On February 17th, the BCWF held the Squamish Working Group Workshop in partnership with the District of Squamish, Durand Ecological Ltd, and Ecoscape Environmental Ltd to discuss the District of Squamish’s Natural Resource Inventory Project and explore opportunities to enhance wetland inventory and build local capacity throughout the process. The project will be used to identify Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) and develop land use guidelines. The inventory may also help identify restoration and further conservation opportunities. The 32 attendees comprised of key municipal staff, environmental consultants, First Nations, community stewardship and conservation groups.
Moderated by Neil Fletcher, BCWF’s Wetland Education Program Coordinator and Chair of the Wetland Stewardship Partnership, the workshop involved three presentations, followed by a panel discussion. In addition to an introduction by Neil, the presenters were:
- Kyle Hawes, Senior Natural Resource Biologist with Ecoscape Environmental Ltd
- Ryan Durand, Private Consultant with Durand Ecological Ltd
- Caroline Ashekian, Environmental Coordinator with the District of Squamish
Ryan Durand and Kyle Hawes began by sharing results from the first and second phases of the Natural Resource Inventory Project. Phase 1 was a gap analysis that identified data to support Land Use planning in the Squamish area and phase 2 included both terrestrial and coastal inventory and mapping. The Terrestrial Ecosystem Mapping portion covered over 10,000 hectares and revealed that among the wetland ecosystems swamps were the most abundant type of wetland in the District. Still, wetlands only accounted for only 2% of the landscape.
Caroline Ashekian presented on the current goals and aspirations for Phase 3; which will entail collecting more intensive Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping (SHIM) data on stream and wetland habitat in Squamish. It’s anticipated that the data will be used to update the Official Community Plan (OCP), by identifying sensitive ecosystems in need of protection.
Neil wrapped up the morning with a presentation on how an enhanced wetland inventory as part of Phase 3 could fit into the Natural Resource Inventory Project and identified opportunities where BCWF could lend support through increasing capacity to collect wetlands information in the study area and involve local stewardship groups.
The afternoon discussion primarily seeked input from stakeholders into enhancing Phase 3 and included topics on:
- Increasing local engagement.—Stewardship groups, First Nations, Students
- Tools to engage the public with the inventory project and strategies to increase public support for the project.
- Private landowner and developer outreach.
From this discussion, three main themes emerged as priorities:
1 – Creating a “Story Board” as a method of communication.
Many participants discussed the wealth of local knowledge and data that is already available and how it could be incorporated into the Natural Resource Inventory project.Many participants expressed a desire add additional local knowledge to the Natural Resource Inventory and increase public awareness about the value of aquatic resources. One recommendation was to highlight the importance of aquatic habitats through a “story board” or a series of events directed towards the general public. Stories of restoration efforts and history of use and importance would come from local stewardship groups and First Nations who would help add a community and cultural context. Local groups could increase an appreciation and awarness about aquatic ecosystems by telling their stories. Students from K-12 would be one possible audience to target to build appreciation around the rich aquatic habitat that they live around and depend on.
2 – Standardize Wetland Inventory Enhancement, and strengthen inventory through local knowledge.
The creation of a standardized and enhanced wetland inventory would enable decision makers and conservation practicioners to identify sites for protection and/or restoration.
3 – Landowner / Developer Contact
Multiple participants expressed the importance of landowner contact and how to protect and conserve aquatic habitat on private property. General communications is important, but offering free private land inventory and consulting services may entice some landowners to engage more meaningfully in learning how they can contribute to broader conservation goals by stewarding their land.
The workshop was successful in identifying priorities for phase 3 of the inventory project and possible improvements that can be made for phase 3.
If you would like more information on the workshop, you can read the full report which will be attached here soon.
This workshop would not be possible without the following funders:
The following partners were involved:
Since 1985, Wildlife Habitat Canada, a national, non-profit, charitable conservation organization, has invested over $60 million to support hundreds of conservation projects on private and public lands across Canada, through its granting program. Wildlife Habitat Canada works through partnerships with communities, landowners, governments, non-government organizations, and industry to conserve, enhance, and restore wildlife habitat. To learn more about the projects that Wildlife Habitat Canada has funded or to see our annual report, please visit http://www.whc.org. Without habitat…there is no wildlife. It’s that simple!