Updated Platforms Showcase the B.C. Wildlife Federation’s Watershed Team Today

After reading the article, be sure to check out the B.C. Wildlife Federation’s Watershed Team has an update website (formerly www.wetlandsworkforce.ca) and Facebook page (formerly the Wetlands Education Program Facebook page)!

The Watershed Team is the B.C. Wildlife Federation’s most impactful boots-on-the-ground conservation initiative. 

Since the beginning of our restoration and field work in 2010, we have assessed hundreds of wetlands and enhanced and restored over 180 hectares of wetland and steam habitat. Today, our team actively works to improve fish and wildlife habitat and watershed security in all corners of the province. Our 10,000 Wetlands project aims to build more than 100 human-made beaver dams to create new habitat, mitigate drought and flood risk, and reduce wildfire threats. Our work pods continue to restore, maintain, and monitor wetlands and streams throughout BC. Our conservation tools are used in partnership with dozens of organizations across the province to accelerate wetland assessment and conservation efforts. The BCWF’s Watershed Team is also an active force for grassroots public education, equipping local communities to effectively steward their natural environments.

Through collaboration with First Nations communities, environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), contractors, consultants, and educational institutions, the BCWF has significantly advanced the restoration, preservation, maintenance, monitoring, and education concerning wetland, watershed, and fish habitat ecosystems in BC over the past several years.

So, how did we get here? The answer is years of hard work, the development of meaningful partnerships, and a collective drive to enhance watershed security province-wide. 

The Early Days of BCWF’s Watershed Work

The BCWF launched the Wetlands Education Program (WEP) in 1996 to address the rapid decline of wetlands in British Columbia and to promote conservation education. This marked the organization’s commitment to wetland conservation in British Columbia. This program laid the foundation for future conservation initiatives by focusing on educating the public about the importance of wetlands and promoting active stewardship. In the early days, several visionary program managers and coordinators, helped to establish our long-term educational programming (e.g., Wetlandkeepers and Wetlands Insitute) in response to the rapid loss of wetlands within developed areas of British Columbia. Neil Fletcher, who started with the BCWF in 2010 as a WEP Intern, and is now BCWF’s Director of Conservation Stewardship, has helped guide and direct the BCWF’s watershed initiatives for the past 14 years. Since the inception of the Wetlands Education Program, the BCWF’s Watershed Team has grown and evolved, leading significant conservation projects and continuing to protect and promote wetland habitats across the province today.

Fast forward to 2021, when one of the largest collaborative wetland-related projects in BC was established—the Wetlands Workforce (WW). Spearheaded by the BCWF, the Wetlands Workforce comprised of partnerships with eight organizations and included engagement and partnership with over 45 First Nations.

Partners in the 2021 Wetlands Workforce project included:

Ducks Unlimited Canada, Langley Environmental Partners Society, The Nature Conservancy of Canada, The Nature Trust of BC, Wildcoast Ecological Society, Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition, and Yaqan Nukiy First Nation (Lower Kootenay Band).

Healthy Watersheds Initiative
The WW project was catalyzed by a significant $5-million grant from the Healthy Watersheds Initiative. This initiative, part of a broader $27-million project supported by the Province of British Columbia, aimed to stimulate economic recovery post-COVID-19 through investments in community driven watershed conservation and restoration projects.

In its one year as an Initiative, the BCWF’s Wetlands Workforce team conducted restoration, enhancement, maintenance, and monitoring work for 221 wetland sites across British Columbia in four Eco-Provinces: Boreal and Taiga Plains, Georgia Depression, Southern Interior Mountains, and Sub-boreal Interior.

The innovative Wetland Ecosystem Services Protocol (WESP) tool, headed by Kyla Rushton, BCWF’s Wetland Assessment and Field Coordinator, was also brought to BC by the Wetlands Workforce and our team is still collecting data today to build a catalog of hundreds of wetlands that identifies those that are most productive and those that are most in need of protection and restoration.

Other resources developed throughout the Wetlands Workforce project have included the Wetland Plants of BC—a field guide to indicator species for wetland classification, and Chenoa Gao’s graphic novel, We Are of Water—a series of graphics celebrating the communities that supported wetland restoration work and promoting reconciliation.  

During the Wetlands Workforce project, and later with the BCWF Watershed Team, Indigenous Advisors Diana Cote and the late Glenn Auger played crucial roles in guiding staff to foster respectful and mutually beneficial relationships with First Nations communities—Lessons that our field crews and current Indigenous Liaison, Taylor Sounding Stone, continue to foster today.

