From Theory to Practice: Salt Spring Island Wetlands Institute

Narrowly avoiding the Pacific Storms, the BCWF Wetlands Education Program (WEP) team was lucky to spend time away from our office in Surrey and in the safe haven of Salt Spring Island for the 16th annual Wetlands Institute. 23 enthusiastic participants from a mix of backgrounds, including: Non-profits, First Nations, Hobby Farmers, Consultants, Government, and Archaeologists, joined us from September 17-23 to gain the skills necessary to complete wetland restoration projects in their home communities. Through a combination of hands-on field work and in-class sessions, participants learned tips and tricks from various experts who provided insight on all thing’s wetlands related. Joe Akerman (Community leader for the Xwaaqw’um Project) graciously welcomed us to the area, which was traditionally Saanich, Cowichan, and Chemainus territory. Afterwards, we began to delve into this intensive course with gusto.

An array of experts trained participants on various topics, such as amphibian ID, planning, wetland design, invasive species control, plant ID, grant writing, conservation prioritization, archaeology, bird ID, community engagement, and First Nations collaboration. For example, Dr. Genevieve Hill (Royal BC Museum) presented on the history of wetland archaeology and the importance of consulting archaeologists before beginning restoration work; Dr. Tara Martin (University of British Columbia) spoke about her current work combining research and on-ground conservation action and policy; and Ernie Sellentin (Sellentin’s Habitat Restoration & Invasive Species Consulting Ltd.) discussed techniques used to manage invasive species using less intrusive methods. Additional expert topics presented at the Institute are as follows:

  • Estuary Conservation and Community Engagement, Leanna Boyer (SeaChange Marine Conservation Society)
  • Wetland Restoration Techniques, Tom Biebighauser (Wetland Restoration and Training LLC)
  • History of Wetland Drainage in North America, Tom Biebighauser
  • Stormwater Wetlands, Tom Biebighauser
  • Birding, Ren Ferguson
  • Plant ID in the Field, Carrina Maslovat
  • Wetland Classification and Monitoring Techniques, Neil Fletcher (BC Wildlife Federation)
  • Pre-restoration Requirements, Neil Fletcher
  • How to Write a Successful Grant, Neil Fletcher
  • Amphibians: ID, Biology, and Design Considerations, Elke Wind (E. Wind Consulting)
  • Blackburn Lake Restoration, Christine Torgrimson (Salt Spring Island Conservancy)

The Institute offers a unique experience because not only are participants able to hear from these experts, but they put the information to use in the field. We spent time practising many techniques including: removing invasive Yellow Flag Iris at the Blackburn Lake Wetlands, searching for the Virginia Rail on our morning birding walk, assessing the health of wetlands on private land, trapping and monitoring for amphibians and aquatic invertebrates, and wetland design at Xwaaqw’um (Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park) with the help of Robin Annschild (Wetland Restoration Consulting), Leanna Boyer, and Joe Akerman.

Additionally, participants had the opportunity to witness the completion of two restoration projects over the course of the week. Our first site was designed to provide habitat for vulnerable amphibians including: The Northern Red-legged Frog, Pacific Chorus Frog, and Long-toed Salamander. Straw was spread at the site to help with weed control and fencing was installed to keep deer and other small mammals from foraging on freshly planted vegetation.

At the second site, we happened to find old agricultural drainage systems throughout the field. This was a wonderful learning opportunity for participants as they put Tom’s talks to good use to understand how to divert water to the new wetland using these systems. The main goal of this project was to increase habitat for wildlife and the diversity of wetland plants on site. We strawed and seeded with oats to provide a quickly growing cover crop before the wetland specific vegetation is planted. Both projects involved creating a core trench and creating a basin to expose and slow groundwater.

By the end of the week, I felt overjoyed by how much enthusiasm was brought each and every day. This Institute cultivated a sense of hope for the future of wetlands and a promise to continue to educate and promote conservation of our land. Now to start planning for the 2019 Wetlands Institute!

See photos from the 2018 Wetlands Institute by Clicking Here.

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

WI funders


and the support of: / et le soutien de:

WI Supporters

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