This July, the Wetlands Education Program (WEP) team ventured to the picturesque East Kootenays to host a Wetlandkeepers workshop. Located in the southeast corner of British Columbia, the East Kootenay’s are a mountainous region home to numerous small towns such as Golden, Invermere, Cranbrook, and Canal Flats, the host community of this workshop. Each of these towns can be found at the bottom of the Rocky Mountain Trench.
The Trench serves as a home for key species such as caribou (recently extirpated), elk, mule deer, black and grizzly bear as well as numerous avian species – all species that use wetlands for at least part of their life cycle. From July 22-24, 2022, workshop participants explored several wetland sites with local Dave Lewis, a contract biologist with the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. Dave has been a longtime partner of the Wetlands Program at the BCWF and has amassed a wealth of knowledge working in environmental consulting for over 30 years. (Photo courtesy of the WWF)
More recently, Dave has been involved in some important restoration projects at the Gyppo Logging Basin and Sun Creek near Canal Flats. Located within grazing tenures, both sites had been heavily impacted by cattle which resulted in reduced water quality, loss of habitat, and poor water retention conditions. One of the main techniques utilized at the sites to prevent further cattle degradation was exclusion fencing.
Restoration projects have high input costs and unmanaged cattle can have detrimental effects to project efforts. During the restoration of the Basin site, project proponents opted for a debris exclusion fence. The Basin site is relatively small and there was ample fallen woody material to create an effective barrier that prevented easy access, while decreasing the amount of upkeep that is required with a traditional barbwire fence. This choice of fence was also advantageous as it encourages cattle to water at a predetermined access point but does not prevent ungulates and other wildlife from being able to pass over it. Since the construction of the Basin fence in 2021, portions of the fence had been crushed under heavy winter snows which allowed for the reentrance of cattle. While visiting the site during the workshop, participants helped shore up the fence by adding more woody material to the existing fence and by binding debris to metal fence posts in key areas. In addition to this, a new cattle access point was created using metal fence posts and barbed wire. The group also stopped over at the Sun Creek restoration site where they were introduced to another method of exclusion fencing.