Xwaaqw’um watershed restoration project continues

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SUBMITTED BY STQEEYE’ LEARNING SOCIETY

The Stqeeye’ Learning Society is happy to share news of its continued watershed restoration work at Xwaaqw’um Village, or Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park. Recent efforts by society members and the wetland restoration team have been focused on restoring natural systems of water flow that support the interconnectedness of all our relations.

“From the tiniest little stream to the biggest ecosystem, they’re all connected.  The survival of not just trout, not just coho, not just the bird or tree species, but us humans as a species, are all at stake. We are all interconnected,” said Tim Kulchyski (Q’utxulenuhw), a Cowichan fisheries biologist and knowledge keeper.

Kulchyski has been leading multiple fish surveys and monitoring in three main Xwaaqw’um creeks over the last year. He has been mentoring Cowichan youth and Salt Spring volunteers in fish trapping and identification techniques. It was exciting to find coho fry and coastal cutthroat trout in two of the three creeks we studied. The lack of wetland ponds for breeding habitat is one of the limiting factors for red-legged frogs at Xwaaqw’um. Barn swallows and violet green swallows have been swooping in over the new wetlands to feed on insects, and to observe great blue heron checking out the new wetlands and enjoying the tasty snacks on the menu (tadpoles, newts and frogs).

Watershed restoration work that took place this year included installation of a small but significant series of three new wetlands to slow and capture sediment-laden runoff from the hay fields. Additionally, multiple swales were installed across the old logging roads on the lower reaches of Mount Sullivan to restore the natural flows of spring water from the mountain tributaries leading down to the welcome poles. A capital grant project led by BC Parks included removal of a failing 50-tonne bridge and massive volume of gravel backfill that was continuously blocking lower in-stream ponds and culverts, causing harm to fish. 

With continued leadership and direction from Kulchyski, in early September, wetland restoration specialist Robin Annschild and machine operator Ken Tara created a series of three new wetlands located near the lower creek drainage slope of Mount Sullivan, east from the welcome poles at the bottom edge of the southwest hay fields. The importance of this work is in capturing sediment-laden runoff that caused deep gouging in the fields and cutting into the fish bearing streams. 

Seeding, planting and invasive plant removal continues to take place as part of our watershed restoration efforts. With funding from the Salt Spring Foundation, we will soon be propagating future key wetland and forest plants, trees and medicines from our own small, fenced native plants nursery at Xwaaqw’um. 

Funding from the Mustang Safety Waterlife Fund, the BC Parks Licence Plate Program, Park Enhancement Fund and the Public Conservation Assistance Funds have allowed us to further address significant erosion issues that have been accumulating for decades, easing the threats to fish habitat and diverse ecosystem health.

Stqeeye’ Learning Society would like to thank the many partners, funders and Salt Springers who have been supporting Xwaaqw’um cultural restoration projects with their time, efforts and even donations. Special mention goes to Robin Annschild, Miranda Cross, John Millson, Tony Macleod, Ren Ferguson, Jim Dumont, Briony Penn and many others.

To learn more about our work at Xwaaqw’um Village and sign up to our newsletter and/or volunteer email list, visit our website at xwaaqwum.com.

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