Tue, 19 Jun 2018
Tags: Education

BC Parks Contributes $30K from Licence Plate Sales to HCTF GO Grants Program

Environment Minister George Heyman announces BC Parks will contribute $30,000 to HCTF's GO Grants program.

VICTORIA – To get more students out of the classroom and into the great outdoors, BC Parks is contributing $30,000 from the sales of specialty licence plates to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation’s (HCTF) GO Grants Program.

“By supporting the GO Grants Program, we are giving youth a chance to experience nature and gain a unique learning experience in some of the most beautiful provincial parks B.C. has to offer,” said George Heyman, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “We hope a new generation of young people will form a lifelong attachment to our province’s diverse and rich natural environment.”

Minister Heyman announces GO Grants funding

The GO Grants Program provides funding for school field trips to provincial parks, and other natural areas, so students can learn about B.C.’s fish and wildlife habitats, as well as biodiversity, while fostering an appreciation for the environment. The trips give youth a chance to spend time outdoors and participate in hands-on learning activities, such as beach seining, releasing salmon fry, nature scavenger hunts, and plant and animal identification.

Last year, licence-plate funding supported outdoor learning in provincial parks for more than 700 students. Up to 2,500 students are anticipated to go on field trips this year, as demand for the program is at an all-time high.

“We want every student in B.C. to have the opportunity to experience first-hand the incredible diversity of animals and plants that are part of their communities,” said HCTF education committee member Ken Ashley. “BC Parks’ contribution will enable an additional 2,100 students to participate this year. Connecting kids to nature helps build a conservation ethic that is critical to protecting B.C.’s biodiversity for future generations.”

Dr. Ken Ashley speaks on behalf of HCTF at GO Grants at Goldstream Provincial Park

The B.C. government is reinvesting all net proceeds from the sale and ongoing renewals of BC Parks licence plates back into provincial parks, to ensure action is taken to protect the environment and achieve conservation goals.

Students from Ecole Margaret Jenkins Elementary School on a GO Grant field trip to Goldstream Provincial Park.

Mon, 18 Jun 2018
Tags: PCAF

2018-19 Approved PCAF Projects

HCTF has just approved grants for 21 community conservation projects under our PCAF program. PCAF (Public Conservation Assistance Fund) provides grants of up to $10,000 for BC fish and wildlife conservation projects with a strong volunteer component. The following projects will receive PCAF grants this year:

 

