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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: email@example.com
November 7, 2020
Recently, a long-awaited project along the Slocan River was finally completed. Over 30 years ago, a local landowner was working on some bank stabilization for his property. Back in those days there were fewer regulations and used tires (and other recycled materials) were often used to stabilize the banks along the river. Today the tires are not welcome along the riverbank, and bank stabilization projects will use either rocks, logs or living trees, or sometimes a combination of all of the above, instead.
The landowner eventually passed away before completing the project, and a large pile of used tires were left near the river in the floodplain. At high water the tires would be under water for many weeks, and when the river went down in mid or late summer the tall reed-canary grass would cover the tires, and they were then left ignored.
After many years and many conversations with local people and government agencies, it seems that nobody wanted to take responsibility to dispose of the tires properly.
Slocan River Streamkeepers (SRS) eventually took on the initiative to solving that issue. After securing a small amount of money from RDCK to cover the fees and the cost of bringing the tires to the transfer station, SRS also received some financial support from Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program to replace the tires by planting native trees & shrubs.
Synchronicity brought out a small group of energetic young people to help out with the effort. Youth Climate Corps, a project managed by Wildsight, supplied a group of seven motivated youth to the Slocan Valley for five days to help local organizations with environmental and educational projects, and to look at implementing solutions in regards to climate mitigation and adaptation. They were very keen to help out with the tire cleanup project.
We found out that the transfer station would not accept the tires if they were covered with soil or grasses. So early in the day, the tires were lifted off the ground with pry bars and other tools and then brought out along the road to be washed. After a good clean-up, a small group of local volunteers showed up with their pickup trucks to load up the tires and haul them away to the transfer station in Ootischenia. (Slocan transfer station only accepts smaller tires and there were a mix of large and small tires at the site). Except for one truckload, the tires were all removed and sent away that day. In the end, a total of 104 tires were removed from the site.
The next day, our group of young enthusiasts were ready to start planting trees. Holes were dug and a total of 50 native trees and shrubs including willows, cottonwood, red osier dogwood and mountain alders were planted as well as some red cedars and spruce for higher ground. Tree protectors were also installed on the trees, as this area is also regularly visited by local beavers. Trees were mulched with wood chips and watered at the end of the day.
Another part of the project was to install some bird nesting boxes. Five tall cedar posts were planted and bird boxes installed. The main purposes of the bird boxes is to attract cavity nesting swallows (tree swallow and violet-green swallow) to help reduce the local mosquito population in summer.
In the last three years, Slocan River Streamkeepers have installed over 100 bird nesting boxes and 12 bat boxes along the Slocan River to help minimize mosquito population. They are already seeing over 50% occupancy in the birdhouses and some sites have 100% occupancy. So the birdhouses are for short-term housing needs and the trees and shrubs are planted for longterm habitat for birds and other wildlife. Trees planted along the riverbanks also help reduce bank erosion and eventually provide shade and help cool down the river (cooler water offers better condition for fish population). As the trees get bigger and older they will eventually fall down in or along the river and provide habitat for fish and other wildlife.
In the last 15 years, Slocan River Streamkeepers have implemented over 50 riparian restoration projects including three with fish habitat recruitment structures and two wetland restoration projects. SRS are often looking for properties along the river to implement more riparian restoration projects when neded.
SRS also invite people to volunteer or become members ($10/yr) and make a small or large donation to help with restoration work as well as water monitoring, scientific research and public outreach.
Slocan River Streamkeepers would like to thank all our volunteers and everyone who helped make this project happen!
Thanks to Youth Climate Corps (a youth program managed by Wildsight) Thanks to YRB (Winlaw)
Thanks to our funders and sponsors for this project:
& Thanks to all the generous donors!
Membership and donation can be sent to Slocan River Streamkeepers Box 47, Winlaw, BC V0G 2J0.
Sept 16, 2019
“Streamkeepers’ Gap Analysis is a Wrap”
With the recent completion of a project funded by the Regional District Central Kootenay — for which support the Slocan River Streamkeepers are very grateful — a gap analysis of some 25 years of research and monitoring is now available. A gap analysis identifies where the current basis of knowledge and understanding can and should be augmented and clarified. For the purpose of this analysis, the study area of the resulting report has been the Slocan River from its outlet at the south end of Slocan Lake to its confluence with the Kootenay River.
