A New Way to Determine Wetland Health: Kamloops Map our Marshes

On April 16th, the Wetlands Education Program (WEP) team hosted a Map our Marshes workshop in Kamloops, BC, bringing together participants from the Province of British Columbia Range Program, BC Parks, First Nations groups, consultants, and land owners to learn more about classifying wetlands. This workshop was different than the traditional Map our Marshes because the WEP team launched a new protocol that they have been developing for the Forest Range Evaluation Program (FREP) in cooperation with the Government of BC to assess wetland health. The protocol mimics sections of the FREP Riparian assessment, as well as the lentic and lotic wetland health assessment forms prepared by the Alberta government. Once completed, this protocol will act as a guide for foresters (and hopefully other resource extraction companies) to be assessed after conducting operations near a wetland, to help manage and mitigate impacts to wetlands. In the future, the data should provide information regarding the effects that forestry practices have on wetlands across the province. Participants were asked to practice using the documents and make suggestions for improvements.

The day began with an indoor component at the Fraternal Order of Eagles, to provide an overview of the different types of wetlands that exist, restoration techniques, and touch on various environmental topics, such as soils and local biota. Led by Neil Fletcher (WEP manager), the classroom component gave a brief look into important topics that must be considered when determining wetland health.

Once the presentation was over and lunch was devoured, participants bundled up in their warmest layers to head out into the field for a chilly afternoon site visit to a wetland at the Lac du Bois Grasslands. At the site, the group began by classifying the wetland based on the vegetation and soil present in the area.

Participants spent time wandering around the wetland to get a better understanding of the local flora, as well as to identify any areas that may have been impacted by humans or wildlife. Members of the group stopped to assess various sections of the wetland, including an area that had been damaged due to the development of a road, a cattle path running along the far edge, and a patch of buttercups growing in the adjacent soil. Once participants had a general understanding of the site, it was time to test out the FREP protocol.

Participants were split into groups and given a field card, along with a supplementary document that provided a deeper explanation of each question and a longer version of the field card that follows the same style as the FREP Riparian Assessment. Participants were asked to go through the card and try their best to complete it, to find an overall score that determines the health of the site. Throughout the activity, Neil and myself answered questions and chatted to the group about where improvements could be made to the documents.

Overall, the consensus was that the form would be a helpful tool in assessing wetland health in the future, with a few tweaks of course. The day ended on a positive note, despite the cold, and the group left feeling more knowledgeable about wetland health and classification. A big thanks to everyone that came to the workshop! Without your participation, these could not run and for that we are very thankful. The WEP team hopes to roll out the FREP protocol this year. Please check back on our blog to read about updates on the progress of the documents.

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

If you wish to view more photos taken at this workshop, please visit our Flickr page.


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