Pender Post Archives

December, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

PICA encourages people to remove invasive species to help protect the islands’ sensitive ecosystems. Most of the species we work to remove are invasive plants. American Bullfrogs are an entirely different kind of problem; they are an Invasive Species in the extreme. They appear on the list of the 100 Worst Alien Invasive Species in the World and we have them on Pender.

The American Bullfrog Rana (Lithobates) catesbeiana is a large brilliant green amphibian. It occurs in nature only in North America, from southern Québec and Ontario, throughout the Mississippi drainage, south to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico. Its natural range does not extend across the prairies and Great Plains or west of the Rocky Mountains.  Unfortunately, this extremely invasive species was introduced to the Pender Islands several years ago, and its numbers are increasing.

Why was this invasive species introduced outside its range? And why are thriving populations of bullfrogs found all over the world? Simple: people imported and released them. Some people wanted to have nice big fat frogs to enhance their tiny aesthetic pond. Others thought of starting commercial farms to supply frogs and tadpoles for fish bait, pets, educational dissection, and human consumption. For the most part, ‘frog farming’ has proven not to be a viable enterprise and many ‘frog farmers’ simply released the frogs or allowed them to escape when the business failed. In any case, these projects inevitably resulted in unwanted, noisy, and ecologically damaging American bullfrog populations.

Adult bull frogs are carnivorous, cannibalistic, and feed ravenously. Each female produces 20,000 or more eggs in a season. The eggs hatch after only a few days. Tadpoles transform (metamorphose) into juvenile frogs by summer’s end. Many of these will leave their home lake on warm rainy nights and head off overland to colonize new lakes and ponds. Because the aquatic tadpole stage is long, bullfrog populations can become established only in permanent water bodies - although temporary pools, ditches and ponds can act as way-stations for transients.

American Bullfrog populations are ecologically destructive. They eat everything: wild and domestic ducklings, hummingbirds, ground-nesting birds, fish, other frogs, and anything that may come within their range. Their presence can radically alter local biodiversity. Because of their abundant egg laying and the lack of predators, their numbers can increase rapidly over a short period of time. Ignoring the problem will only allow it to worsen.

The Pender Islands Conservancy Association is working closely with the Pender Islands Farmers Institute which has continued to work towards eradication of the Bullfrogs on these islands since 2011. The eradication program is managed by volunteers with the help of conservation biologist and amphibian and reptile specialist, Stan A. Orchard, President of BullfrogControl.com Inc. 

If you wish to assist in continuing this eradication program, so we can declare Pender Island bullfrog-free, please volunteer. Contact the Pender Islands Farmers Institute or the Pender Island Conservancy Association. You can also help by donating funds directly to the bullfrog eradication project. Please monitor your ponds, wetlands, or other fresh water bodies; we need to know how far the bullfrogs have spread.

Many of PICA’s projects rely on membership dues and donations for funding. Because PICA is a registered charity all dues and donations receive a tax receipt. You can drop off a cheque at the Pender Island Realty office or donate on-line through the PICA website www.pendersconservancy.org and use the “Donate Now” button.

Mark your calendar: PICA and PIFN are co-sponsoring Pender Islands' 4th annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids, to be held this year on Thursday, December 29th at 10 am. To pre-register, or for more information, contact Jill at 3126, or email penderislandcbc4kids@gmail.com. 

Sara Steil and Rhondda Porter


November, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

On Saturday, October 1st about 60 people gathered in the Parish Hall to listen to a fascinating talk by Jackie Hildering, one of the co-founders of MERS, the Marine Education and Research Society.  Her talk, “The Return of the Giants”, was an entertaining and educational introduction to Humpback whales, the gentle giants, returning from the brink of extinction.

MERS has been doing research in the area between Port Hardy and Comox as part of a campaign to prevent whale and vessel collisions.  As the number of whales increases so does the risk of collision. The average Humpback is the size of a large school bus and a collision can result in death or serious injury to the whale and considerable damage to the vessel.  MERS researchers are doing population studies of humpback whales.  They are also looking at the diet of the whales, how and where they feed, and how the risk of collision and entanglement can be reduced through education and training.

Humpback whales are baleen whales and filter their food from the 20,000 litres they take in with each mouthful of water.  Among the curious details that Jackie sprinkled throughout her talk was the fact that no one knows how humpbacks find their food.  They have no biosonar and unlike orcas, do not use echolocation.  This means that a humpback whale may have no idea that boat is near and may surface directly in front of one.

