Connecting with people who share a passion for watershed stewardship is always an energizing experience for me. The 8th Annual BC Interior Stewardship Workshop left my brain spinning with new contacts, resources and ideas. If you’re a community steward or part of a watershed organization active in BC’s interior, this workshop should be high on your agenda!
One of the underlying themes this year was connecting youth to nature. This was of particular value for the Wetlands Program because we host 2 free children’s day camps (i.e. Wild Kidz Camps) around BC specifically for this purpose. Youth experience barriers connecting to the outdoors as they are increasingly glued to technology and have less access to green spaces. One of the ways to address this is to foster an appreciation of nature early.
“If you’re thinking 1 year ahead, plant a seed. 10 years ahead, plant a tree. 100 years ahead, educate the people” (chinese proverb).
This quote was offered up by Kim Fulton in a presentation on curing our youth’s nature deficit disorder. He advocates that the best kind of experience happens outside. Small actions, like hiking outdoors or planting a tree, can lead to a long term relationship with the earth. Kim stresses “Without environmental action, environmental education is just talking, talking, talking…”. It’s a message that strikes a personal chord with him. Kim was choked up, halfway through his presentation, when he shared a photo of his son, daughter-in-law, and grandson who were attending a learn-to-fish activity along the shore of a BC lake.
Dave Ramsay, a highschool teacher, later shared his experience preparing environmental curriculum suitable for teenagers. “Our education system far too often compartmentalizes subjects into silos such as chemistry, biology, and physics and students don’t get a holistic view of the world” he shares. Dave developed a cross-disciplinary course which focuses on watersheds. “The watershed is an appropriate scale, because they’re complex and bridge multiple subjects, such as ecosystems, chemistry, geology etc.” Students are given the opportunity to develop self driven projects, and they often gain a real sense of ownership and passion about their topics.
Connecting youth to nature was only one of the topics covered during the workshop.
Al Midgley and Harold Ridgeway of the Bonaparte Watershed Stewardship Society (BWSS) shared how they’ve significantly improved the health of their river over the last decade. Rampant streambank erosion and diminishing water-quality were threatening the integrity of the river when the society established in 1998. Overcoming mistrust between landowners, government and other resource managers was one of the first accomplishments of the group. Since then, the BWSS have made huge leaps with over 130 stream-side restoration projects already completed since its formation. The communities of Ashcroft and Cache Creek now benefit with trajectory towards a healthier watershed.
Doug Mitchell Jr. of the Xaxli’p First Nation’s Community Forestry Corporation shared an inspirational presentation on how their forests 15 km north of Lillooet are now managed just like their ancestors would have done for thousands of years. “It’s not just about cutting trees anymore – it’s trying to get the vigor back into our forest”, Doug states. The forest is managed for multiple benefits such as hunting, berry picking and wildlife enhancement. Thinning dense single-species stands and encouraging a more diverse group of plants and landscape attributes is part of their “new” management scheme. Elders in their community overwhelmingly ranked water as their number one issue. “Every drop of fresh water that goes into the creek is important”, Doug expressd. Encouraging a healthy forest will certainly help towards healing their watershed.
DG Blair of the Stewardship Centre for British Columbia (SCBC) gave an overview of their current initiatives. The Centre is primarily a web-based resource for stewards. It is a one-stop hub for all sorts of how-to guides (including a link to our very own BC Wildlife Federation’s Wetlandkeepers Manual). Among their more recent projects, the Centre is creating a rating system for properties along BC shorelines (check out greenshores.ca) and they’ve developed a primer for those involved in Species at Risk management. Both stewards and funding organizations will be keen to learn that the SCBC conducted a pilot project that supports the concept, we all know is true, that a small amount of core funding goes a very long-way in empowering conservation organizations to make effective change in their communities (i.e. a project called Stewardship Works!). Core funding helps to keep the lights on – both literally and figuratively.
Other presentations included: Jean Clark’s overview of the Lower Shuswap Stewardship Society‘s unwavering efforts to promote collaborative stewardship on Mabel Lake; an update by Lee Hesketh on both the BC Cattleman’s Association’s Farmland Riparian Interface Stewardship Program and recent activities by the Salmon Enhancement and Habitat Advisory Board; and a crash course in Stewardship Organization and Governance by Erin Vieira and Mike Simpson of the Fraser Basin Council.
Finally, what workshop would be complete without a field trip? Well, how about 4 field trips? Workshop participants visited the Cache Creek Landfill, the final destination for much of the Lower Mainland’s trash. The active site for garbage disposal is surprisingly small relative to the huge amount of waste carted up to this site, because the garbage is constantly covered with a layer of crushed rock to minimize the impact to the open environment. Still, the modified landscape (i.e., a growing mountainside) is a compelling reason to reconsider the amount of stuff you toss into the trash. We then went to Ashcroft’s waste water treatment site. Although the smell of the facility was unpleasant, like someone beside you constantly “passing gas”, the benefits of water treatment are well worth it. This small facility treats waste water with multiple stages, including: a mixing/oxygenation stage to encourage bacterial growth for the breakdown of materials, settling ponds for solids, and UV treatment. It certainly puts pressure on other municipalities to do the same, like the Capital Regional District of Victoria which, despite improvements sometime on the horizon, continues to discharge largely untreated sewage directly into our ocean. Victoria’s waste water currently only passes through 0.6 cm filters. The other two field trips included a visit to Ashcroft’s public pool (retrofitted with the latest in solar panel technology), and a visit to one of the many stream-side restoration projects of the Bonaparte Watershed Stewardship Society. The latter field trip showcased how a properly designed erosion control structure can provide fish-friendly habitat and improve in-stream water quality. Shoreline segments along the Bonaparte were stabilized with boulders, logs and willow cuttings to create a naturalized watercourse with diversified habitat for wildlife.
If you’re looking for other workshop opportunities don’t forget to check out our, BC Wildlife Federation’s, line up of 2012 stewardship activities.
For more photos of this event check out our Flickr album.