NEW HOPE FOR WETLANDS IN BC: FREP WETLAND HEALTH ASSESSMENT

Earlier this year, the BC Wildlife Federation Wetlands Education Program received a contract from the Government of British Columbia to develop a protocol to assess the health of wetlands as part of the Forest and Range Evaluation Program (FREP). The protocol is designed to assess wetlands that have been impacted by forestry operations. However, there may be broader applications for use by other industry, NGOs, and First Nations groups to make use of the protocol for other watershed and wetland assessment initiatives. This is one of the first health assessment forms for wetlands that has been adopted at a provincial level and has come as welcome news to many who have been awaiting its arrival!

As part of our contract, we have also offered training and introduced an early working version of the form to FREP Practitioners, Forest companies, First Nation Bands, and various other Government staff. Our team has spent the past month traveling British Columbia, introducing this form to various communities. This is the early stages of our protocol and we have been receiving extremely valuable feedback on how to better the form with each training session held.

Our first stop was Kamloops, where we spent two days in cutblocks near Logan Lake, teaching primarily FREP practitioners how they would use the protocol in the field.

Next, we flew up to Smithers to train participants with a variety of backgrounds, from forest professionals, members of the Talhtan First Nation guardian program, BC Timber Sales, and other Provincial staff.

Finally, we made the 12 hour drive up North to Fort St. James to deliver training to primarily FREP staff in the region from three forest districts.

The development of this protocol is still undergoing some modifications, but has received a lot of excellent input from the various participants who’ve participated in the training, contibuting experts and authors, and others who’ve weighed in during a preliminary consultation phase.  We believe this protocol will help support improved management for wetland conservation in BC. We cannot wait to see how this protocol is used by other practitioners.

We are encouraged that the Province has recognized wetlands as a value worth managing through the development of this protocol and look forward to working with them and others to continue to conserve wetlands in BC. This project would not have occurred without leadership and support of the Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development

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