Among the curious facts that Jackie mentioned was the relationship between whales and barnacles. Many pictures of the bodies and fins of adult baleen whales show large patches of barnacles.  Each species of whale has its own species of barnacle.  Most articles say that these barnacles are just along for the ride and neither help nor harm the whale.  Jackie suggested that for humpback whales, these razor-sharp-toothed creatures living on their fins and bodies would act as the first line of defense against attacks by orca.  Trying to take a bite out of a humpback and getting a mouthful of tongue-cutting barnacles would deter all but the most determined of orcas.  There are no records of orca killing adult humpbacks, but mammal-eating orca will attack and kill humpback calves if the adults are unsuccessful in driving them off.  Predation by orca is believed to be the major cause of humpback calf death.

One of the most spectacular of sights at sea is a breaching humpback.  Again, there is no definitive answer as to why humpbacks breach.  Jackie suggests that in all things humpback, it is important to consider the context.  The whales may be posturing to show how big they are; they may be irritated by a boat which is too close, or it could simply be calves playing.  When ‘Maude’ - a 14.7 metre long humpback - breached in the middle of a group of kayakers, she might simply have been curious about the nature of these strange shapes floating above her.

The fact that there are any humpbacks left to thrill kayakers and boaters is something of a miracle.  In 1905 there were an estimated 4000 humpbacks off the west coast of Vancouver Island and an active whaling industry.   In the 1970s there were only about 1,400 humpbacks in the whole of the North Pacific.  Globally, 90 to 95% of all humpbacks had been killed.  In 1985 there were fewer than 5 humpbacks in BC waters; today 79 distinct individuals have been identified.

One of the fascinating parts of the humpback whale research has been the study of the different feeding strategies that different whales use on different parts of the coast.  Jackie explained and showed videos of humpbacks using bubble netting, lunge feeding, and trap feeding, the latter a strategy not reported elsewhere.  This research is key to understanding the movements of humpbacks along the coast as the location of populations of herring, pilchard, capelin, sand lance, and krill will determine where humpbacks will congregate to feed.

One of the goals of MERS is to reduce the threats to humpbacks.  In addition to vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear and marine debris could be a significant factor in humpback mortality.  A study of scarring on the bodies and fins of humpback whales shows that at least 47% of all humpbacks have been entangled at least once in their lives.  Due to their size, few humpback carcases get washed ashore; most sink to the bottom of the ocean, so the number of deaths due to entanglement is hard to calculate.

How can boaters help?  “See a Blow? Go Slow!”  Unlike orca, which usually swim in straight lines close to the surface, humpbacks tend to swim in more random circular patterns well below the surface, and may come up to breathe only once every 20 minutes.  If you are out on the water and see a whale entangled in fishing gear, don’t try to disentangle it yourself.  This is a job for experts. Instead, try to keep track of the whale’s location and contact the Department of Fisheries reporting line 1-800-465-4336 or the Coast Guard on VHF 16, or better still, both.  To learn more about humpback and minke whales, visit the MERS website at www.mers.org or follow them on Facebook.  Don’t forget to visit the PICA website www.penderconservancy.org for information on our projects and events. You can also follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/penderconservancy.org/

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary


October, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

In August volunteers from PICA helped to begin mapping the kelp beds around the Penders. September’s PICA article reported on the team’s involvement in the mapping of kelp forests in the Salish Sea with researchers from UVic and Sea Change. Most people are familiar with the sight of kelp either at sea or washed up on the shore after a storm, but probably give little thought to the importance of kelp.  Kelp is not just beneficial for marine ecosystems, it also benefits everyone who lives along the coast. Rafts of kelp close to shore act as a natural form of wave abatement. As kayakers know, if you find yourself in rough seas, head for a bed of kelp and drape the strands of kelp across your bow and stern to stabilize your kayak until it is safe to move on. Along coast lines kelp rafts help soften the force of the waves hitting the shoreline and thereby help to reduce the erosion of the beach.

Scientists are now just beginning to recognize the importance of kelp as a global carbon sink, which brings us to sea otters and sea urchins. A recent article in the Guardian Weekly (22.07.16 page 32) reported on research which has been done in Alaska by James Estes, an American marine biologist. Rather than studying food chains from the bottom up, from algae to plankton, and fish and seals further up the chain, he started at the top and worked his way down. For the past 45 years he has been studying how marine and terrestrial predators can change marine and land environments. His research considers how predators can influence the health of plants, kelp in particular. He also concludes that kelp has the capacity to absorb billions of kilograms of carbon, so healthy kelp forests are essential to controlling rising levels of carbon dioxide, which brings us to sea otters.