The project involved two key steps: a literature review, and then Interviews with local scientists, members of Streamkeepers, and local residents who have been involved with the studies and conservation efforts on the Slocan River.
In response to growing concerns about source-water protection, the Regional District of Central Kootenay intends to take steps toward developing a stronger role in watershed governance and to support collaborative decision-making. A document released last year by the RDCK states that “Source watershed governance proposes an ecosystems based planning approach be taken that includes consideration for the land (tree and soil), water (surface and ground), air (quality), and risk (wildfire and flood hazards)”.
Ecosystems-based conservation planning is a management strategy that, as the first priority, maintains or restores natural ecological integrity, including biodiversity. The Slocan River Streamkeepers embrace the approach, but say they are realistic in their expectations regarding collaboration with government agencies, and will use the Gap document for planning future restoration work and protection of past projects.
Using the RDCK grant, Slocan River Streamkeepers pursued the creation of a document to inform about, and provide recommendations, on ecosystem-based management strategies to maintain the hydrological and ecological integrity of the watershed. Streamkeepers then hired Dominique Monnier to carry out the project. Dominique is a graduate of Selkirk College’s Integrated Environmental Planning program, who subsequently worked for two years as a BC Park Ranger, and worked since then as a field technician and field supervisor in biological and environmental programs.
To develop the report, Ms. Monnier undertook a review of more than a hundred studies, such as ones concerned with the geographical features that define the life and function of the river, as well as fish assessments, and research into animal, plant, and habitat conditions. In short, this gap analysis is intended to inform, and provide recommendations on management strategies to maintain the ecological and hydrological integrity of the watershed. The report can be downloaded from the Streamkeepers website: https://slocanriverstreamkeepers.wordpress.com/
May 17, 2019
People interested in economic and environmental sustainability, in the health of our oceans and waterways, in ecological design and ecological restoration will recognize the name of one of the giants in these fields, Dr. John Todd. Slocan River Streamkeepers and Kootenay Permacuture Institute are honoured and happy to bring the Ontario-born ecologist to Nelson for a presentation on the evening of May 30.
After doing graduate work at McGill University and earning a PhD in marine biology at the University of Michigan, Todd joined the famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Massachusetts). In the early ‘70s he, his wife, Nancy and Bill McLarney co-founded the New Alchemy Institute. The Institute garnered much media attention for its exploration of synergistic systems involving elegant biological cycling, in conjunction with cutting-edge alternative-energy sources and innovative building designs. The “mini ecosystems” or “bioshelters” were designed to provide food for people and to recycle human wastes.
The Todds moved into work focused on ocean and freshwater concerns, for both developed and developing regions of the world. A strong involvement with wastewater treatment during this period. The concept of “Eco-machines,” developed by John Todd, is defined as living technologies that treat and purify wastewater and heal damaged eco-systems while producing useful yields that can include food and other beneficial plants or animals.
In Massachusetts, John and his team designed and installed some living technologies that are cleaning a canal and river that have been polluted by years of leaching oil (including Bunker C oil) and other pollutants. A similar project was implemented in a highly polluted canal in the city of Fuzhou, China.
John and Nancy Jack Todd also became co-founders of Ocean Arks International a non-profit research and outreach organization working on the protection and restoration of the world’s waters. They are working on a design for a solar and wind powered boat that includes living technologies that has the potential to help clean the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
John Todd has won numerous awards over the years. In 2008, he was the first winner of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, which is annually bestowed on “the best idea to help save humanity.” The entry was “Design for a Carbon Neutral World: The Challenge of Appalachia.” This project laid out a strategy for transforming one and a half million acres of strip-mined lands in Appalachia into a harmonious self-sustaining community.
Todd, who has also been a university lecturer and professor, has a fascinating new book, Healing Earth: An Ecologist’s Journey of Innovation and Stewardship, released in January 2019. It documents his journey working in both ecological design and innovative ecological restoration projects around the world.
“Healing Earth, an Evening Presentation with John Todd” will take place in Nelson, Thursday May 30th, 2019, at 7pm in the Shambhala Music & Performance Hall, Selkirk College, 700 Tenth Street. Tickets can be purchased online here:
or for more info, contact Slocan River Streamkeepers
16 November, 2018
Since late Summer we’ve seen a high level of turbidity in the river, downstream from the confluence with the Slocan River.
