Protecting rare, endangered Garry Oak and Associated Species Ecosystems

Protecting rare, endangered Garry Oak and Associated Species Ecosystems Garry Oak Meadow with Great Camas (Camassia leichtlinii) Albino Flower. Credit: R. WilesWe are excited to share about our activities growing awareness and stewardship of the special and endangered Garry Oak ecological community on Maple Mountain! We’ve been collaborating with the BC Conservation Federation (BCCF), the Province of BC, and the Municipality of North Cowichan to develop what we plan to be a long term program focusing on caring for this special ecosystem this region is blessed with. This will include a dedicated web page coming soon! Maple Mountain is home to endangered Garry Oak and Associated Species Ecosystems that have been identified as a priority for conservation. In the recent past, unique Garry Oak and Associated Ecosystems thrived over 60-70% of Maple Mountain. This unique habitat provided abundant food and resources to multiple diverse communities within the Traditional Coast Salish nation. Because of a variety of impacts, this special ecological community has been reduced to only 10-20% on the mountain, and over 100 important species of plants, lichen, insects, reptiles, animals, and birds are threatened. Due to this decline, the government has specified Garry Oak and Associated Species Ecosystems as priority places for conservation and protection. We are aiming to connect with private landowners and residents in the area in order to further awareness of the ecological concern and how people in the community can help protect and restore these special places. CCLT Board directors Bruce Coates and Roger Wiles clearly having a great time removing invasive Scotch Broom! Credit: S. Cottell Volunteer Stewardship  Stewardship and ecological regeneration involves learning to identify both the native species within the ecological community as well as invasive plants and animals that threaten it. It’s important to learn and use best practices for removal of invasive species such as Scotch broom and Spurge laurel (aka Daphne laurel). The Cowichan Community Land Trust is eager to help landowners and residents learn these practices and support individual and community restoration efforts. Early this year we began planning, and in March we coordinated 4 volunteer sessions removing invasive scotch broom and some spurge laurel in a target area of the North Cowichan Municipal Forest lands on Maple Mountain. Over the course of these sessions our small team removed over 3000 m2 of scotch broom!! And that’s no small feat as it involves a steep climb with all the gear just to get to the area. Yay team! We are planning more volunteer invasive species removal events in the Maple Mountain Municipal Forest, so stay tuned if you are keen to join! It’s a beautiful place to take in the beauty of our region while helping care for it. Please be aware that because the access and terrain is difficult it’s not an appropriate activity for children and dogs. Interested in being on the volunteer list for these activities? Email:

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Best Water Ways update

Best Water Ways resources launched! We are welcoming 2021 by launching the Best Water Ways Watershed Literacy, Stewardship, and Restoration Place based learning resources! These are freely accessible to Educators of all types working with learning groups in our communities across BC and beyond. Click here to explore the resources! The seed of the Best Water Ways initiative began to germinate a couple of years ago during a riparian restoration project along Askew Creek in Chemainus, BC. The project spontaneously involved a group of grade nine students, and it got us thinking about how much more rich the learning experience could be if there were some well developed resources ready at hand that educators and learners could access to connect a holistic, place-based watershed exploration with various field activities. We sought funding from the Real Estate Foundation of BC and the Pacific Salmon Foundation with the aim of creating watershed learning resources that could be utilized freely and easily by Educators all over the Province and beyond. With the support of these foundations, we were able to move ahead with designing and developing this initiative. This Best Water Ways initiative has been a satisfying collaboration involving the professional instructional design expertise and production of the Open School BC team and ongoing feedback from subject matter experts. This includes Quw’utsun Knowledge Keepers and Elders, community partners such as the Cowichan Watershed Board and members of their Watershed Connections educators working group, Cowichan area Ecologist and Ecosystem Restoration Specialist David Polster, and Victoria area Ecosystem Restoration Specialist Karen Mann. Several local teachers and their students were actively involved in piloting the first drafts of the resources, and their input has been invaluable. The final drafts of the session materials were also reviewed by an independent specialist in Indigenous Education, and we thank them for their valuable feedback. A special thanks is extended to Genevieve Singleton for the addition of her fabulous photographs that really bring these resources to life! It’s very exciting to be launching these resources, and we hope that they are supportive to educators looking for materials that can be readily integrated into the pod-style, virtual and/or outdoor learning scenarios arising because of the global pandemic. Please check out the Best Water Ways web page where you can access all the session materials and more, and feel free to share with those who might be interested in this initiative!

