Pemberton Wetlandkeepers Course

The most recent BC Wildlife Federation Wetlandkeepers Course, held in Pemberton and hosted by the Wetlands Education Program, can be seen as a resounding success. Not only did participants come as far as Langley and Victoria to attend the course, but an all time high of registrants participated.

The course took place from May thirteenth through the fifteenth, and was focused a wetland bordering One Mile Lake, a popular spot for locals, with scenic views and a variety of outdoor activities available.

Similar to previous Wetlandkeeper courses, the three-day class started with a general overview of wetland ecology and why conservation is necessary to wetlands with a lecture given by Michele Jones of Mimulus Biological Consultants and Dawn Johnson of the Stewardship Pemberton Society.  Ms. Johnson stressed the many values and services associated with wetland ecosystems, such as their ability to control floods, recharge streams and groundwater aquifers, and provide high quality habitat to many wildlife species. As an expert in the field, Michele highlighted the diversity of wetland types that can be found within the province and brought to light the damage a wide array of different environmental stressors can do to these unique ecosystems. In a mapping exercise, the participants were shown how everything from highways to storage facilities can cumulatively damage a watershed. All of this information was preparatory classroom work for the second day of the course, where methods learned in the classroom were employed in the field.

“I now have an understanding of wetlands that will help greatly in protection and education” “It got me out in the field, gained experience, and I learned A LOT about wetlands” (Responses from participants about the Wetlandkeepers Course)

Participants of the Wetlandkeepers Course monitor a transect

On the second day, Wetlandkeeper participants strapped on their waders and gumboots to gather preliminary information about the site and the various plant communities found along the north shore of One-mile Lake.  With enthusiastic members wading into deep pockets of the wetland, they learned about a variety of plants which act as indicators of wetland ecosystems. Participants learned to identify different types of wetlands, and how to monitor them for changes over time. Currently, the extensive coverage of hardhack, sweet-gale, slough sedge, and cottonwood along the margins of the lake provides habitat for numerous bird and fish species.  However, invasive species such as reed canary grass were also found throughout the site, which could choke out native vegetation and change the hydrology of the wetland.

On the last day, amphibian expert Elke Wind gave a visually engaging presentation to the group about the many different types of herptofauna that could be found in the Pemberton Valley, including: Pacific Chorus Frog, Tailed-frog, North-western Salamander, Rough Skinned Newt and Western Toad.  Although a dozen live-traps were set along the margins of One-mile Lake the night before, and despite a valiant search for egg masses by participants, no amphibians or their egg masses were found.  Why?   The area around One-Mile-Lake is not as healthy as it could be, since a typical wetland at this point in the season will have many different breeding amphibian species. Several of the live-traps caught different fish species such as: skulpin, salmonid, and asian carp (an invasive species).   It seems the local amphibians are suffering predation by the fish. Realizing the needs of this area will go a long way in restoration work; amphibians are important indicators of a wetland’s health, and an overabundance of invasive species does not bode well for the ecosystem, as it will fall out of balance.

Instructor Elke Wind demonstrates the setting of an amphibian trap

The course was meant to prepare participants to undertake monitoring efforts in their own local wetlands.   A variety of speakers presented on their own local conservation efforts, which was meant to inspire participants and to help them start to consider how their new found knowledge could be applied.  For example, Dawn Johnson and Veronica Woodruff spoke about activities the Stewardship Pemberton Society is involved with, including the construction of a Nature Interpretive Center. Allen McEwan, of the Pemberton Wildlife Association spoke about the history of the Pemberton Valley and the steps currently being taken to restore some of the area to provide additional habitat for wildlife. In the 1940s, farmers in the Pemberton Valley Area rerouted the course of the river from the natural meandering path it had taken to push the riverbanks along the side of the mountains, thus eliminating a large portion of the surrounding wetlands and the ecological functions they provided. Current conservation efforts are underway including the purchase of privately owned wetlands for long-term conservation, and the restoration of degraded wetlands.

The BC Wildlife Federation is working with the Pemberton Wildlife Association and the Stewardship Pemberton Society on future conservation projects.  For instance, the 2012 Wetlands Institute, a 7 day workshop on wetland monitoring and restoration, will be located in the Sea-to-Sky region (between Squamish and Pemberton).  Also, to spark-plug interest in wetland stewardship in the Pemberton region, a legacy kit of wetland monitoring tools was given to Pemberton’s new nature center by the BCWF’s Wetlands Education Program.  The kit will allow conservation groups to monitor One-mile lake and other wetlands in the area for years to come, and will allow for future wetland training courses.    The Wetlandkeepers course and the legacy bin were made possible with the financial support of RBC Blue Water Project, TD Friends of the Environment, Canadian Wildlife Federation, Pacific Salmon Foundation and Shell Environmental Fund.

To see more photos check out our Flickr album

Written by Victoria Tcherven, BCWF Summer Intern

The Stewardship Pemberton Society accepts a bin to help future Wetlandkeepers in the area.

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