The turbidity comes from a slide located approximately three kilometers up the Little Slocan River that occurred in 2012. The initial event brought down a lot of material (soil, trees, etc.). Efforts were made by the landowners and Streamkeepers to plant native species in the actively eroding sections of the slide, and it worked. Willows, other trees and shrubs grew very well, and many reached a height of two to three meters. Then last May the slope slid again, covering established vegetation and depositing a large amount of material in the river. The slide also grew and has expanded to reach an earlier slide that came down in 1997. Fortunately, most of the trees and shrubs, some planted by the boy scouts at that time, are still standing.
You probably recall other events like the Gwillim Creek and Mulvey Creek slides in 2013, which were bad. But the sediments in the river settled in a few weeks. Unfortunately, the May slide on the Little Slocan is very large and exposed clay and silt was deposited on both side of the channel. That clay is slowly leaching into the river (especially after heavy rain).
What causes these slides? Do they impact aquatic life and what can be done to prevent them? The south side of the lower Little Slocan River flows beside a Kame terrace. Passmore Upper Road is on top of the terrace. These formations were created after the last ice age when sediment accumulated in ponds and lakes trapped between lobes of glacial ice or between a glacier and the valley side. If you look west along the terrace, you’ll see evidence of numerous slides that have occurred over hundreds of years – long before humans settled the valley.
Hydrologists told us these slides occur when surface water seeps underground and eventually meets a layer of clay. The clay acts as a barrier and the water (and clay) begin to move horizontally. This initiates the slide. The clay/water mixture spills out into the river and, because the clay particles are so small, they take a long time to settle. This phenomenon also occurs in glacial lakes where the water is always turbid. Vegetation may slow the process down for a while, but slide activity picks up again when we get high flows & lots of rain.
The slide has greatly affected fish and fish habitat, but fish can swim upstream. Other aquatic life – insect larvae, snails, frogs, vegetation – are more stationary and suffer more from lost habitat and food. Water quality in the small pools is impacted. The sediment becomes anaerobic and toxic to life.
Does human activity make the problem worse? Of course, land that’s been logged has more exposure to water. Whenever we alter or block side channels, the river is directed to the other bank causing more erosion on the exposed side. Many years of logging and road building do change the hydrology of a river. But slides also occur naturally, and it isn’t possible to cite one cause.
This slide will take a while to recover, but the river life will return.
4 October, 2018
Slocan River Streamkeepers to screen Incomappleux film in Winlaw
The Streamkeepers invite one and all to come to Winlaw Hall on October 13 and watch the beautiful “Primeval: Enter the Incomappleux”. Audiences all over BC have described this documentary by award- winning filmmaker Damien Gillis as “breathtaking.”
Filmed deep in the heart of BC’s Selkirk Mountains, this 20-minute documentary is the story of the majesty, magic and endurance of one of the world’s last truly intact temperate rainforests — the incomparable Incomappleux!
Damien Gillis joined-in with an expedition of conservationists, biologists and wilderness explorers to document the nature and history of this unique place, replete with 2,000-year-old trees and rare lichens. The film outlines a plan to preserve the area through a new provincial or national park.
The Incomappleux River is a major tributary of the Columbia River in BC. The River issues from glaciers deep in the wilderness of Glacier National Park, and its valley is at the heart of Valhalla Wilderness Society’s proposal: the Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal. While logging has diminished much of the valley’s ancient forests, the core of the primeval forested valley is thought to have been growing undisturbed since the last ice age. So far, it has been preserved through dedicated efforts by conservationists, but activists continue to confront the possibility of industrial encroachment.
Craig Pettitt, director of the Valhalla Wilderness Society, and biologist Amber Peters will bring the film to Winlaw for the showing. The VWS initiated the making of the film “because we wanted people everywhere to experience, in some way, this ancient heritage known by our ancestors.” At 7:00 pm Craig will present, as a prelude, a slide show about the VWS’s park proposal and the state of BC’s mountain caribou before the film is run. Admission by donation. Doors will open at 6:30 pm.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!