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Seeing Cowichan Forests Beyond Trees

Seeing Cowichan Forests Beyond Trees Phase 1 report now available John Scull was instrumental in the development of this initiative. It has been lovingly dedicated to John’s memory and his commitment to conservation and restoration in our region. Photo courtesy of Linda Hill. In March 2020, the Cowichan Community Land Trust (CCLT) launched the first phase of a new initiative: Seeing Cowichan Forests Beyond Trees. Funding for the initial phase was obtained from the Vancouver Foundation’s System Change grant program. The objectives of phase one were to: Research forest conservation mechanisms and strategies already in place within the region, Assess and evaluate opportunities and barriers to forest conservation, Gather input from the community regarding forest conservation awareness and concerns, and Enhance understanding about how the CCLT could support more forest conservation and reforestation on private land in the Cowichan Valley. We were pleased to commission Registered Professional Forester and ecosystem-based management specialist Heather Pritchard to research and produce a report proposing recommendations to aid the CCLT board in determining options for further action. This report is now complete and, having been received and approved by the board we are excited to share it with the community. Key recommendations in the report include: Expanding and promoting the capacity to hold conservation covenants within privately owned forest land, Educating the community and land-owners about the value and benefits of conservation covenants on forest ecosystems, Building awareness and community capacity to adopt voluntary best practices for tending forest ecosystems in the Cowichan region, Pursuing research opportunities related to the extent of old and mature forests in the region as well as the potential applicability of carbon offset initiatives, Working collaboratively with community partners to build non-governmental organization capacity to drive change, Proactively engaging with local and provincial governments to promote and support related initiatives, and Expanding First Nations engagement. The complete report can be accessed through this link: Seeing Cowichan Forests Beyond Trees phase 1 report ‘Seeing Cowichan Forests Beyond Trees’ was conceived in part by founding CCLT director John Scull, who was involved in the initiative right up until his very unfortunate passing this past summer. We are deeply saddened by his departure and have dedicated the ‘Seeing Cowichan Forests Beyond Trees’ initiative to John as a heart-felt commemoration of his amazing contributions to the Cowichan community. The Forest Conservation Committee of the CCLT board is currently planning the next phase of the initiative, developing actions informed by the recommendations in this report.

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CWAP Summer 2019 Update

Clean Water Action Project – Summer 2019 Since the community meeting on February 28th, together with the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society (SMWS) and the generous support of our funders, we have made great headway on the Clean Water Action Project (CWAP). This summer we have completed 22 property visits around Quamichan Lake; completed 8 property visits around Somenos Lake; sent 30 riparian recommendation reports to the participating homeowners; hosted a LakeKeepers Workshop with BCLSS at Quamichan Lake with 17 attendees; and planned & created restoration plans for the fall for 12 selected properties. The goals of the property visits that we conducted this summer were assess the riparian zone (the 30m interface between land and freshwater, learn more on the resources page on our website about how the riparian area protects and filters the lake); evaluate any actions on the property which may be affecting the riparian area; provide guidance for the homeowner concerning stewardship and restoration of their riparian area in the form of a recommendation report; and select up to 25 properties around the lakes for restoration work provided by the CCLT and the SMWS. What’s next? Shown are some of the invasives we’ll be removing this fall. From left: yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus), creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus), reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea) This fall, we will begin the actual restoration work at the selected properties. The work will include removal of invasive species such as yellow flag iris and reed canary grass, native species planting and livestaking, and bank stabilization. Sign up here to get your name on the volunteers list: After the bulk of the restoration work is completed this fall, we will continue regularly monitoring and maintaining the sites in the months following. The Clean Water Action Project is a three year undertaking, and we’ve only just gotten started!

