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1 May, 2017

Slocan River Ecology: Working Toward Our Future

Since the Slocan River Streamkeepers Society began, in 2003, the organization has pursued a mission to protect and restore the aquatic and riparian ecosystems of the Slocan River through research, monitoring, education, and restoration. Aware of critical components of a healthy functioning river system, the Streamkeepers were happy to take on a project (starting in 2004) funded by Columbia Power Corporation. Part of an approach to protecting and restoring riparian zones, it involved planting shrubs and native trees (such as cottonwoods and willows), and placing rocks and logs in the river to create habitat for trout. Streamkeepers have done the work and relied on the landowners who had offered their land for project sites to water the plants afterwards. Working with over 30 private landowners, Streamkeepers have completed 35 projects, or the equivalent of 6 km of riparian riverbank restored. These projects can be seen in various places along the river, mainly between Perry Siding and Slocan Park.

The funder’s objectives have been met and that particular Riparian Restoration Program will gradually wind down. At present, there is still some funding available to restore riparian areas along Slocan River. So if you own riverfront property you can get in touch with the Slocan River Streamkeepers’ restoration ecologist to request an assessment for possible restoration work.

Email: info@slocanriverstreamkeepers.com

Or call Greg: 250-226-7302

Among the results of work done in the valley by Streamkeepers and numerous scientists are the many studies and various monitoring projects that have provided biologists with valuable information on the health of the Slocan River and adjacent lands. The accumulating data and understanding have widened the scope of the Streamkeepers’ projects, with wetlands emerging as an area of practical interest. From 2012 onward, ortho air photos of the entire Slocan riparian corridor enabled mapping and identification of critical habitat and potential projects, in turn making a Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory possible. Slocan River Streamkeepers invite you to look at some of the studies and updates on their projects on their website: http://www.slocanriverstreamkeepers.com

Slocan Valley residents know their valley is special, and part of what makes it so is the valley’s riparian land naturally supporting cottonwood groves integral to river health. Once abundant, cottonwood forests have shrunk to mere fragments of their previous extents. This is partly due to human habitation – many people have understandably wanted homesites near the river. At the regional scale, another factor is that major rivers have undergone channeling and diversion. (Much of the original riparian cottonwood forests on the Columbia and upper Kootenay rivers, for example, have been drowned under reservoirs.)

Cottonwoods grow quickly and, when they fall into the river, the wood provides shelter and habitat for fish and aquatic animals. They also provide nutrients to microorganisms and insects, which in turn nourish fish and other animals. Both living and dead trees on land provide food and homes to insects, birds and many animals. Cottonwoods and other vegetation store carbon and keep air and water temperatures cool in summer (trout, for instance, prefer colder water), and help stabilize slopes and stream banks along the river.

There is both need and opportunity for new projects. The Slocan River Streamkeepers have ideas, but they also want to hear from you. As a valley resident, where do you feel things need to go? Share your thoughts via the email address given above (there is also a “Contact” link on the Streamkeepers’ website).

And please note: everyone is invited to the Streamkeepers upcoming AGM, May 18th, 7:00pm at Passmore Hall.

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17 March, 2017

Don’t Drain the Swamp!

Wetlands are an important part of our ecosystems. They provide habitat for a diversity of species of plants and animals (including rare species) and also store, filter and purify water. There are many types of wetlands: swamp, bog, fen, marsh and shallow water wetlands.

The Slocan Valley has a diversity of wetlands from the bottom valley to the mountain slopes and ridges, and the Slocan River Streamkeepers have been studying, assessing and mapping many wetlands in the Slocan Valley by initiating and being a part of the Slocan Wetlands Assessment and Monitoring Project (SWAMP). Many wetlands were identified and mapped and the health of those wetlands was also assessed.

Wetlands (including swamps) have often been seen with a negative eye throughout the ages. We have feared them and have drained, cleared and filled the wetlands for many years in most part of the world, for agricultural, industrial and housing purposes. In the Columbia Basin we have lost many wetlands following the building of large dams for water storage and electricity production.

Recognizing the essential role of wetlands in a fully functioning ecosystem, an increasing number of people are looking at restoring the many functions of wetlands.

Many wetland restoration projects have evolved in the last few years across the Columbia Basin and other parts of the province. Many of these projects have been initiated by BC Wildlife Federation with assistance and training from Tom Biebighauser, a wetland restoration expert from Kentucky.

At least three projects have been initiated and are evolving in the Slocan Valley.

The most recent one, on a small organic farm in Winlaw, is coordinated by the Slocan River Streamkeepers with funding from Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and The National Wetland Conservation Fund administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada. Other local funders and organizations have also contributed in kind to the project.

The main goal of the project is to create habitat for a diversity of species including amphibians such as Columbia spotted frog, western toad, painted turtles, and for a diversity of birds, bats and other animals, as well as macroinvertebrates that will provide food for the birds and for the fish living in the river. Some of those species are also allies to the organic farmers, amphibians, birds and bats that will also help control insect problem on the farm.

Many aspects of the restoration project will also benefit landowners (organic farmers), by mitigating climate extremes as a result of holding and storing water on the land for a longer period of time. The extreme temperature and cycles of flooding and drought will be mitigated in both the medium and long term.

The soil that was excavated during the project was used to raise the level of the land that was subject to seasonal flooding allowing the farmers to start planting earlier in the season. Other benefits may include the possibility of growing edible and medicinal plants in the wetlands.

Long-term benefit includes carbon storage, climate mitigation, reduction of extreme flooding and drought, water storage and purification, etc.

If you’re a landowner and you’re interested in the possibility of creating or restoring a wetland on your property you can come to our Open House or contact the Restoration Ecologist of the Slocan River Streamkeepers: Greg: 250-226-7302 info@slocanriverstreamkeepers.com

The Slocan River Streamkeepers are inviting everyone to join us for a presentation and Open House about the Wetlands and Wetland Restoration in the Slocan Valley on Sunday March 26 (1-3pm) at Winlaw Hall on Hwy 6 in Winlaw.

The Slocan River Streamkeepers Society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held   May 18th at 7pm at Passmore Hall. Everyone is welcome!

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