Glen Urquhart Enhancement Successes and Challenges 2023/2024
Hedgerow Planting ~ Roxy Reimer
Salmon going up Glen Urquhart ~ Lori Kublik
Established native plantings ~ J. Baker French
Garry Oak experimental planting ~ J. Baker French
It has been a productive year at Glen Urquhart. There is a lot more to do but we are already seeing the fruits of our labour.
First off, it was very gratifying to see dozens of pink salmon come into Glen Urquhart Creek and spawn in the gravel associated with the riffles that we installed last summer. There were also good numbers of sea-run Coastal cutthroat trout spawning in the area that we have been working in. Coho should be returning soon as well.
This year we were able to plant an entire hedgerow in the vicinity of the creek with the help of the very enthusiastic Aurora Cannabis crew and many Project Watershed volunteers. Overall we planted about 250 native plants along the 700 foot long hedgerow. This buffer will provide pollinator and bird habitat and enhanced aesthetic value along this working farm field. Meanwhile, the native plantings we did around the creek last year are doing well and getting more and more established.
We also got a good start on our Garry Oak meadow project. We planted about 250 pots with acorns collected from around the valley. These will be used to plant out the first part of the meadow in the spring. Volunteers helped prepare the planting sites for these trees. We will be applying an experimental design to the planting to test the effect of several soil treatments, including inoculation with duff from one of the donor stands of oaks, adding lime to raise pH and calcium, and turning the sod. Each of these treatments may or may not help the oaks grow. Our project aims to find out which are helpful and if there are any combinations that are particularly good for Garry Oak tree establishment.
Unfortunately, our camas planting pilot project has been delayed because the bulbs we purchased are not large enough for planting out. We’ll let them size up for a season or two before planting them out. Similar to the Garry Oak planting, we will apply an experimental design to the planting to assess the effect of various soil preparation techniques on camas survival and growth. Because of the delay, we may be able to build additional treatments into the program (perhaps prescribed burning and/or grazing with sheep 😊 to reduce the vigour of the non-native sod grasses).
While it was great to see salmon using the system, there remain many challenges for fish in the Glen Urquhart Watershed. Fixing the perched culvert at Back Road is an important piece of work. This will allow trout and Coho to regain access to substantial upstream spawning and rearing habitat. Our sights are also set on restoration of broader watershed hydrology. There are encouraging signs from the City of Courtenay on the topic of an Integrated Rain Water Management plan, which is a big part of what is needed for Glen Urquhart to restore natural flows that support fish.
Sadly, this was our last year of funding from Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) under the current grant arrangement. We have built a good relationship with DUC through this project and hope that they identify funding for our work in the future. We will also pursue other sources of funding to keep work going in this important area. One avenue that we see lots of potential is working with K’ómoks First Nation to reestablish traditional food plants in our landscape.