The BCWF Wetlands Education Program (WEP) spent an intensive 7 days travelling through the Kootenays to host events in the communities of Grand Forks, Castlegar, Fernie and Golden.
On our way to Castlegar, the WEP team was invited to give a presentation to Grand Forks city council about protecting Johnson Flats Wetland. The wetland is a large marsh and open shallow water wetland which city council is looking to declare as a protected area. Neil Fletcher presented at an official city hall meeting in front of Mayor Frank Konrad, city council, and several members of the community. The presentation outlined the importance of wetland conservation and addressed the importance and rarity of wetlands on the scale of the Johnson Flats Wetland. The presentation was well received and followed by a short Q&A for the council members.
The WEP team then headed to Castlegar for a two day Q-GIS Workshop at Selkirk College. A first of its kind, participants travelled from as far Vancouver Island to learn how to integrate this free mapping software program with their wetland inventory projects. BCWF had a total of 25 participants in the classroom and additional 5 who joined remotely. Two instructors were contracted to, along with BCWF, design and teach the workshop: Graham Watt (Environmental Technologist of Grand Forks) and Ryan Durand (Qualified Professional Biologist with Durand Ecological). Graham taught an introduction into Q-GIS on Day 1 which covered the basics of the program. Ryan taught Day 2 and focused on wetland delineation from remote imagery. The participants responded well and stated the workshop was beneficial to their respective projects. BCWF hopes to use this as a template for future workshops.
The WEP team made for the city of Fernie to host a working group workshop to discuss inventory mapping of the Elk River watershed’s wetlands and riparian habitat. There were 18 participants from municipalities, industry, ENGOs, fish and game clubs, and the provincial government. We were also lucky enough to have 5 presenters: Neil Fletcher (BC Wildlife Federation), Crystal Klym (Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program), Deb MacKillop (Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations), Warn Franklin (TECK Resources) and Alan Davidson (Cumulative Effects Management Framework). The presentations lead into an open discussion in the afternoon where gaps and opportunities for further inventory work in the Elk River watershed were identified.
After leaving Fernie, the WEP team headed north to the city of Golden to teach our Wetlandkeepers Course. The Wetlandkeepers Course is hosted by BCWF and taught by Neil Fletcher and Jason Jobin. It is aimed at educating participants about wetland conservation, stewardship, and citizen science. Our students in Golden learned: wetland mapping, GPS use, plant identification, aquatic invertebrate identification, bird/water fowl identification, soil sampling and wetland classification. The course had a total of 24 participants, including: many teachers, biologists, a city planner, and other interested members of the Golden area.
We were also lucky enough to have Rachel Darvill, a professional biologist, teach a section about waterfowl. Rachel is conducting waterbird surveys in the Columbia Wetlands to have them officially designated as an Important Bird Area, a cause which many participants were excited to contribute their time to. Laura Gaster of the Columbia-Shuswap Invasive Species Society (CSISS) was invited to teach the class about some key aquatic invasives. Laura was able to bring in a number of live and dead specimens to give participants some hands-on ID experience. There were three amazing field locations: (1) Reflection Lake, a large marsh and open shallow water wetland with an amazing number of water fowl. (2) Edelweiss Slough, where participants walked along a long, narrow walking path with marsh on either side of the trail. (3) Cedar Lake, a beautiful recreational area with a large lake and a boardwalk that leads to a beautiful fen.
After four events across four communities in seven days, the Wetlands Education Program Team made their way back home to the Lower Mainland, weary but feeling accomplished with the impact they made upon the Kootenays. More than 80 people were now better educated in some aspect of wetland conservation whether it be high-level policy or citizen science. We are confident we will be returning to the Kootenays to continue support in these communities.
The above workshops were held in partnership with:
The above workshops were possible through the financial support of:
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 www.whc.org. Without habitat…there is no wildlife. It’s that simple!