In December 2012, GOERT staff members Holly Clermont, Kathryn Martell, and Rebecca Mersereau held a series of workshops for municipal and regional governments. The workshops were offered to planning and park management staff who would benefit from using our resources in the course of their daily work. Over 2 days, workshop organizers met with 16 planning and mapping staff of 5 municipalities and 2 regional governments, and 2 members of a community stewardship group, to provide a detailed introduction to the services and resources that GOERT can provide to assist local and regional governments to protect and steward Garry Oak ecosystems. Rebecca joined GOERT as our Executive Director last June. “It was a rewarding first opportunity for me to represent GOERT and communicate our mandate to key conservation partners. I felt everyone was very receptive and that the workshops were a great success.”
Garry Oak and associated ecosystems are among the most at-risk in Canada: less than 5% remain in near-natural condition, and there are more than 100 at-risk species dependent on them. Although these species are listed provincially or federally as “at risk”, federal species at risk legislation does not provide protection on Provincial Crown, local government, or private lands. Because most remaining Garry Oak habitat is on private land, it is critical to work with governments, developers, and other stakeholders in our local communities to encourage and support protection of the remaining Garry Oak ecosystem sites. Several of our ongoing projects are directed to increasing local capacity to protect these rare ecosystems and their dependent species at risk.
Workshop organizers used the workshops as an opportunity to get feedback about a suite of resources targeted at local governments, land managers, and other stakeholders who directly influence development and land use in our communities. These resources include: our updated overall Recovery Strategy, a Site Records Catalogue, Model Bylaws, Best Management Practices, a new connectivity project, and our restoration guide, Restoring British Columbia’s Garry Oak Ecosystems: Principles and Practices.
New resource in development: Site Records Catalogue
In the site records, priority sites for Garry Oak ecosystem conservation are fully described and mapped according to ecological boundaries. They are then ranked according to priority for acquisition and stewardship urgency using international criteria and standards for biodiversity and connectivity assessment. Over the past two years, we have conducted field work and compiled data records to update 44 existing Site Records and to create 33 new ones, and produced a detailed ecosystem map for each site, updating the records based on expert and partner review. Once the final rankings are complete, we will provide a Site Records Catalogue, including detailed site records, ranking (both within each jurisdiction, and for the whole region), maps, and mapping files for their own GIS systems, to local governments and other stakeholders. This information will be invaluable for local government staff and elected representatives, land managers, and community groups to target their resources at the most important sites.
New resource published: Best Management Practices
Our newest resource, Best Management Practices for Garry Oak and Associated Ecosystems, provides detailed, on-the-ground recommendations for management activities designed to avoid damage to at-risk species and ecosystems. There are sections outlining activities that apply to all land managers, and targeted sections for each of a group of stakeholders (Planners, Developers, Parks and Grounds Staff, Homeowners, Stewardship Groups). The resource complements the Develop with Care Environmental Guidelines for Urban and Rural Land Development in BC. As an addition to the best management practices above, we have drafted an addendum, Mowing Best Management Practices for Garry Oak and Associated Ecosystems. Mowing as a restoration tool, or to prevent damage to at-risk species, is an emerging field of practice and research, which warranted the creation of this stand-alone document to better facilitate updates. We anticipate finalizing the Mowing BMPs this spring.
New resource in development: Model Bylaws
Model Bylaw Provisions for Protection of Garry Oak and Associated Ecosystems and their Species at Risk will be finalized this year. In addition to ideal bylaw provisions, this document contains many of the recommendations that we regularly provide to local governments and others, with rationale, to protect ecosystems and species. It also includes examples of commendable bylaws currently in use by local governments. It addresses many of the concerns faced by local governments in protecting ecosystems, based on discussions and dialogue sessions held with local government staff, developers, and other stakeholders. It is expected to become an addendum to the Green Bylaws Toolkit for Conserving Sensitive Ecosystems and Green Infrastructure, based on recommendations from federal and provincial government partners.
Thanks to Vancity enviroFund and Victoria Foundation for funding the workshops, and thanks to everyone who participated.