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Best Water Ways

Best Water Ways: Watershed Literacy, Stewardship, and Restoration Place-Based Learning Initiative. The Cowichan Community Land Trust (CCLT): Friends of Cowichan Creeks program is excited to be spearheading the Best Water Ways (BWW) initiative with the aim to accelerate fresh water and fish habitat literacy, stewardship, and active restoration within our schools. In order to meet curriculum requirements, the program will be directed towards students in grades nine to twelve in science and social courses. As of May 2019, we are developing the project and place-based learning resources and will begin piloting the program in Cowichan Valley’s schools in the fall of 2019. Over the next two years, BWW will be refined and made accessible online for use throughout the region and the province. Participating teachers will guide their students through several activity sessions. These lessons begin by introducing the concept of watersheds and the interconnection of people, ecosystems, and water. The sessions then introduce and explore the negative impacts of humans and climate change on our watersheds, and what students can do to help mitigate these impacts. Finally, students will participate in an active restoration activity at a local creek, lake, or other water source, where students will learn how to protect, restore, and care for their local watersheds. Activity sessions include Watersheds- Wading In Mapping our watersheds Watershed Detectives Watersheds under Stress Watershed SOS Riparian Restoration Workshop The BWW initiative aims to provide teachers and students with sufficient resources to run the learning sessions independently. The resources in development include a downloadable educator’s guide, a downloadable learner’s guide, and web-based audio-visual tools. Links to conservation organizations, ecological restoration specialists, and Indigenous knowledge support in each region provide help with the riparian restoration activities and other specific local elements. We are excited to launch pilot runs of this program in the Cowichan Valley in fall 2019. The learning resources will be available and accessible to educators in BC (and beyond) in 2020. Let’s inspire stewardship and active restoration of our watersheds through education! If you are a teacher interested in running part or all of this program in your classroom, please contact us for more information regarding how BWW meets parts of the required curriculum, how you can use the resources available, etc. We can be contacted with any inquiries about the project by email at or by phone at (250) 746-0227. With acknowledgement and gratitude to our project funders:  

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Clean Water Action Meeting Follow Up

Thanks so much to those of you who were able to join us to launch the S-amuna’| Somenos and Kw’amutsun | Quamichan Lakes Clean Water Action Project on February 28. Much gratitude is extended to Fred Roland for opening the space in a good way and acknowledging our presence within the traditional unceded territory of the Coast Salish people. It was a great opportunity to hear about the cultural and scientific significance of the Lakes from speakers Tim Kulchyski (Cowichan Tribes) and Dr.Dave Preikshot (Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society). We understand there was a lot going on that evening in the area. Collective Space came on scene and filmed the speakers for the benefit of those who wanted but couldn’t attend. Here are the links to the 3 part youtube video series and downloadable files of the associated slides. We are aware the lighting isn’t great in these videos, our apologies! We decided to film on the fly but didn’t think to muster up extra lighting. Part 1. Guest Speaker Tim Kulchyski (Cowichan Tribes) : Part 2. Dr.Dave Preikshot (Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society/SMWS): Part 3. Elizabeth Aitken (SMWS) and Steph Cottell (Cowichan Community Land Trust (CCLT)) What’s next for the Clean Water Action Project? We are now in the process of scheduling land-holder visits to assess riparian area health over the spring and summer. If you are a resident with property around either of the lakes and are interested in a visit, please contact us: Phone: 250-746-0227 email: Alternatively you can fill out the following form and either drop it off or pop it in the mail. Our office address is: #6-55 Station Street, Duncan, BC V9L 1M2 Many thanks to our generous funders:  

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S-amuna’| Somenos and Kw’amutsun | Quamichan Lakes Clean Water Action project

