Working with the St’át’imc Community: Map our Marshes in Lillooet

Due to the success of a Map our Marshes workshop in the summer of 2016, the Wetlands Education Program team was invited back to Lillooet this July 24th and 25th to deliver another two day wetland assessment workshop. Instructed by Ryan Durand of EcoLogic Environmental Consultants, 16 participants from the Lillooet region were lead through wetland classification, soil analysis, plant identification, and assessment forms. This workshop was in partnership with Splitrock Environmental, an Aboriginal-owned business specializing in environmental services, ecological restoration, and native plant propagation. Many participants were from the Xaxli’p (Fountain) and Xwisten (Bridge River) First Nations, which are two of the eleven self-governing communities that make up the larger St’át’imc Nation. This course was requested to provide an introduction into wetland inventory and assessment for participants to use in their work for Splitrock Environmental and the Xaxli’p Community Forest, among other organizations.

As our Map our Marshes courses are typically only 8 hours long, this extended workshop allowed for more time to discuss wetland assessment, and much more time spent in the field! This workshop was made unique through both the format and the opportunity to collaborate with several First Nations groups. Participants were all involved within the environmental field, and as such there was the opportunity to learn from both instructors and participants alike. Most participants were or will soon be involved in wetland assessment projects, and used this workshop as an introduction.

We began in the classroom of the Xaxli’p Band Office, located in the Fountain Valley. It is always interesting to have a different instructor lead the course, as it allows for new information to be brought forward. The value of classification, for example, was discussed by Ryan and is three-fold: it 1) raises awareness of wetland types, 2) allows for ecosystem services and functions to be recognized, and 3) allows for cross-referencing against the provincial database (Conservation Data Centre) to communicate the value and rarity of certain wetland types. However as we began to attempt to identify wetlands in the field, participants were quick to discover that many wetlands don’t fit well into a single classification.

Cinquefoil

Cinquefoil Lake

The group hopped into their trucks, and we began a convoy up to Cinquefoil Lake, the third lake along the road from the Xaxli’p Band Office, in what is officially known as the Three Lake Valley.

The group  headed into the marsh, to try their hands at classifying their first wetland. The first step was to identify the surrounding vegetation, which was decided to be broadleaf cattail (Typha latifolia). Brave participants with hip waders were then sent into deeper waters, to collect a soil sample for comparison against the soil sample taken in a more terrestrial area.

soils

You can’t expect to go into a wetland and not get mucky – thanks to Denika for making the soil profile more visible!

 

group fireweed

Group heads in search of a swamp

We then headed off in search of a potential swamp, but were thwarted by a modified beaver pond that was posing as a swamp from a distance. The pond was likely decades old, as it exhibited no signs of current beaver occupation. The mammal had changed the landscape dramatically by allowing the surrounding vegetation to colonize the dam, creating a large mound and raised pond. The site was surrounded by willow, likely growing from the favourable conditions that the beaver created. As the soil and plants develop further, the distinguishing wetland characteristics will be more visible, and allow for better classification of the site.

Day two brought surprise guest instructors: Dan McAllister and Natasha Bush, of EcoLogic Consultants Ltd. Dan and Natasha happened to be in Lillooet, and Ryan had convinced his colleagues to share their expertise in soil science and wildlife, respectively. Dan discussed the relationship between soils and vegetation, and the value of the “shlurp” sound in identifying saturated soils (if the soil “shlurps” beneath your feet, you’re either in a marsh or a swamp). 

Bridge River

Taken down the road from the Xwisten Band Office: the Bridge River.

Heading back into the field (and after some serious bushwacking), we managed to climb our way through the vegetation and split into three teams, to go over and complete the SWAMP Wetland Assessment Form. This wetland assessment & inventory protocol form was originally developed by a community group in the Slocan Valley; for more information, please click here. Participants finished the day by classifying their swamp, using all their newfound knowledge and practice from the day before.

 

This was a unique version of our Map our Marshes workshop, and we were thankful to see that it was well received! Special thanks is due to the Splitrock Environmental team for sharing their equipment and field guides, and to Ryan Durand and the rest of the EcoLogic team for sharing their expertise.

group funny

Group photo – a mob of kangaroos and a herd of moose, both common wetland species.

story time

Discussing our findings, and final comments before completing the workshop. Outdoor classrooms = the best classrooms.

If you wish to view more photos taken at this workshop, please visit our Flickr page. To read our blog from last year’s workshop, click here: MAPPING WETLANDS IN ST’AT’IMC TERRITORY WITH SPLIT ROCK ENVIRONMENTAL – LILLOOET.

Organization links:

EcoLogic Environmental Consulting Ltd: http://consult-ecologic.com/

Splitrock Environmental: http://splitrockenvironmental.ca/

Xaxli’p First Nation: http://www.xaxlip.ca/

Xwisten First Nation: http://xwisten.ca/

For more information on the BCWF Wetlands Education Program, please click here. For more information about Map our Marshes or other WEP workshops, please contact Jason Jobin, BCWF Wetlands Education Program Coordinator at jason.jobin@bcwf.bc.ca

This workshop was in partnership with:

Partners .jpg

THIS PROJECT WAS POSSIBLE WITH THE FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF: 
/ CE PROJET A ÉTÉ RÉALISÉ AVEC L’APPUI FINANCIER DE:

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