Reconciliation through partnership; WEP Partners with Indigenous Communities for Wetland Conservation 

One of the key tenets of the BCWF’s Wetlands Education Program (WEP) is a commitment to the process of reconciliation and creating an open dialogue to listen, learn, and grow. We strive to foster enduring, mutualistic partnerships to ensure the preservation, conservation, and restoration of wetlands through knowledge exchange and cooperation. 

This summer, the WEP team continued its long journey of reconciliation by partnering with the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre and Chawathil First Nation, and ʔaq’am First Nation along with members of the Ktunaxa Nation, to put on two Wetlandkeepers workshops.  

Like all Wetlandkeepers workshops, participants are brought up to speed on all thing’s wetlands with an in-person classroom session. Here, participants are invited to share their thoughts and opinions on local wetlands issues and concerns. In both workshops, many of the attendees already had an intimate knowledge of and relationships with the wetlands that soaked their traditional and reserve lands.  

While with Chawathil First Nation in May 2022, our classroom session was followed by a guided walk with Chawathil Elder, Yvette John. Yvette is an archeologist and specializes in traditional plant use. With over 30 years of study and experience, she shared some of her knowledge and stories related to the traditional uses of plants such as western red cedar bark, licorice ferns, Oregon grape root and other plant species native to the pacific northwest. A highlight of this field trip was helping with traditional cedar stripping. 

Later that evening, participants regathered online for presentations from guest speakers Betty Rebellato, Sarah Sra, and Monica Pearson.  Betty is the National Fish Passage Program Improvement Coordinator for the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF). Her work involves partnering with diverse stakeholders to coordinate and implement barrier remediation projects in several locations throughout BC. Sarah is a Conservation Planner with the CWF and is tasked with developing strategic relationships between B.C. Indigenous groups and the CWF’s BC Fish Passage Restoration Initiative. Her presentation showed the main watersheds that she is currently working in. The final presentation featured the work of Monica Pearson. Monica leads the Regional Initiatives Team for the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and has been developing mapping software to delineate wetlands more accurately in B.C. Participants finished the day with a greater knowledge of wetlands and some of the work that is being done to preserve and restore them. 

On day two, workshop participants gathered at Thacker Regional Park on what looked to be a rainy morning. Following our resident wetlands specialist, Neil Fletcher, participants were led along a decommission stretch of the Kettle Valley Railway to Thacker marsh. Backdropped by snowcapped mountains, participants entered a complex wetland system teeming with life. Red-winged black birds formed a chorus of echoing chirps while cobalt blue tree swallows swooped and dived between cattails and hardhack. As participants made their way into the marsh, the sun began to peak out from behind the clouds.

For the rest of the day, participants built an intimate knowledge of the marsh by using variety of tools and technique. During the first half of the day, participants were invited to use keys to identify characteristic and non-characteristic species that resided in the Marsh. After a short lunch, while sitting under a canopy of conifers along the pathway, we practiced performing a health assessment where participants thought critically of the state of the marsh. As we walked back to the parking lot to finish the day, I joined a group of participants and remarked that the workshop had had instilled a new curiosity in all of us. 

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