A Great Mix: Wetlandkeepers in Castlegar

The aptly named Oasis Wetland was the subject of this month’s Wetlandkeepers workshop held between June 1-3, 2012. Wetlands in the Kootenay Valley are few and far between due to historical drainages, fillings, and river diversions. Sadly, many of the Kootenay’s wetlands that are still kicking around are far from pristine, and ‘the Oasis’ is no exception.  

The Oasis wetland is in close proximity to the mining operations in Trail, BC, and the associated acid precipitation that stripped soil off the region’s hillsides prior to improvements in environmental practices, led to elevated heavy metal inputs into the wetland in question. Despite high levels of zinc, lead, and cadmium, Oasis is home to a multitude of amphibian, reptile, bird, and plant species.

Having now attended two Wetlandkeepers workshops as a BCWF intern, I have come to realize that each is fantastic in its own way. Though the backbone of each workshop is essentially the same, each course is unique: much like the wetlands that we seek to protect in each part of the province. The great mix of people that attend is one reason why this is possible. From PhDs to and undergraduate students, to environmental consultants, local First Nations band members, educators and concerned citizens, everyone in attendance has their own unique experience and brings something different to the table. Participants in the Wetlandkeepers course have combined all types of knowledge to create the most complete picture in regards to our wetland’s past, present, and future.

The Wetlandkeepers workshop has the ability to give each participant something valuable to take home with them: this is really its strong point. No matter what the participant’s background may be, they are guaranteed to try something new, learn something different, or meet others who are just as passionate about wetlands as themselves. A great example of this was the invasive species removal exercise during our Castlegar course on Saturday, June 2nd, 2012. One of our instructors, Jen Vogel of the Central Kootenay Invasive Plant Council, explained the issues surrounding Policeman’s Helmet: an invasive plant that can spread its seeds by “shooting” them up to 5 metres away! After a crash course on identifying the plant, Wetlandkeepers began uprooting them left and right on a slope upstream of the Oasis wetland. They proved that a little time can make a big difference and as a group they removed a tarp full of Policeman’s Helmet in under 15 minutes.
We were fortunate to also be joined by two amphibian specialists. Elke Wind returned to not only wow us with her exceptional trapping and identification skills, but also to welcome a new Wetlandkeepers Hepetologist: Jakob Dulisse. Now with a BCWF Wetlandkeepers workshop under his belt, Jakob will begin sharing his expertise with future Wetlandkeepers in the Columbia basin, spreading the conservation buzz.

The Oasis workshop also provided an immense amount of interaction between different groups of people. David Derossa, Superintendent of Ecosystem Projects for Teck Cominco (the primary landowners of Oasis wetland) was in the muck with the rest of the participants, catching tadpoles and toe-biters. Not only was he there to participate, but he was also there to listen. Teck Cominco plans to begin restoration on the wetland and David was taking ideas for what could be done to improve Oasis’s health and provide the greatest benefits to the flora, fauna, and the community. Installation of a bird watching platform and cattail control were just a couple of options suggested. Causal and positive interactions like these are something you really can’t get anywhere else. This is why Oasis may have been my second Wetlandkeepers workshop, but it certainly will not be my last.

To see all the great photos taken during our Castlegar Wetlandkeepers workshop at Oasis Wetland, click here!

The Castlegar Wetlandkeepers workshop would not be possible without the financial support of Columbia Basin Trust, the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Wildlife Habitat Canada, the Government of BC, the Government of Canada, and Shell Canada.  We’d also like to give a big thank you to the Castlegar and District Fish and Wildlife Association and the Central Kootenay Invasive Plant Council who provided a lot of local support to organize this workshop.

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