The Boundary Invasive Species Society held their Annual General Meeting on April 24. The Society had a brief business meeting and updated their strategic plan with a number of objectives that relate to overall watershed health. Members shared invasive species information and initiatives in their own areas (BC Parks; Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations; Christina Lake Stewardship Society; and others), and information was shared about new initiatives on educating boaters about aquatic invasive species (mussels in particular).
Last week, I wrote about the meaning of healthy aquatic ecosystems in the Kettle River watershed. Since then I’ve heard from some of you about why you are involved in taking care of our environment.
So to celebrate 2013 Earth Day (Monday, April 22), I decided to share some of your thoughts and to extend an invitation to celebrate together on Sunday, April 21 by cleaning up our back roads and byways.
As I combed through the results of last fall’s survey, I was often reminded of how important the watershed is to residents: “We love the watershed and treat it with respect,” said one survey respondent. “I want to see the watershed protected for my kids to enjoy,” said another.
In the responses, many people focused on the need to take better care of the watershed: “There is too much garbage alongside the river – it needs to be cleaned up.” Over 30 instances of “garbage,” “dumping,” and similar terms appear in the results.
It’s inspiring that so many people care so deeply about this watershed, and are willing take action to conserve and restore our common heritage.
“Where would we be without the wonder of nature?” asks Jenny Coleshill, co-ordinator of the Granby Wilderness Society. “I need to find ways to help protect the creatures that can’t help themselves.”
Brenda LaCroix, stewardship co-ordinator for the Christina Lake Stewardship Society, finds inspiration in helping people understand how we are linked together through common resources like water. She reminded me of the quote by Thomas Fuller, “We never know the worth of water until the well runs dry.”
Stewardship is about “keeping clean areas clean,” says Greg Baytalan of Interior Health. It’s the philosophy of preventing degradation where conditions are good and continuously improving problem areas – this can apply to air quality, water quality, soil health and the integrity of ecosystems.
So this Earth Day weekend, join other community members in the clean up of byways and backcountry roads in the Grand Forks area. Meet at the Overwaitea parking lot at 9 a.m. Sunday morning – bring your enthusiasm and if possible, a truck, gloves and garbage bags or pails. We will divide up and arrange meeting points for garbage disposal.
Have more to say about your vision for the Kettle River watershed? Go to http://kettleriver.ca/what-we-heard and complete the short follow up survey by April 22.Questions about the Earth Day cleanup? Contact Graham Watt (firstname.lastname@example.org) about this or any other watershed questions.
Join the Christina Lake Stewardship Society for their 13th Annual Lake Clean Up Day on May 25. Meet at the south end of the Community Nature Park by the Kiosk at 10:00 am. Prizes for youth and adults will be drawn at the end of the cleanup at noon.LCUD POSTER 2013 (pdf)
Grand Forks, BC – A major new study on riparian areas in the Kettle River watershed will soon be underway thanks to funding from the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition (SIBAC).
The $50,000 grant from SIBAC to the Granby Wilderness Society is supported by over $30,000 of in-kind support from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), government agencies and other organizations. Discussions are underway for supporting contributions from local communities.
Riparian areas are the lands along lakes, wetlands, streams and springs that have vegetation and soils that are adapted to water. The study will contribute key information to the Kettle River Watershed Management Plan about threats to riparian health, current conditions, and possibilities for restoring riparian areas.
“What this means is that the whole Boundary – from Big White to Christina Lake – will have the science we need to make informed decisions about our streams and lakes,” said Grace McGregor, RDKB Electoral Area ‘C’ Director and Chair of the Kettle River Stakeholder Advisory Group.
Graham Watt, Coordinator for the Kettle River Watershed Management Plan, notes that the study will build public understanding of riparian health by filling critical information gaps. “There currently isn’t enough information to develop management and policy recommendations for riparian areas,” said Watt.
According the study’s project manager Jenny Coleshill, “When riparian areas are healthy and covered with native plants, they provide habitat, protect drinking water, and prevent erosion and loss of farmland. But when urban and agricultural development, roads or recreational activities damage vegetation and soil, riparian areas aren’t able to provide these important services.”
The project is a collaborative effort of the Granby Wilderness Society and the RDKB’s Kettle River Watershed Management Plan. The project will be overseen by the Kettle River Riparian Working Group, which is composed of stakeholders and various government experts.
SIBAC is a coalition of regional districts, First Nations Tribal Councils, and Community Futures organizations that supports research, planning and economic development projects related to sustainable forest management (http://www.sibacs.com/). SIBAC also provided funds for initial planning of the Kettle River Watershed Management Plan and State of the Watershed report. Grace McGregor represents the RDKB and is vice-chair of SIBAC.
In the results of the survey last fall we learned from watershed residents that healthy rivers and aquatic ecosystems are very important to their quality of life. But what exactly do we mean when we say ‘healthy’ aquatic ecosystems?
Survey respondents had a lot to say about aquatic ecosystems, for instance stating that we should “maintain natural environments – for fish, wildlife, vegetation” and preserve “quality for all living organisms.” The term ‘health’ or ‘healthy’ appeared over 90 times in survey results, and was often associated with habitat, ecosystems, or water quality.
Health was also implied in a number of statements. According to one respondent, “Changing water patterns, chemical usage and drainage disrupt the natural habitat. We are taking our precious water, fish and animals for granted and should have… more respect.”
In the “What we heard” report (http://kettleriver.ca/what-we-heard), we summarized statements about healthy aquatic ecosystems into three components that support native biodiversity and aquatic life: adequate flows and water levels; good water quality; and high habitat quality in wetlands, riparian areas and associated uplands. But the phrase ‘healthy aquatic ecosystem’ needs a bit more explanation.
An ecosystem is a community of living things (including people) interacting with each other and their physical environment (soil, water, climate) as a system. The parts of the system are interlinked through nutrient cycles and energy flows. It is a scientific concept that can be applied to scales as great as the envelope of life around the earth’s surface (the biosphere) to areas as small as a single wetland and its surrounding upland.
An aquatic ecosystem is simply an ecosystem that is associated with water bodies (rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, springs). It is a special place where organisms have evolved to spend part or all of their life in and around water.
The idea of health is more difficult to define as it is subjective: people refer to an ecosystem as ‘healthy’ when it meets our expectations in terms of species composition, values and services.
One aspect of health is biodiversity. Does the ecosystem support the variety and abundance of life forms traditionally found there? For instance, a lake with fewer species of fish and invertebrates than in the 1800’s, and more non-native organisms, would be considered unhealthy in terms of biodiversity.
Healthy ecosystems also demonstrate stability and resilience – they tend to be similar over time, and return to the same communities of plants and animals after disturbances like fires and floods, instead of weedy or non-native species. Of course ecosystems are dynamic and evolve with changes in climate, disturbances, or management.
Society also expects ecosystems and watersheds to provide us with certain ‘services’ and values: clean, safe water, good recreational opportunities, food and economically valuable materials, and aesthetically pleasing views and characteristics.
We alter ecosystems to provide more of these services, often without due consideration for biodiversity or other people. Changing an ecosystem to meet our preferences, such as landscaping to the shoreline or allowing heavy grazing, can seriously impact wildlife and fish habitat as well as downstream water users.
Do you have more to say about healthy ecosystems or your vision for the Kettle River watershed? Go to http://kettleriver.ca/what-we-heard and complete the short follow-up survey by April 22. Contact Graham Watt (email@example.com) about this or any other watershed questions.
[originally published in the Grand Forks Gazette on April 10, 2013]