WiTS Project

What’s WiTS?

The Cowichan Community Land Trust is involved in conserving and monitoring trees for wildlife through the Wildlife Tree Stewards program. WiTS is a stewardship initiative of the Vancouver Island Region of the Federation of BC Naturalists (FBCN). The goal is to conserve dwindling coastal wildlife tree habitats through volunteer monitoring, landowner agreements, and community education along the Strait of Georgia on Vancouver Island. Volunteer wildlife tree stewards and cooperative landowners are crucial to this initiative. Volunteers document and monitor wildlife tree as well as provide invaluable local knowledge. Landowners provide access to, and information regarding their trees. While monitoring trees, observers have reported owl nests, Peregrine Falcons, Golden Eagles, Marbled Murrelet activity, hawk nests, a diverse array or passerine activity (warblers, vireos and flycatchers), and even a honey bee colony! Wildlife trees are defined as any standing dead or live tree with special characteristics that provide valuable habitat for the conservation or enhancement or wildlife. Buffer trees in heron colonies, especially in mixed deciduous stands, provide important migratory bird feeding and nesting habitats. A vegetated buffer can also lead to shifting the emphasis from protecting the single tree to maintaining a broader viable habitat and greater biological diversity.

The Importance of the WiTS Initiative

The southeast coast of Vancouver Island and associated islands contain some of the most altered ecosystems in British Columbia. Within these ecosystems, agriculture, forestry and urbanization are placing many wildlife species at risk. Yet, the ability to see wildlife is one of the great reasons we choose to spend time on Vancouver Island. The WiTS initiative is built on the results of a decade of fieldwork conducted on Great Blue Herons (a threatened species in BC) and on Bald Eagles by Vancouver Island naturalists and biologists. This new initiative is expanding to include trees and habitat important to wildlife species. Veteran trees in BC, as they deteriorate, can support up to 80 wildlife species from Pileated Woodpeckers (pictured here) to salamanders. Natural treed areas provide people with an opportunity to access nature. These are places to observe and learn about the natural environment as well as view a diverse array of wildlife species and other living organisms. Natural treed areas provide desirable microclimates and require less landscaping and chemicals than in area or exotic trees and plants. Read more at the Wildlife Tree Stewardship website.
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