A Plan for Action: Restoring Moberly Marsh

Last week, the BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) Wetlands Education Program (WEP) had the opportunity to take part in a planning session for the enhancement of Moberly Marsh located in Burges James Gadsden Provincial Park just west of Golden, BC. Moberly Marsh was previously managed by Ducks Unlimited Conservation (DUC). DUC has deemed that it is no longer cost effective to manage the eroding dike system so WEP is proposing an enhancement of Moberly Marsh to complement to the decommissioning of the dikes.

The week started off with a meeting of various stakeholders interested in the area, including representatives from the Shuswap First Nation, Golden District Rod and Gun Club (GDRGC), BC Parks, BCWF, Wildsight, the Columbia Wetland Stewardship Partnership, private landowners and local naturalists. This meeting was an exploratory discussion to determine all goals and concerns that each party has for Moberly Marsh to create a working plan to enhance the area after the dike decommissioning.

Tom Biebighauser presenting areal photos of Moberly Marsh at the meeting.
Photo: Keri Sculland for the Golden Star Newspaper, 2019

Moberly Marsh is a unique wetland extending over 400 hectares, and is only accessible by private land or the Columbia River. This area, split into three different compartments separated by dikes, is home to many rare plant and animal species and is used extensively by different resident and migratory birds. The area is a DUC project site that was diked in the 1970’s to increase waterfowl numbers in the area. Fifty years later, DUC’s goal is no longer being met so they plan to end their permit with BC Parks and remove their dike structures. This dike decommissioning provides an opportunity for the WEP to seek options that will enhance habitat and ecosystem integrity in Moberly Marsh and on nearby private land. To explore these options, Tom Biebighauser, wetland restoration expert and ecologist, spent the week collecting data with the help of a small team. This data will help Tom design the enhancement of Moberly Marsh. This work would coincide with the removal of DUC dike structures to ensure habitat preservation within the area, and protect nearby lands.

Working with BC Parks, BCWF and the GDRGC, Tom spent the week investigating Moberly Marsh through aerial photographs and ground exploration. Information was gathered to determine what the natural state of the wetland may have looked like, how many wetland basins are within Moberly Marsh, and what type of wetlands used to make up Moberly Marsh before any dike structures were put in place. Investigations included: determining historic natural inlets or outlets connecting the marsh to the Columbia river, identifying the flora and fauna of the park, soil sampling, and elevation readings. With this information, Tom’s enhancement design will enable Moberly Marsh to look and function as it did before structures were put in place, without ruining any new habitat that may have been created since.

Tom Biebighauser, Suzanne Bayley (Columbia Wetland Specialist), Brian Gustafson with the GDRGC and Chris McLean of BC Parks examining a DUC diking structure in Moberly Marsh.

This week also presented an opportunity for the BCWF WEP team to visit the previously restored wetlands at the Elk Spike Farm, a private property that is located right beside Burges James Gadsden Provincial Park. The Elk Spike Farm contains seven wetlands restored in 2018 by BCWF, Tom Biebighauser and Robin Annschild. A tour of the site showcased the great success of this project; the wetlands are being used by several waterfowl species, with over 100 species of birds identified in March of 2019. Below are a few photos of the restored wetlands on Elk Spike Farm and evidence of the wetlands success as waterfowl habitat. To find more pictures of the progress at Elk Spike Farm or from the exploration of Moberly Marsh, click here.

A special thanks to all our partners for coming together and working so hard to help create a plan to restore this wonderful wetland. Additionally, a big thank you the funders of this project, the Columbia Basin Trust Fund, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and BC Parks who are supporting the plan and design to enhance Moberly Marsh.

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