Wetlands have disappeared at an alarming rate in the Elk Valley. They have been filled in for development, drained for urban expansion, and paved over for roads and railways. Last week Elk Valley citizens got their feet wet and hands muddy to enhance a small wetland in Sparwood.
Hard working volunteers in the heat helping wetlands in Sparwood.
“This little wetland between the railway and Elk River has been stewarded by the community for a number of years”, said Elk River Alliance (ERA) Executive Director Lee-Anne Walker. “Over the last few years community have worked with ERA to clean up garbage and pull noxious weeds like knapweed. Students from Frank J. Mitchell and Sparwood Secondary School have planted native sedges, rushes and shrubs and contributed art work and quotes on four recently installed interpretive signs”, recalled Walker. “Last week, in the blazing heat and sun, 13 volunteers put in 85 hours to help control an invasive plant on site called Reed Canary Grass (RCG), an amazing accomplishment!”
In August 2016, ERA conducted a health assessment of the wetland with help from 31 participants from the BC Wildlife Federation Wild About Wetland Wednesday Workshops. It was determined the biggest problem at the site was RCG was filling in the water zone and choking out native plants along the shore. To restore this little wetland, serious therapy was needed.
At the south end of the wetland was a monoculture of RCG growing around the water's edge and it was marching out further into native shrubs. RCG is a problem in many wetlands in BC and ERA is testing two methods to remove this invasive plant. One method is to cut the plant down, remove it and cover the plant with sileage tarp. Excluding light and smothering its roots will hopefully kill this stubborn weed. In two years this tarp will be removed and planted with native vegetation like sedges, rushes and shrubs.
In the second pilot site, the RCG was cut down and removed, weed barrier cloth installed and covered with bark mulch. Dozens of native shrubs like Saskatoon, red-osier dogwood, and soopolallie were planted amongst the healthy willow. This technique will eventually shade out the ‘sun-loving’ RCG and promote native shrubs, important for wildlife.
The Elk River Alliance thanks the Government of Canada, District of Sparwood, Sparwood Future Society, CBT, Elk Valley Thrift Store and BC Wildlife Federation for their financial support. Many thanks to volunteers from local community groups Wildsight-Elk Valley Branch, Elk River Alliance, and Sparwood Fish and Wildlife Association, as well as Sparwood citizens for their hard work and contribution.
Over the next two years the District of Sparwood, with help from the Elk River Alliance, will be administering a prescription to restore the health of this wetland. Watch it recover to a healthy state. Please stay off the tarped area to allow it to effectively kill the invasive weed. If you would like to get involved in this and other wetland projects contact [email protected] or call (250) 423-3322.