Fire at Mount Quimper Conservation Covenant

Mount Quimper Fire Jun 2017 from aboveAround 1:00 pm on Tuesday, July 4th, Sooke Firefighters, the Capital Regional District (CRD) and Ministry of Forestry were called to the scene of a forest fire on Mt. Manuel Quimper. Mt. Manuel Quimper is part of the Sooke Hills Conservation Covenants co-held by Habitat Acquisition Trust and The Land Conservancy. These lands are owned by the CRD. 

Thanks to fire suppression by Sooke Fire and Rescue, the fire never never reached a hectare in size. However, some of the trees were chain-sawed and pink fire-retardent covered the area. The fire was located around the Manzanita Trail, which is a Mountain Biking trail in the Mount Quimper area of the Sooke Hills Sea-to-Sea park. 

Mount Quimper Fire Jun 2017This incident is a clear reminder of how flammable the ecosystems of our area are at this time of year, and to practice extreme fire caution when out and about. The fire's proximity to the existing trail and lack of lightning in the area at the time suggests that this fire is human caused. Open fires are currently banned across British Columbia, at the time of writing, and the province remains in a state of emergency due to wildlfires. We would also like to remind park visitors that CRD by-law prohibits smoking in public parks. 

Mount Quimper Fire Jun 2017 2The fire at Mount Quimper impacted both a thickly forest area and aopen rock outrcop meadows, where the thick mossy layers will take a long time to recover. As a result of the fire, there are anumber of charred, dead trees left still standing. If visiting this area of the park, be aware of the possible danger presented by standing dead trees.

Thank you to everyone visiting this area responsibly and supporting your local land trust in the protection of your community's natural areas. 

More on the Sooke Hills Conservation Covenants here.

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Volunteer Spotlight on Jemma Green

Jemma Green resize

This month we are recognizing volunteer Jemma Green! Jemma consistently puts her passion for nature into her volunteering with Habitat Acquisition Trust in so many wondrous ways and we want to celebrate that here.

We'd like to thank Jemma for being a Bat Team Leader and an Outreach Tabler with us, sharing her knowledge and interests with others in the community. Last year Jemma went above and beyond, surprising us by baking adorable bat cookies. Her husband sold these cookies at a bake sale and they gave the funds to HAT as a donation. What a nice treat for our bats and the Community Bat Program

Jemma shares a little bit about her volunteer experience with us, "I first got involved with HAT when I moved to Vancouver Island from Vancouver. I have always been passionate about volunteer work with wildlife and natural areas, but it was HAT's dedication to ecological restoration and wildlife research in their own back yard that set them apart for me."

"It is HAT's consistent vision of educating and engaging the public and private landowners to improve our collective relationship with the natural world that keeps me inspired as a volunteer."

bat cookies for bake sale by Jemma Green and her husband at MEC 2016"One of my favorite experiences volunteering with HAT came during my first summer as a bat counter, under starry summer skies. I saw first hand how bats and people can successfully co-exist in the same habitat (and even in the same structure!). This program is just one example of the many ways people can be stewards of their own little part of the world and what a difference that can make."

Habitat Acquisition Trust is able to operate in large part due to the incredible donations of time and energy hundreds of people like Jemma offer. Thank you to each and every one of the HAT volunteer team. 

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Homer-McCrea Conservation Covenant Steeped in Sooke Family History and Biodiversity

Goodman Creek Homer McCrea CovenantOn a mild and warm day in May this year, Land Acquisition Coordinator Barb von Sacken led a Conservation Covenant monitoring team to visit the Homer-McCrea natural lands, protected by a conservation covenant. Barb was joined by Karen Yearsley (Volunteer, retired biologist and former HAT Board Member), Jordana Herron (Summer HAT intern), and Alanah Nasadyk (Community and Development Coordinator). There, the team was quite taken with the biodiversity of the covenant and the heartfelt family stories of land protection they were met with.

The Homer-McCrea covenant is 24.2 acres (9.8 hectares) of mature second-growth forest in Sooke, owned by the Homer family and stewarded in conjunction with Habitat Acquisition Trust. This property provides continuous upland habitat to the nearby Sooke Potholes and Sea-to-Sea Green-Blue Belt, while including a lush riparian zone alongside Goodman Creek.

Before they set off to hike the thick, green undergrowth and mossy outcrop dappled landscape, the HAT team had the pleasure of meeting the people, who with caring and foresight steward this natural area: Patti Homer and her son Paul Homer.

Patti Homer kindly shared the story of how the Homer-McCrea Covenant came to be. Goodman Creek marks one edge of the covenant, which is also on the East face of Mount Christopher Goodman. Both features are named after the original pioneers that came to clear the land and farm around 1900. Unsuccessful in farming and near starvation, the Goodmans left and the property went back to the Crown. For those who are curious a visit to the Sooke Region Museum may provide more information on this pioneer family.

Patti Homer Covenant Landowner Homer McCrea Resized

The next person to purchase the property was Mr. Jameson. As the land passed hands through the family, it eventually came under the ownership of Mr. Jameson’s grandson Chris McCrea, for whom the covenant is partially named. Chris McCrea was originally in the logging industry. In fact, the property was logged in the 1930s. But like many people working close to nature, he grew to feel a deep connection to the land and he felt it should be protected.

In his later years, Chris McCrea offered Patti Homer the chance to purchase some of his land inexpensively, if she agreed to protect and not log it. Patti told the HAT team, she thought this meant an acre or two. When she met with Chris and found out that he meant 40 acres, she said, “I sat down at the creek and just cried.” Truly, the natural area that is now Homer-McCrea covenant has the power to stir the emotions of even those that visit briefly.