Project Name Sponsor Project Description
Moberly Lake Moberly Lake Community Association (MLCA) This disturbance assessment project within the watershed that supports Moberly Lake will determine current road crossing impacts and encourage improved erosion control, culvert remediation, and perhaps undertake plantings to improve riparian/stream bank functions and fish habitat, thus reducing sediment loading into the lake.
Spallumcheen Wetland Restoration New Beginnings Benevolent Society The Society is collaborating with Splatsin Yucwmenlúcwu (Caretakers of the Land) to construct a wetland from an ephemeral pond on a one hectare section of farmland. Through educational workshops and activities, the wetland will provide the opportunity for youth to study an enclosed ecosystem – the physical, chemical, and climatic environment, and the processes that control the dynamics of the system.
Enhancing Wildlife Habitat for Birds, Bats and Bees on Salt Spring Island, BC Salt Spring Island Conservancy The Salt Spring Island Conservancy will work with landowners to install and monitor bat, owl, and bee boxes on Salt Spring Island to enhance habitat for rare bat and owl species and pollinators. Volunteers will assist in building, installing and monitoring boxes, which will increase awareness of these rare species and their habitat needs and threats. Experts will also assist with surveying and monitoring of boxes to determine use and assess distribution on the island.
Restless Bight Beach Clean-up B.C. Marine Trails Network Association The project will be a cleanup of shoreline and uplands area on a six-kilometre beach and upland area called Restless Bight. It is located on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island near two provincial recreation sites called Rowley Reefs Peninsula (north and south). The purpose of this project is to remove a large amount of plastics and debris.
Restoring Wetlands and Ecological Function in Dumois Creek, Logan Lake District of Logan Lake Project activities aim to improve water quality in Logan Lake and the habitat of the watershed
BC American Kestrel Nest Box Program Mitchell Warne To implement an American kestrel nest box program in British Columbia (BC) to improve the breeding success of kestrels in BC to help increase their population and public awareness. The nest boxes would be installed this year (fall 2018) for the 2019 breeding season. The plan is to install 270 kestrel nest boxes throughout BC. The different regions will have a variable number of boxes depending on the individual region and habitat availability. These boxes would then be monitored and maintained by volunteers. Nest boxes will be spread out throughout the province with small clusters of boxes in areas with high quality habitat.
Brown Creek Restoration Project Wildcoast Ecological Society Wildcoast Ecological Society has partnered with Stream of Dreams Murals Society to provide a joint program with elementary schools and the restoration of 1000m2 riparian zone and stream.
Bat Maternity Colony Monitoring & Habitat Improvement Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance (OSCA) The Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program is seeking PCAF funds for two related activities aimed at improving “anthropogenic” (human-built) bat habitats. The bulk of the funds will be used to improve pup survival in an apartment attic that houses the largest-known Yuma and Little Brown Myotis bat maternity roost in Penticton. A small amount of project funds will be used for material to make shields for the temperature sensors (to keep bats from roosting against or fouling the sensors and affecting temperature readings).
Northern Red-legged Frog and Wildlife Habitat Protection on Fork Lake Highlands Stewardship Foundation (HSF) The project centres on Northern Red-legged Frog, Tree Frog and Wildlife Habitat Protection. Fork Lake, located in the District of Highlands, Victoria BC, is one of the last regional strongholds for Northern Red-legged Frogs as most of the lakes in
the CRD have been overrun with eastern bullfrogs and have had intensive pressure from human use due to population growth and development. Fork Lake has a strong history of keeping bullfrogs off the lake to ensure the habitat and ecosystem remain in balance. Efforts include ongoing bullfrog management, regular physical measurements, sampling and analysis of physical/ chemical/ biological tests, and recently plant species management, of which growth is likely tied
to climate change and may indicate eutrophication.
Clear the Coast 2018 Living Oceans Society Project to further restore foreshore habitat within Cape Scott Provincial Park. Last year, with the
assistance of PCAF, we were able to work for the first time on the Park’s North Coast Trail, where
substantial accumulations of plastic debris were found to have accrued. This year, we are advised by early reconnaissance that another large pulse of debris has arrived on Vancouver Island’s northwest coast. The project intends to return to both the North Coast and Cape Scott trails, as well as several water-access only areas along the northwest coast.
