Creating Community Champions for St. Mary Lake Wetlands
Wild about wetlands after taking a course in Castlegar in 2012, two St. Mary Lake residents saw wetlands surrounding their shoreline in a whole new light.
“BC Wildlife Federation Wetlandkeepers course was so inspiring that we wanted to share our sparked interest and passion by bringing the program to wetlands around our lake,” said Lindsay Merkel, one of the two organizers of the workshop.
Co-facilitated by regional Wetlandkeeper instructor Lee-Anne Walker from Fernie and Jason Jobin with BCWF in Surrey, the 14 students learned about the value of wetlands, how to identify and classify the soils, plants and animals, survey and mapping techniques and how to care for this unique ecosystem.
“These folks came as interested citizens and left as wetland champions,” stated Walker. “Folks were so fired up, they are planning a community wetland education and outreach program to share the information they learned about Alki Wetland at the west end between St. Mary Lake and Alki Pond with other people from boaters to paddlers, and residents to recreationalists.”
Local experts Sonja Seher, wildlife technician and Kimberley’s Wildsafe Coordinator and Daryl Calder from the Federation of BC Naturalists (Rocky Mountain Chapter) added valuable local knowledge about plants like sedges and the many bird species observed.
“At one time a flock of five great blue herons flew overhead. This wetland supports an amazing diversity of species,” noted Calder.
The conservation of wetlands is critical for water quality and quantity, groundwater and stream recharge, and fish and wildlife habitat.
The World Conservation Strategy identified wetlands as one of the three most important life support systems on the planet, along with agricultural lands and forests. Wetlands are increasingly being recognized for their ecosystem values as “freshwater purifiers and reservoirs, flood control mechanisms and carbon sinks.”
Far more awareness, however, is required before the destruction slows and wetland restoration becomes a priority. 70-80% of wetlands have disappeared across Canada where they’ve been drained, filled in and developed over.
The BCWF Wetlandkeepers Course provides participants with the knowledge and skills to address wetland conservation concerns and to help monitor wetland habitat across North America.
Lindsay Merkel and Virginia Anderson from the St. Mary Valley Rural Resident’s Association want to thank the following funders for making this course a success:
Columbia Basin Trust; Kimberley and District Community Foundation; Wildlife Habitat Canada; Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program; BC Wildlife Federation; and Government of BC.