Stewards of the Sea-to-Sky: Wetlands Institute 2012

Can you solve the following riddle?

What do the these ingredients create: 3 communities + 36 participants + 12 trainers + 4 coordinators + 4 restoration sites, when allowed to age for 8 days?

Tom Biebighauser presents “Why We Pulled the Plug on North America,” a history of wetland loss.

If you guessed a journey of stewards gathering lessons and inspiration towards wetland conservation in BC, then you are correct!  The 2012 Wetlands Institute along the Sea to Sky was an incredible experience.

The first day of the Institute started at the Copperdome Lodge in Pemberton, a quaint venue surrounded by majestic snow-capped Coastal Mountains and charming farm fields. To start things off Wetlands Coordinator, Neil Fletcher, presented on the purpose of the Wetlands Institute – which is designed for participants to receive guidance and support for their own wetland projects through technical training, planning theory, and field experience by renowned trainers in order to return home and use their newly acquired wisdom and skillsets to improve upon their own projects in wetland restoration and creation.

The group examines a soil sample

Throughout the week, the 36 participants had the pleasure of learning under the wing of 12 passionate and skilled trainers and facilitators, including Tom Biebighouser, a U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist who has restored over 1400 wetlands; plant biologist Michelle Jones (Mimulus Biologicial Consulting) who has worked as a field biologist for over 25 years; amphibian expert Elke Wind (E. Wind Consulting) who has extensive experience in amphibian biology and habitat enhancement; and Edith Tobe, Project Manager and Executive Director of the Squamish River Watershed Society, who secured funding and organized wetland construction and restoration projects for the Institute participants.

The Institute featured an extensive range of activities from getting up close and personal with bats in a mist-net trapping session in Squamish led by Erin Rutherford (South Coast Bat Action Team); to waking up at the crack of dawn to listen to the songs of local birds that inhabit nearby wetlands in Pemberton led by John Tchopp. Other ventures included learning the basics of small mammal trapping with Pontus Lindgren (Madrone Environmental Services ltd.) at Brittania Sleugh in Squamish; learning about invasive species in a labour-intensive but rewarding Yellow Flag Iris weed pulling session in Whistler led by Kristina Swerhun (executive director of Sea-to-Sky Invasive Plant Council); and visiting and gaining insight into the success of the establishment of the Pemberton Wildlife Management Area led by Veronica Woodruff (executive director of the Stewardship Pemberton Society) and Hugh Naylor (Pemberton Wildlife Association).

Participants carry a geotextile liner to the construction site

The highlight for many was the hands on field experience that the Institute offered. The group worked arduously during the last three days to restore two ground water wetlands and construct three liner wetlands along a decommissioned stretch of highway 99. This invaluable field work offered lessons in identifying soil types for wetland restoration, applying erosion control techniques, and selecting riparian vegetation for re-planting. Participants also learned how to install geotextile liners, handle construction tools such as a survey rod and level, and work with contractors (such as an excavator).

WI Participant Deanna presents her wetland project

The Institute also included a 1 day workshop for 19 municipal and regional planners on enhancing and protecting urban wetlands which was held at the Howe Sound Brewery in Squamish on July 11th. The workshop’s main objective was informing planners on ways they can incorporate wetland protection into their policies. The featured speakers included: Kyle Hawes (Ecoscape Environmental Consultants ltd.) and Greg Sauer (Municipal Planner) from the City of Kelowna, Jack Minard from the Comox Valley Land Trust, and Deborah Carlson from West Coast Environmental Law. The main points raised in each of their presentations were later fleshed out during a 2 hour focus group session in the afternoon where the planners came up with identifiable needs, barriers and solutions for achieving successful wetland protection at the municipal and regional level. For more information on the workshop for planners, click here!

To see all the great photos taken during our Sea-to-Sky Wetlands Institute, click here! If you would like to a report from this workshop, please click here: WI Report Feb 2013

This Institute would not have been possible without the financial support of: Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Government of British Columbia, Wildlife Habitat Canada, Environment CanadaShell, and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

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