South Coast Species at Risk Conservation Aimee Mitchell on behalf of Coastal Partners in Conservation Federally endangered and provincially red-listed, the Western Painted Turtle (Pacific Coast population) face many threats including wetland loss and degradation, nesting habitat destruction, predators, poaching, invasive species, human disturbance, and road mortality. While focusing on this charismatic species and incorporating species with already known overlapping occurrences at some sites including; the Western Screech-owl, Little Brown Myotis and Townsend’s Big-eared Bat, the project will conduct threat mitigation, monitoring and outreach throughout the South Coast of BC.
West Kettle Spring Deer Counts Granby Wilderness Society The project counts deer utilizing spring green up along multiple transects in the West Kettle. Counts are completed by volunteers who follow a set protocol each spring. The count information is shared with wildlife managers and other interested individuals upon request.
Health Assessment of Wetlands near Peachland Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance The Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance (PWPA) and other volunteers/NGOs are proposing to undertake wetland health assessments in the upper watershed area near Peachland. Volunteers will be using the newly released Forest and Range Evaluation Program (FREP) wetland protocol. This protocol was developed to allow persons with basic working knowledge of wetlands to evaluate the health of wetland sites in or near industrial and development activities.
Bats of Burvilla At Risk South Coast Bat Conservation Society Citizen scientists will initiate a long-term passive monitoring program a significant bat maternity roost with the goal of elevating the profile of bat conservation in southwest BC and detecting population trends associated with a devastating wildlife disease.
Connected Waters: field work and mapping project Watershed Watch Salmon Society The purpose of this project is to develop a list of priorities for upgrades based on the potential quality and quantity of fish habitat upstream from flood control structures and based on the current function and need for the flood control structures with consideration of required/planned upgrades. All data will be stored on our publicly accessible Connected Waters Atlas hosted by our partners at the Community Mapping Network.
Somenos Ecosystem Stewardship Project Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society is working with partner organizations and community volunteers to implement the Somenos Ecosystem Stewardship Project which is taking action against invasive non-native species in and around the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area that are causing ecological damage to our native ecosystems.
Growing a Garry Oak Meadow: A rehabilitation project for beautification and pollinator conservation Peninsula Streams Society Peninsula Streams, with partners Pollinator Partnership Canada (P2C) and Saanich Native Plants (SNP) aim to undertake native plant restoration, public education and engagement, and a native bee monitoring project on a 2,000 m2 field adjacent to Blenkinsop Creek and the Lochside Trail by the BC Hydro substation. This parcel is dominated by invasive grasses and forbs, providing little value to native wildlife. The restoration will create a visually appealing site in a high-traffic area along the trail while simultaneously providing value to native wildlife, volunteer opportunities, community engagement, and education.
Elk Valley Stormwater Solutions – Phase I Elk River Watershed Alliance Elk Valley Stormwater Solutions is a multi-phased project designed to develop informed strategies to
reduce the negative effects of stormwater on aquatic, riparian and wetland ecosystems. This project will increase public awareness and education surrounding stormwater, while creating an opportunity to take action in mitigating the effects of altered hydrology and decreased water quality from stormwater being discharged into the Elk River.
Engaging Communities in Bird Conservation Bird Studies Canada Since 1999, Bird Studies Canada (BSC) has operated programs that recruit, train, and coordinate skilled volunteers to monitor these globally and nationally significant concentrations of waterbirds. This project will therefore aim to: a) strengthen the stewardship capacity of communities along Boundary Bay and Tsawwassen; b) increase awareness of Citizen Science monitoring programs and stewardship along Boundary Bay and Tsawwassen; and c) provide educational materials including new signage that incorporates Coast Salish language in coordination with the Tsawwassen First Nation. Through this project, BSC will work with local citizens and the Tsawwassen First Nation, sharing ideas and knowledge around bird conservation in this IBA in danger.
Restoration of riparian habitat around Ellis Creek sediment basin Okanagan Nation Alliance This project intends to restore the riparian habitat area around the sediment basin located near Ellis Creek, Penticton, BC. Riparian vegetation around the sediment basin has been significantly impacted during sediment excavations that are part of flood protection maintenance operations, a process that take place every 5-10 years.
Fishing Forever B.C. Wildlife Federation This fiscal year there are 11 communities who have committed to Fishing Forever events: Williams Lake, Peachland, Nanaimo, South Okanagan, Smithers, Nelson, Parksville, Vernon/Lumby, Lower Mainland, Courtney and Vanderhoof. DFO has offered to wave all need for fishing licenses for these special events. Each event takes place on a unique day in the respective community, from May through August.