S-amuna’| Somenos and Kw’amutsun | Quamichan Lakes Clean Water Action project Water quality in both S-amuna’| Somenos and Kw’amutsun | Quamichan Lake has been a concern for residents since the 1950s. E.coli, septic runoff, sediment, phosphorus and other chemical loading, invasive species, fish habitat degradation, and flooding are ongoing issues for the community. Both the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society (SMWS) and the Cowichan Community Land Trust (CCLT) are long-standing local environmental conservation and stewardship organizations in the Cowichan Valley. We are working together on the Clean Water Action project, providing public outreach, awareness, and stewardship strategies for the residents of S-amuna’| Somenos and Kw’amutsun | Quamichan Lakes. The Clean Water Action projected is funded through an EcoAction grant from the Government of Canada, as well as through financial and in-kind contributions from Cowichan Tribes, the Municipality of North Cowichan, the Quamichan Watershed Stewardship Society, The Cowichan Watershed Board, the British Columbia Institute of Technology.   The SQ Clean Water Action project aims to inform residents about what has been learned in recent water quality surveys and engage local action around improving practices and scaling up restoration of ecologically important riparian areas. Community residents love these lakes, not only for the important natural habitat and ecological services they provide but also for recreation and well-being. No one wants to see the algae blooms and invasive species impacting these important waterbodies and shorelines. Come learn how you can be involved in this community action project! Please join us at our community information meeting on February 28th, details below! We are gathering information about resident’s water quality experiences and common practices around the lakes. Please visit our survey link to contribute important information for this project.

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Great Big Bee Garden

Great Big Bee Garden This project restored areas of networked native bee habitat by planting significant areas of a broad range of nectar and pollen producing native plant species, heritage herbaceous perennials and cover crop forages in a number of connected areas. Many of these are species are traditional first peoples food plants that have been pollinated by our 200 species of native bee pollinators for 10,000’s of years and thus a key to sustained food security for coastal first peoples. These plants provide realistic quantities of nectar and pollen for native pollinators and restores a very necessary biodiversity in order to meet the nutritional requirements of pollinators for sustained enhanced immune response to current and future environmental stressors. We were organized to accomplish this through timely community education, participation and engagement of all age groups in diverse venues in both urban and rural landscapes in the Cowichan Valley following the guidelines and coaching from organizations such as the very successful Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation. The decline of all species of bees, along with the uncertainties of climate change, significantly threatens the capacity for the sustainable pollination of food crops and native plants which define our local food culture and natural heritage. In the Cowichan Valley there is insufficient food and habitat for honey bees and native bee pollinators. This project addresses the root causes of current and future decline of honey bees and native bees by increasing the area of bee friendly urban and rural habitat essential for sustainable pollination of food crops and native plants. New research across North America and the world confirms that native bees are effective commercial pollinators when suitable habitat is adjacent to and within food producing areas. This requires needed landscape changes in urban centres and on throughout farmland to guarantee effective protection, assessment and restoration of habitat for our 200 species of native bees on Vancouver Island (450 in BC). The new research redefines the value of wild habitat in our ALR, and natural areas in BC as being essential for future sustainable pollination for long term food, seed and biodiversity security. This is especially so since our overstressed honey bees alone can no longer guarantee future pollination of food, seed and native plant pollination. What were the goals and objectives for this project? Goal 1: Increase the community’s knowledge about native bee pollinators and their critical role in the pollination of food crops and native plants. Objective: Hold at least three (3) workshops and four (4) presentations to teach the public, agricultural community and local governments about native bee pollinators and how we can help increase their effectiveness in the pollination of food crops and native plants by planting “Bee Gardens”. Objective: Attend at least four (4) community events to inform the public and general community about the importance and of native bee pollinators. Objective: Create an informational brochure, print material for workshops and publish native bee and “Bee Garden” information on our website. Goal 2: Improve bee habitat by creating and restoring “Bee Gardens”. Objective: Identify best potential “Bee Garden” sites and design layout. Objective: Collect/purchase seeds and necessary equipment and supplies for planting the “Bee Gardens” and building bee nesting boxes to be placed in gardens. Objective: Engage the community and plant the “Bee Gardens” and monitor. Goal 3: Encourage municipal and regional governments to consider bee habitat and pollinator friendly vegetation policies for land planning. Objective: Present to local government environment and planning commissions’ ideas for a new bee habitat and pollinator-friendly vegetation policy for use in municipal and regional land planning.  

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