Nowadays, Patti and her son have built homes and live on the portion of land outside the covenant area, keeping a close eye on it. Patti is proud of her family’s connection to the land. “The grandchildren came and I went for a walk with them. It made me feel good to see how comfortable they were in the forest.” Patti told the HAT team the grandchildren Brittany and Zach will inherit the land eventually. She is confident they will make a wonderful new generation of stewards noting “they really feel a responsibility to the property, they already think of this place as theirs.” This sense of responsibility includes concern when they see signs of trespassing and the harm that this can do to the land.

Trespassing is a problem on the covenant, with trails on adjacent crown land meandering into the protected area. Though there is some “no trespassing” signage, HAT hopes that better placement will deter trespassing by raising awareness of the sensitive nature and protected status of the property. Many people enjoying nearby park and crown land, and may not even be aware that this space is off limits for the replenishment of the nature that we all so clearly enjoy. Fencing is not an option as one of the great values of this protected habitat is that it is so well-connected to the rest of the Sooke wilderness for allowing for the unrestricted movement of wildlife.

Looking back at the numerous standing, dead wildlife trees with their rugged bark and cavities for nesting, the landscape gives off a feeling that there are many places inhabited by denizens of the woods. Patti says, “It’s an incredible piece of property, I’m really proud of it”, sharing that cougars and bears pass through regularly, and the wolves of the Sooke Hills wilderness can be heard from her neighbours’ property. There is even a wetland with amphibians, just outside the covenant boundaries.

Before the HAT team headed off into the trees to assess the covenant, Patti posed for a photo in front of a stately Douglas Fir and explained,

“When I was building the house I would get a lot of people giving me advice. They would say, ‘oh, you’ve got to take that tree down, it’s going to hit your house.’ I would say, ‘in my lifetime I can build another house, but I could never grow another tree like that.’"

Homer McCrea Covenant Farthest West Garry OakThe purpose of Habitat Acquisition Trust’s annual covenant monitoring visits is to ensure ongoing assessement of the condition of the covenant and that the terms protecting the covenant are being upheld. Ideally this includes hearing from and where possible spending time with the landowners, who are the most important and knowledgeable stewards of these areas. As the team made their way through the Homer-McCrea covenant, they photographed and took GPS points at areas of interest or concern. One of the concerns documented on the trip, the encroachment of invasive Scotch Broom and English Holly plants, is a problem we look forward to nipping in the bud soon. Keep an eye out on the calendar and volunteer Enewsletter for future events removing invasive plants there.

As the HAT covenant monitors crossed Goodman Creek, they passed through a delightful variety of habitats from lichen and wildflower covered meadows to wet and cedar-filled dips in the terrain, and so much in between.

At the farthest end of the covenant the team came across a lone Garry Oak tree. There is also an oak standing next to Goodman Creek. These Garry Oaks are known as the furthest west in their range. This is significant considering that changes in climate can cause ranges of species to creep. With projected warming, dry Garry oak ecosystems tolerant of hotter climates could play an important role in nature’s ability to respond to such rapid changes. Garry Oak ecosystems on the edge of Douglas Fir forest also indicate a historical presence of fire, that with recent suppression no longer keeps the area open enough for many oaks and their floral and faunal associates to thrive.

Follow the rest of our adventurous day monitoring the Homer-McCrea covenant in photos here!

Homer McCrea Covenant Photo wall

This covenant does not yet have an endowment fund; donations to its long-term protection as a natural area are warmly welcomed. Make your gift here today: http://hat.bc.ca.

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Cripple Creek Restoration Day in Metchosin - July 28th

Ivan Island PosterHabitat Acquisition Trust has an opportunity to visit a protected conservation covenant, not ordinarily open to the public, to help keep in natural. We will be removing invasive Yellow Archangel Lamium (Lamium galeobdolon) from around Cripple Creek, a riparian habitat at the Ivan Island Conservation Covenant in Metchosin.

Ivan Island is not an island in the geographical sense, so no worries, you can drive there! Ask us about the history of this quirky name at the event, if you’re curious. :)

If you would like to help out and enjoy the day outdoors among friends we will be going to Ivan Island on Fri July 28th, from 10 am to 3 pm. Please RSVP for the address! If you will be driving and have space to pick up others or if you would like to come but don’t have transporation, please sign up on the online carpooling document here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GKDSfytO6p8-hC4uuBesW_l2WqP3X8Ni0jNzmE4YaeM/edit?usp=sharing

Tools, gloves, and lunch are all provided! Be prepared for outdoor work and bring plenty of water for yourself. Sunscreen and hats are likely a good idea given the sun we’ve been having too.

We can welcome a maximum of 30 people for this event, so please do RSVP ASAP to get your spot with an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This event is not suitable for young children, based on risks of the terrain.

Even if you can’t make it this time we’d be grateful to you for sharing this with your friends!

Come and experience habitat restoration and experience a special place protected by Habitat Acquisition Trust!

This event is made possible by donors from the community and our funders: Sitka, Metchosin Foundation, the District of Metchosin, and Environment Canada.

 

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The Stewardship Series Guide you've BEEn waiting for: Pollinators!

jpg cover pollinators guideHabitat Acquisition Trust is pleased to unveil to you the online version of the latest installment in the Stewardship Series: The Pollinator Guide!

To learn more about native pollinators, how to plant a garden that suits the widest diversity of these incredible animals, and how anyone can take simple actions to be good neighbours to bees and other pollinators click through to the new guide here.

Bees may be small, but the impact they have on our environment – and our daily lives – is immense. That's why Habitat Acquisition Trust has initiated projects focusing on pollinators this year. 

Thank you to our individual donors, and funders Ecoaction, BC Gaming Commission, and Environment Canada's Habitat Stewardship Program for making Pollinator stewardship programs possible on South Vancouver Island the Gulf Islands with Habitat Acquisition Trust.

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