You can download a PDF of this list here.

Sun, 27 May 2018

Project Evaluation: Spring Site Visits

Dutch Creek Columbia Lake as viewed from the Hoodoos property
By Kathryn Martell and Christina Waddle

Project evaluation is a core component of HCTF’s grant programs. In addition to a thorough review of proposals and project reports, we conduct more in-depth evaluations of several projects each year. This assessment combines a detailed review of both financial and biological components of a project, ranging from questions about a project’s bookkeeping processes to a field day with the project leader to see the activities “on the ground”. These site visits provide us with an opportunity to better understand a project’s challenges and successes, to evaluate our conservation return on investment, and—best of all—to spend time with our project leaders somewhere outside in wild BC with an opportunity for them to tell us more about the projects they are passionate about.

One of the new interpretive signs funded with an HCTF Land Stewardship grant at NCC”s Dutch Creek Hoodoos property

HCTF staff had the opportunity to visit two of our continuing projects this spring. Our Conservation Specialist Christina Waddle attended the Official Trail Opening Ceremony at the Dutch Creek Hoodoos Conservation Area owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). Richard Klafki, Canadian Rocky Mountains Program Director for NCC, showed Christina some of the work that’s been accomplished with the Land Stewardship Grant from HCTF. This project included marking and improving the main loop trail and discouraging use of other informal trails on the property through directional signage and fencing. The other main component of the project was the design and installation of five educational interpretive panels. This will help meet NCC’s management goals for the property which include protection in perpetuity, providing a quality site appreciation experience, while limiting the effects of recreation on native vegetation and wildlife.

Evaluation Manager Kathryn Martell and Finance Officer Jade Neilson headed over to the Lower Mainland to meet up with provincial sturgeon specialist Erin Stoddard and his field crew for a day on the Fraser River. Now in its sixth year, the Lower Fraser White Sturgeon Telemetry Study is conducting long-term monitoring of adult sturgeon to gain a better understanding of movement patterns and habitat use of this Red-listed species in the Lower Fraser, Pitt, and Harrison Rivers. Although White Sturgeon is considered at risk, there is a limited catch-and-release fishery on the Lower Fraser River; a licence surcharge supports a dedicated HCTF fund for sturgeon research and recovery efforts.

HCTF Finance Officer Jade Neilson and project field technician Garrett enjoy some sunshine as they journey from one site to another.

Jade and Kathryn had a great day out on the water, with high flood conditions making it both challenging and interesting to retrieve and re-deploy the data loggers that record movements of individual sturgeon using acoustic tracking devices. It is surprising how little we know about this long-lived, large, prehistoric fish that is so important to local First Nations. This project is the first ever long-term telemetry study of sturgeon habitat use on lower Fraser River White Sturgeon, and it is already providing critical information about over-wintering sites, spawning areas, and development impacts, that is being used to improve fisheries and habitat management. In between hauling heavy equipment in and out of the boat, we had a chance to see some of the critical spawning areas being studied; to understand much more about the project’s study design, and how Erin and his crew have responded to many challenges (such as, what to do when your data logger is buried under 3 tonnes of log boom?) and learn about some of the complications of studying a fish that can live twice as long as humans and travel more than 125 km upstream and downstream each year in the ever-changing conditions of a large river system.

Field technician Garret preps a data logger before submerging in the river. IN the background, you can see an example of the battering some of these frames take from log booms.

Thank you to both Richard, Erin and Garrett for showing our staff the conservation work being accomplished with HCTF grants.

Thu, 24 May 2018
Tags: Wildlife

Dough for Does – Grants, Donations and Volunteers Support the Southern Interior Mule Deer Project

Southern Interior Mule Deer project volunteers collar a mule deer doe and use ultrasound to determine if she's pregnant.

A new, large-scale research project, involving multiple agencies and universities, has started to tackle one of the most pressing needs in wildlife management in British Columbia – how to understand and reverse declines of mule deer in the Southern Interior. With contributions from Indigenous people, the public, stakeholders, and industry, this project brings together cutting-edge research on deer ecology with multiple partnerships to advance both evidence and cooperative-based approaches to wildlife conservation.

