After many decades of deteriorating ecological conditions at Xwaaqw’um Village (Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park), Quw’utsun Elders, along with support from Stqeeye’ Learning Society, Cowichan Tribes, BC Wildlife Federation and BC Parks have completed installation of the first wetland at Xwaaqw’um. Along with a first priority of mending relationships between Local Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people by learning how Hul’q’umi’num culture can guide the work of enabling highly productive local endangered ecosystems and local foods to once again thrive at Xwaaqw’um Village. Releasing the natural inland water flows at Xwaaqw’um Village from the rapid diversion by agricultural ditches and buried drain lines will help bring rare wetland plants used for weaving and other culturally important plant and animal species back.
A 660 square metre wetland was created at Xwaaqw’um Village on the east boundary of Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park. Wetland construction was completed in September 2019. Robin Annschild designed the wetland project and directed construction. The excavation work was done by Ken Tara Excavating, with Key Pawn Trucking providing trucking of coarse woody debris. Salt Spring Water Company donated 2 trucks loads of water to the project to help moisten the soil sufficiently for compaction in the core trench that will help the wetland retain water longer. BC Parks and the BC Wildlife Federation contributed staff time and volunteers to help with construction. Joe Akerman and the Stqeeye’ Learning Society contributed to project planning, site management and coordinating volunteers. Paul Linton, Joe Akerman, Benny George, Ralph Underwood and other local Indigenous workers, built the fence to protect the young plants around the wetland from being browsed by deer and rabbits. Carrina Maslovat led seed collecting for native sedges, rushes and other wetland plants that were later seeded into the new wetland.
Local Quw’utsun Elders, BC Parks, the BC Wildlife Federation, Cowichan Tribes and the Stqeeye’ Learning Society are working collaboratively on this wetland restoration project. Community volunteers participated in activities such as native seed collection, invasive plant removal, native planting and various aspects of monitoring. The Stqeeye’ Learning Society has been working with the Stowell Lake Yurt School Nature Class (ages 10-12) at the new wetlands on Thursdays in Xwaaqw’um Village to assist with all aspects of the project including construction, photo monitoring, water-level monitoring, planting and invasive plant removal. The one student in the class was delighted to spot the new wetlands first rough skinned newt already last Thursday.
The Salt Spring Island Freshwater Catalogue, an initiative of the Salt Spring Water Preservation Society have been working collaboratively with the restoration project team to monitor water quality in Lee Creek and other Xwaaqw’um Village Creeks and monitor wetted widths in the creeks. John Millson with the SSI Freshwater Catalogue been volunteering his time weekly with the Thursday Stowell Lake Yurt School Nature Class monitoring efforts at Xwaaqw’um along with Tony MacLeod. Many other volunteers have helped make our project a success.
Restoring wetlands will increase the biological and cultural values in Xwaaqw’um Village (Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park). Wetlands are some of the most biologically diverse and ecologically important ecosystems. By creating a wetland at Xwaaqw’um Village (Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park), biodiversity and biological productivity will be increased, habitat for a variety of species will be improved, and runoff and erosion will be controlled. In addition, non-native plants will be better managed, opportunities for wildlife viewing will be increased, and the natural beauty of the park will be enhanced. Another important aspect of this project is the resiliency wetlands provide in resisting the effects of climate change. Wetlands assist in combating water scarcity and protect biodiversity, both of which are challenges that come with climate change. There will also be benefits to park infrastructure and recreational facilities such as trails and culverts. By controlling runoff and erosion, flooding of trails and roads will be reduced.
The wetland was built by excavating an area of the Park that is already naturally wet and was drained with ditches and buried rock drains in the past. The soil from the wetland area was spread around the margins of the wetland and seeded with native sedges and rushes. Non-native plants such as European hawthorn and broom were removed. Straw was used to mulch and cover bare soil areas to reduce invasive species from growing on newly disturbed areas. Native seeds from sedges and rushes were collected from the Park and these seeds were spread over the wetland margins to assist with vegetation recovery.
The site chosen for this year’s restoration was selected because it provided a continuation of the forest edge to allow for cedar and other culturally important plant and animal species, far away from registered archaeological sites and no Park trails occur in this location. The fields at Xwaaqw’um Village have been heavily modified from logging and agriculture since the mid-1800s. Before this time, the land consisted of a variety of wetland types including forested, shrub, emergent, ephemeral, and wet meadows, mixed with patches of various forest types including western redcedar, Douglas-fir and Garry Oak.
The wetland restoration will benefit several species at Risk including; common nighthawks, dun skipper butterflies, great blue herons, little brown myotis bats, barn swallows and northern red-legged frogs, to name a few.
The project is jointly funded by the Government of Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, the BC Wildlife Federation and BC Parks (through staff time and Licence Plate funding). Cowichan Tribes and the Stqeeye’ Learning Society have contributed countless volunteer hours to the wetlands restoration project. Extensive local Indigenous knowledge of the area and time spent on all aspects of the project leads us to believe the future is hopeful for all guests who spend time at Xwaaqw’um Village.
Members of the project team look forward to engaging the community in continuing restoration work at Xwaaqw’um Village (Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park). We will be closely monitoring phase 1 to ensure its success while we apply for funding for Phase 2 to continue with more wetland restoration, and doing our small part in recognizing and taking action to support further important ecological and cultural strengthening work.
The Salt Spring Community is invited to join Carinna Maslovat and Xwaaqw’um Village volunteers on a planting day, on Wednesday October 30 from 10am- 3pm. Folks can thin out/ dig up their own native wetland shrub species to bring with them to plant. Please reach out to your friends and fam to see if they have any thinning out/ donations they can make. Bring a small shovel, gloves, boots and snacks.
Species we are interested in receiving donations for include: X’pey (cedar), red osier dogwood, black twinberry, pacific ninebark, thimbleberry, salmonberry and red elderberry. Please email email@example.com if you have a donation to drop off/plant, or for more information.
Erica McClaren (BC Parks), Robin Ainschild (BCWF) and Joe Akerman (Stqeeye' Learning Society).