Stars Align for 2017 Wetlands Institute

For most of the summer it appeared as though the 2017 Wetlands Institute may have had to make a drastic change in scheduling and, for the first time in history, proceed without any accompanying wetland restoration projects. With BC experiencing the worst wildfire season ever recorded, the three restoration projects that would have made the bulk of the Wetlands Institute were on the chopping block. People weren’t allowed to set foot off of pavement, much less be allowed to work with the heavy machinery required to restore wetlands. Biting nails, BCWF Staff were relived to see the off-road restrictions lifted just days before the Institute, and elated to see the campfire ban lifted shortly after. A few days later the “Fire Danger Class” was lowered, and the week was allowed to proceed unhampered. What resulted is being viewed as possibly the most successful Wetlands Institute to date.

From September 23-29, fifteen participants from across the province were trained how to successfully complete their wetland projects through a mix of hands-on and in-class sessions.  Non-profits, First Nations, consultants, and even agricultural practitioners were  represented by the diverse cast of participants. Equally diverse were the topics and expert trainers. As a few examples: Norine Ambrose (Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society) presented on Living with Beaver, which included their biology, challenges that arise with co-habitation, and management case studies; Dr. Suzanne Bayley, (University of Alberta) presented a slew of research on the Columbia River Wetlands, including a field tour of its unique structural features; and Dr. George Nicholas (Simon Fraser University) discussed the rich historical connection with wetlands and how that informs current Wetland Archaeology. Other topics and speakers included:

  • History of Wetland Drainage in North America (Tom Biebighauser, Wetland Restoration and Training LLC)
  • Painted Turtle Biology and Restoration Considerations (Jakob Dulisse)
  • Wetland Classification (Neil Fletcher, BC Wildlife Federation)
  • Wetland Plant Identification (Valerie Huff, ‎V.J. Huff Consulting)
  • Ktunaxa’s Connection with Wetlands (Leanna Gravelle, Ktunaxa Nation Traditional Knowledge and Language Sector)
  • Interpretation and Communications Techniques (Dan Clark, Interpretive Guides Association)
  • Amphibians of BC, and The Northern Leopard Frog Recovery Project (Penny Ohanjanian)
  • Wetland Fire Ecology (Jeff Allen, Jeff Allen Contracting Limited & Randall Harris, Wandering Ecotone)
  • Waterfowl ID, The Columbia Wetland Waterbird Survey,  and The West Bench Inventory & Assessment Project (Rachel Darvill, Goldeneye Ecological Consulting)

A valuable and unique piece of training was hands-on experience designing and implementing a wetland restoration project. Participants were fortunate enough to work on three unique projects that demonstrated different wetland restoration techniques; all within a single week! The projects were:

  1. “Hyppo Logging Basin” was heavily impacted by cattle, which reduced water quality, habitat for wildlife, and the amount of time that water remained on the landscape. To solve this, the soil was uncompacted and the depression deepened. Cattle access areas were also incorporated. 
  2. “Turtle Pond”, a man-made system, was at risk of being destroyed by eroding banks. The banks were repaired and a proper spillway was installed.
  3. “Hoodoo Wetland”, a wetted system which did not retain water long enough to support wetland species. Two wetlands were created on site: one with an artificial liner, and one with a compacted clay liner.
Photo 5 - Copy
Participants set geotextile liner to create a wetland on Nature Trust of BC property near Fairmont Hot Springs

All this was set against the unsuspecting backdrop of Canal Flats. The village of 700 and its surrounding area, nestled firmly at the headwaters of the Columbia River Wetlands, welcomed participants with open arms, gracing them with Grizzly Bear encounters by day, natural hot springs in the evenings, and late-night visits by the Aurora Borealis. The absence of fire-restriction and wi-fi (or even cell coverage, for that matter) afforded participants with some long-overdue quality time around the campfire. These fireside conversations were a time for laughter, reflection of the day’s lessons, and, unsurprisingly, discussion of all things wetland. For those of us often thwarted by light pollution, it was also a time to become reacquainted with the stars above.

The combination of top-notch trainers, diverse restoration projects, strong community support, lovely locale, and participant bonding culminated to one the most high-quality workshops I’ve had the pleasure of coordinating in my 5+ years here at the Wetlands Education Program. I’m truly excited to follow the participants’ projects over the next few years and see all that they are able to accomplish in the wetland realm.

Photos by Jason Jobin. Over 500 photos from this workshop can be found here.
Read the 2017 Wetlands Institute report here

We would like to extend a sincere and special thanks to local biologist, Dave Lewis, and Lake Windermere Rod and Gun Club President, Rick Hoar, for being our eyes and ears in the area and helping make this Institute one of the smoothest ever. It could not have been done without them. We would also like to thank our hosts for the week: the Blue Lake Centre, and Base Camp Café.

WI Funders v3

This project was undertaken with the financial support of:
/Ce projet a été réalisé avec l’appui financier de:

… and the support of: / et le soutien de:

WI Partners v2

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