“Mule deer declines have been a concern in portions of the southern interior since the 1960s, and decades of hunting regulation change have not reversed the declines,” said Jesse Zeman, Director of Fish and Wildlife Restoration, BC Wildlife Federation.

A combination of fire suppression, timber extraction, highways, urban sprawl and other factors affect the movement and size of mule deer populations in the Southern Interior of B.C. Sophie Gilbert, an Assistant Professor at the University of Idaho and co-investigator on the project, said, “in addition to landscape change, things like increases in competitor or predator species may also be affecting mule deer, as we’ve seen in other parts of western North America, and we want to identify which drivers are most important in the Southern Interior.”

Mule deer are essential for food security, Syilx (Okanagan) cultural practice and knowledge transfer, hunter opportunity, and are a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for B.C.’s ecosystems.

“What we have heard from Indigenous communities, ecologists, and resident hunters is that the decline of mule deer matters to them and the status quo is no longer sufficient,” said Dr. Adam T. Ford, Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in Wildlife Restoration Ecology at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus and co-investigator on the project. “It is time we bring more science to bear on issues affecting wildlife in B.C.”

The B.C. Fish and Wildlife Branch, in collaboration with the BC Wildlife Federation, Okanagan Nation Alliance, volunteers and researchers at the University of British Columbia, and the University of Idaho, placed GPS tracking collars on 64 adult female mule deer (does) in the following areas: Kettle-Granby, Peachland/Garnet Valley, and Cache Creek/Elephant Hill fire.

There are an additional 33 adult female mule deer collared in the Kootenay study area.

Of the 64 deer captured in 2018, ultrasounds were used to assess pregnancy rates and general health on 56 does greater than one year of age. The project team found a 98 percent pregnancy rate, at least 80 percent of those does were carrying twins. Does and their offspring (fawns) are what drive deer population change, which is why the project is focusing on them.

The GPS collars in the Kettle-Granby, Peachland/Garnet Valley, and Cache Creek study areas track the deer movements every 4.25 hours and provide information on the deers’ habitat use, how they move across the landscape, which areas they avoid, when and how they die. When a collar is no longer moving, a message gets sent to the project team which allows them to investigate factors contributing to the animal’s death.

In addition to the collars, at least 200 remote cameras will be deployed in the project areas to provide an understanding of how other animals (predators, prey, and people) interact with mule deer. The cameras will also provide recruitment data (fawn survival) and sex ratios (buck: doe), and potentially help count mule deer and other large mammals.

This fall the group expects to place GPS collars on a minimum of 60 mule deer fawns and will also incorporate vegetation monitoring (food availability).

To date, nearly $300,000 in direct funding has been contributed to the project through multiple sources including, BC Wildlife Federation Clubs and partners, corporate donors, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, B.C. Fish and Wildlife Branch, Ministry of Transportation, and B.C. Timber Sales. The project has also confirmed over $500,000 of in-kind support from collaborators, particularly project volunteers and the University of B.C. Okanagan and University of Idaho.

“While there has been tremendous community support, the project still requires additional financial and in-kind support to fund the remaining four years of the project,” said Jesse Zeman. “Please go to the BC Wildlife Federation website to make a donation and receive a tax credit receipt, get updates, or learn about volunteer opportunities for the project.” People can also donate directly to the Okanagan Nation Alliance

Thu, 24 May 2018
Tags: Stewardship

Sit Back, Relax, and Count Some Bats

A volunteer helps count bats for the Community Bat Program. Photo M. Kellner

The BC Community Bat Program is seeking volunteers and bat colonies for the Annual Bat Count. This citizen-science initiative encourages residents to count bats at local roost sites. “Bat counts are a wonderful way for residents to get involved in collecting important scientific information” says biologist Mandy Kellner, coordinator of the BC Community Bat Program. “No special skills are needed, you can be any age, and you can relax in a deck chair while counting.”

The Annual Bat Count will collect baseline data on bat populations before the devastating White Nose Syndrome fungal disease affects bats in the province.

