Slocan River Streamkeepers’ Riparian Restoration Project

A riparian restoration project in progress along the Slocan River

It’s a fact of our bygone days that cottonwood groves used to be common near the riverside in the Slocan Valley. They provided important habitat and soil-preserving benefits to the riparian areas. Historical land-use practices, and resident attitudes of former times (stretching back many decades), resulted in the clearing or decimation of a great deal of these stream-side groves. However, more recently, attitudes have been shifting.

The Slocan River Streamkeepers, a community organization with an 18-year history, will continue this year to carry out their “Riparian Restoration Project.” The project’s aim is to restore degraded riparian areas at four separate sites along the river, to reduce bank erosion, and create long-term wildlife habitat. Riparian ecosystems are known to benefit fish habitat, and are a positive factor in our engagement with climate change. According to the BC Conservation Data Centre, cottonwood ecosystems of the southern interior are among the rarest plant communities in the province.

Wherewithal to continue Streamkeepers’ work has arrived through the financial support from the Healthy Watersheds Initiative, which is delivered by the Real Estate Foundation of BC and Watersheds BC, with financial support from the Province of British Columbia.

This year, the Streamkeepers’ work will involve planting native trees (cottonwood, willows, red osier dogwood, alder and so on). The young trees will be protected from beavers by a combination of tree protectors and fencing.

Integral to the project, Streamkeepers will install 50 bird nesting boxes (short-term habitat) along Slocan River for species at risk, including Lewis’s woodpecker, western screech owl, and barn swallows — and for other, not-at-risk species, such as violet-green and tree swallows. Some bat boxes will also be installed.

Another dimension of the project includes monitoring of the sites to document the plants already established and survival rate of the newly established trees, also to ascertain how many birds have nested in previously installed nesting boxes, as well as how many will nest in 2021. Likewise, it will document the use of the already installed bat boxes, and the new ones to be installed this year.

In support of the restoration of damaged riparian ecosystems, the HWI funding will help in creating six part-time jobs in the Valley. The Slocan River Streamkeepers are extremely grateful for the support of this work by Healthy Watersheds Initiative, the Real Estate Foundation of BC, Watersheds BC, and the financial support from the Province of British Columbia.

Other funding for this project provided by Columbia Basin Trust, FortisBC and The Nature Trust of British Columbia.

In keeping with the Streamkeepers’ established approach, the group will continue their public outreach with local residents and landowners, sharing information about the importance of protecting riparian areas (or restoring, when needed).

People interested in part-time work in this project may send requests and résumés to: info@slocanriverstreamkeepers.com

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