Thanks to an additional $5.5 million in Watershed Security funding from the Province of British Columbia over 3 years in (2022 to 2024), the BCWF’s Wetlands Workforce project expanded and morphed into the multi-faceted Watershed Team, providing essential employment, promoting research and science, and contributing to the enhancement, maintenance, and restoration of wetlands, streams and riparian zones across the province.

Where We Are Today

Building on the legacy of the Wetlands Workforce and the early days of the Wetlands Education Program, the BCWF’s Conservation Stewardship field crews and staff are now known as the Watershed Team. With a focus on protecting and promoting watershed and wetland habitats, the BCWF’s Watershed Team is structured around three core elements: Restoration Projects, Conservation Tools, and Education Programs (see below). Through each of these core elements, the BCWF’s Watershed Team is dedicated to conserving water and watersheds to benefit future generations.

Throughout our initiatives, the BCWF’s Watershed Team remains committed to engaging with First Nations and Indigenous-led organizations to protect and promote the health of wetlands and watersheds across the province. The B.C. Wildlife Federation expresses our utmost gratitude for the partnerships and knowledge shared by the First Nations communities we have and continue to work alongside.

Restoration Projects

The BCWF’s Watershed Team actively engages in innovative and collaborative ecological restoration, including our newest initiative, the 10,000 Wetlands Project, which uses beaver-based restoration to enhance watershed resilience. The Watershed Team is also committed to on-the-ground wetland and stream restoration, encompassing monitoring, maintenance, education, and knowledge-sharing to ensure a healthier environment for future generations.

Conservation Tools

The BCWF’s Watershed Team is developing and utilizing various advanced conservation tools in partnership with organizations across British Columbia . Key initiatives include the Wetland Ecosystem Services Protocol (WESP) for standardizing wetland function assessments, the Canadian National Wetlands Inventory (CNWI), and the digital plant guide ‘Wetland Plants of BC’ for wetland classification. We are currently working on version three and hope to have a print version available soon.

Want to contribute to the Wetland Plants of BC? Check out our 2024 Plant Bingo to submit your identified plant photos!

Education Programs

Through programs like the historic Wetlands Education Program (WEP) and the newer Fish Habitat Restoration and Education Program (FHREP), the BCWF’s Watershed Team is enhancing grassroots, community-driven conservation efforts. These programs offer educational courses, workshops, and outreach events to equip local communities with the knowledge and tools needed to steward their natural environments effectively.  

To see some of our highlights from the past year, including wetland and stream restoration metrics and partners worked with, view our 2023 Watershed Report.

Project and program features in this report that continue their success into 2024 include the following:

  • 10,000 Wetlands: Beaver-Based Restoration Project

  • Yaqan Nukiy Wetland Restoration Project

  • Wetlands Ecosystem Services Protocol (WESP)

  • Canadian National Wetlands Inventory (CNWI)

  • Fraser River Tidal Marsh Clean-up

  • Fish Habitat & Riparian Stewardship Workshops

  • Wetland Education Program Workshops: Wetlandkeepers, Map Our Marshes, Wetlands Institute

  • Elders Days & Environmental Monitor Training

Other project and program features that can be found in this report include:

  • Fish Habitat Restoration Project: Revitalizing Juliet Creek

  • Fish Habitat Restoration Project: Revitalizing Cougar Creek

  • Fish Habitat Restoration Project: Bonaparte Side Channel Revitalization

  • Road Intersect Initiative

To find more information about our Watershed Team including historic information about what we’ve accomplished as well as up-to-date information on the team’s initiatives, be sure to visit our new website www.bcwfwatershedteam.ca and follow our Facebook page, B.C. Wildlife Federation’s Watershed Team.

Thank you to the following funders for making the Watershed Team’s work possible:  Environment and Climate Change Canada, Province of British Columbia, British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, BC Watershed Security Coalition, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Program, BC Conservation and Biodiversity Awards, Wildlife Habitat Canada, Clean Foundation, Regional District of Central Kootenay, Regional District of East Kootenay, Columbia Valley Community Foundation, Kootenay Conservation Program, Slocan Valley Legacy Fund, Regional District of Central Okanagan, Okanagan Basin Water Board, Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen, Wildlife Acoustics, CN (Canadian National Railway), FortisBC, Petronas.

Thank you to Monica Pearson for coining the name 10,000 Wetlands Project.

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