in an effort to improve bighorn sheep habitat.”

Another example is work by biologist Catherine Tarasoff from Agrowest Consulting Scientists. In 2018, she studied whether St. John’s wort is becoming resistant to the Chrysolina beetle, used since the 1950s as a biocontrol. “Land managers were telling me St. John’s wort was increasing when they had been told it was under control,” Catherine says. “We found strong evidence on one site that the plants were producing a higher level of predatory defense chemicals, which drive off the insects. It’s not surprising – if you use the same vaccine for 70 years you would expect the target to develop resistance over time.”

The lesson learned, she says, is that all available tools need to be used to tackle invasive species – biological, chemical, mechanical and cultural. “What’s most important with resistant plants is to get rid of them before the resistant gene spreads to other plants.”

Another key element of the broader ministry project is public education. A new education sign about the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep herd will be installed at Bull River this year. It reminds visitors to respect the conservation property complex, and offers tips on what they can do to limit their impact on sensitive wildlife.

“Without a doubt, the best way to protect native plant species and natural habitat is to make sure land users learn how to spot invasive species and report them to government through a Report-A-Weed app or website,” says Todd Larsen, a range habitat specialist with the ministry. “It’s also important to follow best management practices such as washing equipment, recreational equipment, and boots or clothing to avoid spreading invasive species.”

 

Invasive species are one of the leading threats to native wildlife and plant communities in BC. Report-a-Weed and Report Invasive apps let you report invasive species sightings anywhere in BC in a few quick and easy steps. Learn more about the apps at www.reportaweedbc.ca/.