“White Nose Syndrome is estimated to have killed more than seven million bats since it was first discovered in eastern North America a decade ago,” says Kellner. “In March 2016, the disease was detected just east of Seattle, and has now spread within Washington State. This has greatly increased our urgency to understand bat populations in BC. We need the public’s help to census local bat populations – we never known when it is our last year to obtain population estimates before White Nose Syndrome causes widespread declines in western North America.”

Counts are easy! Volunteers wait outside a known roost site, such as a bat-house, barn, bridge or attic, and count bats as they fly out at twilight. They record the final number along with basic information on weather conditions. Ideally, 1 – 2 counts are done between June 1 and 21 before pups are born, and 1 – 2 more between July 11 and August 5 when pups are flying.

We know relatively little about bats in BC, including basic information on population numbers” continues Kellner. “This information will be extremely valuable, particularly if it is collected annually. If people want to get involved but don’t have a roost site on their property, we will try to match them with a roost site nearby.”

Funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and the Forest Enhancement Society of BC, and with support of the BC Conservation Foundation and the Province of BC, the BC Community Bat Program provides information for people dealing with bat issues on their property or who have questions about how to attract bats. To find out more about bat counts, or to get assistance dealing with bat issues, visit www.bcbats.ca or call 1-855-9BC-BATS.

Wed, 9 May 2018
Tags: Stewardship

Opportunity for BC Kids to Participate in Citizen Science

A metallic green sweat bee on a bitterroot flower (Lewisia rediviva) photographed by Valerie Huff in Trail, BC.

NatureKids BC is launching a new pollinator citizen science project this week that encourages kids and their families all over British Columbia to collect data on local pollinators. The project will provide opportunities for children to get involved in real science and learning about nature on their doorstep.

Through pollinator surveys and education materials, children will learn about wild pollinators and how to identify them. They will collect data on the abundance and diversity of bees, wasps, and butterflies in green spaces in their local area through data collection events and be encouraged to get involved in stewardship activities that increase pollinator habitat.

Pollinators in British Columbia include insects such as beetles, wasps, flies, butterflies and bees that distribute pollen from one flower to another as they forage and as a result fertilize plants. Bees and other pollinators are a key component of global biodiversity because they play a vital role in maintaining wild ecosystems as well as pollinate plants that produce food (crops, fruits, nuts and seeds) that wildlife and humans rely on to survive.

World-wide, pollinator populations are declining with parallel declines in the plants that rely on them for pollination. Both wild and domesticated pollinators are suffering from a range of threats including diseases, pesticide exposure, malnutrition, habitat loss and climate change.

Erin Udal, Pollinator Citizen Science Coordinator with NatureKids BC, says: “Pollinators are a critical component of our environment both here in BC and globally and it takes all of us to help protect them and their essential habitats. Through this citizen science initiative, youth all across BC can contribute to generating local knowledge and awareness and can help our communities make more informed conservation decisions.”

Louise Pedersen, Executive Director with NatureKids BC, adds: “Citizen science is an opportunity to dive into a new universe for children and it’s a great educational tool that harnesses the intrinsic curiosity of children for the natural world. It’s incredibly powerful when children come to understand that they can make a real difference.”

To get involved with NatureKids BC’s pollinator citizen science project and to download instructions and pollinator ID information, visit https://www.naturekidsbc.ca/be-a-naturekid/stewardship-citizen-science/pollinators/

As part of the launch of the pollinator citizen science project, NatureKids BC will host a pollinator survey led by NatureKids BC pollinator educator, Erin Udal on Saturday, May 12 at 1-2:30 pm. by UBC Forest Sciences Center, 2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4. Learn more here: https://naturekidsbc_2018agm-and-pollintor-explorer-day.eventbrite.ca

NatureKids BC’s pollinator youth citizen science project is supported by the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, TD Friends of the Environment and Nature Canada.