A wetlands restoration project started by Terry and Michele Halleran in the North Kootenays is expanding in 2016.
Excavations for Year Two of the Meadow Creek based project near the north end of Kootenay Lake finished on Wednesday afternoon, increasing the size of the area to 20 acres; a considerable upgrade from four acres in 2015.
Halleran cited the success of last year’s undertaking as a prime reason for the expansion, telling The Nelson Daily that because each individual aspect of the restoration had gone so well last year they had to take it even further in 2016.
“Basically, because we had such good success with the amount of work we got done, and the way the ground, plants and animals responded, the powers that be decided that we should do this a second year,” Halleran said.
Halleran said that while the hard work of digging is finished, there is still much to be done.
“At this point all we’ve done is just contour the land. We still have a little bit of landscaping, seeding, and planting to do.”
It certainly seems an odd time of year to begin excavation on this scale, with most of the area covered in a thick blanket of snow on top of frozen earth. For marshy, wetland areas however, it’s the perfect time.
“Because this is a marsh, with marshy ground, it’s probably one of the few places in BC you can actually dig this time of year,” Halleran said.
"Everything else in the province is frozen solid, so one of the advantages is we can dig wetlands in the winter is because aside from maybe six inches of frost the ground is permanently wet all the time."
Although Terry and Michele receive no financial assistance themselves, the Halleran’s project has received help and funding from several organizations including The BC Wildlife Federation, which have helped create several projects in the Kootenays.
In 2013, the BC Wildlife Federation undertook restoration projects in both Salmo and Castlegar, and it is through this work they met Halleran.
“In 2013 we had three restoration projects in the West Kootenays, one of them being on private land. I believe around the same time we connected with Terry,” said Neil Fletcher, Wetlands Program Coordinator for BC Wildlife Federation.
Fletcher said that private stewardship, as in the case of the Hallerans, is going to be an important facet in the continued protection and restoration of wetlands in BC.
“Wetland restoration has become an emerging theme and something that a lot of communities are interested in and involved in,” Fletcher said.
"Because of that, we’ve been running a number of wetland restoration workshops which include a hands-on component on doing wetlands restoration, and through that activity we had been doing so work on wetland in the area in 2013."
Halleran will be hosting an open house Sunday (January 24th) at the Lardeau Valley hall. This event will include talks from Wildlife Biologist Irene Manley as well as other wetland restoration experts and speakers from the BC Wildlife Federation and Nature Trust, BC’s largest land conservation purchaser.
Despite the success and enormous expansion of the venture on his property, Halleran is still unsure what the future holds, although he does have plans for several more projects.
“We do have plans, and will be trying to do a few more projects in the next couple of years here. Each one is going to be slightly different because we want to create habitats for different species,” Halleran said.
Halleran finished by expressing his concerns and hopes for the future of private land stewardship. He said that the current situation doesn’t allow for permanent care, and if the land changes hands, a lot of good work might go to waste.
“Both my wife and I would like to see the property stay in some sort of caregiving conservation exercise so it will stay intact forever,” he said.
“You’re not going to live forever, the next owner could decide [that land] would be a great golf course. There has to be, different avenues for conservation covenants that you can put on properties that supercede the next owners so they have no choice but to obey that. That’s something that we’ll be looking at in the future.”