Estes found that areas with healthy sea otter populations had healthy kelp forests. Sea otters are the main predator of sea urchins. Sea urchins are herbivores and kelp is their ‘grass’. The areas he studied where there were no sea otters had no kelp forests, just huge sea urchins littering the ocean floor, an ocean floor desert.

There are two main kinds of sea urchins found off the Pacific Coast: red sea urchins, which can live to be more than 100 years old, and green sea urchins, which live on average 25 years. Both species are found along the shorelines of the Salish Sea, although green urchins are more common. Here, there are no sea otter colonies to help keep the sea urchin population under control. If we have sea urchins but no sea otters, why do we have any kelp beds to map? The answer may surprise you. BC has a thriving sea urchin fishery and one of the planned for and recognized outcomes is a reduction in the number of sea urchins to help to protect the kelp. The sea urchins are harvested by divers and shipped to Asia, primarily to Japan, where they are a favourite in sushi. Good news for the kelp.

Another good news story from the Salish Sea is the return of the humpback whales. Humpbacks were virtually wiped out in many areas of the world as a result of commercial whaling. A whaling station on Northern Vancouver Island wasn’t closed until 1967, the year after an international ban on commercial whaling took effect. Recently in the US, the National Marine Fisheries Service took most humpbacks off the endangered species list. They have identified 14 distinct populations of humpbacks around the world and have said that nine of these have recovered to the point where they are no longer endangered. To learn more about the return of these gentle giants to the Salish Sea be at the Anglican Parish Hall on Saturday, October 1st at 4:00pm for “They’re big, they’re beautiful, and they’re back from the brink of extinction!” with Jackie Hildering, a researcher with the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS).

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary


September, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Kelp Mapping Project

Last month, volunteers from PICA helped with an ongoing kelp mapping project being run jointly by Sea Change and University of Victoria. Bull Kelp (Nereocysitis luetkeana) is a large annual seaweed that comprise large underwater forests in coastal waters from Alaska to California, and are common to the Gulf Islands and the Salish Sea.  They are very important to the ecosystems of the coast as they provide habitat to an incredible variety of organisms, from plankton to crustaceans, snails to small salmon, sea otters to waterfowl. Unfortunately, bull kelp forests are vulnerable to changes in the ecosystems in which they live.  They are negatively affected by changes in temperature and salinity of the water, increased silt and toxins in runoff and an increase in creatures that feed on the kelp. (Declines in sea otter populations in the past and the current collapse of starfish populations have lead to a great increase in the numbers of sea urchin, who love to munch on kelp).

It appears that the kelp forests in the Salish Sea are declining; the beds are fewer and more sparse. This is of great concern, but there is little data about the previous sizes of kelp beds other than anecdotal observations of long time residents of the area. In order to reliably measure the changes in kelp beds, base line data has to be obtained.  Mayne Island Conservancy and other volunteers have been mapping out and monitoring kelp beds around Mayne for six years now, using a combination of satellite photos, and on-the-water- mapping using hand held GPS devices.  There is no reliable evidence regarding the kelp beds around Pender.

To that end, a small handful of volunteers, led by researchers Leanna Boyer from Sea Change and Sarah Schroeder from the University of Victoria, went out at low tide in canoes and kayaks.  Armed with GPS devices and weighted tape measures we sought out and mapped kelp beds in the waters around Pender Island.  Since we could only map for an hour on each side of lowest tide, it took three days (kelp beds are easier to see at low tide, and sticking to this timetable allows for standardization in data from other areas and years of mapping). Unfortunately we were unable to cover all the known kelp beds, but it was a good start. Hopefully, we will get more volunteers next year and will be able to cover more ground—um...water.

According to Leanna, the kelp mapping was a great success, and it is hoped that it will continue in years to come under the leadership of community volunteers.  For more information check out the link at conservancyonmayne.com/kelp.php.

Elizabeth Miles


August, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Living on an island we are constantly made aware of the waters around us, whether we are travelling by ferry, out in our boats, kayaking, diving or standing on shore watching passing whales. The waterways of the Salish Sea are heavily used by humans and yet these waters are also home to an amazing variety of life, from the tiniest of zooplankton to the smallest forage fish and the largest whale. Over the years a number of groups and dedicated individuals have been working to create a National Marine Conservation Area. What is a National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) and why is the implementation of the NMCA for the Salish Sea so urgently needed?

Over time, people became aware that the biodiversity of the marine ecology of the Southern Strait of Georgia was becoming in peril due to over use of the marine waters in this high traffic area. As a result, in 1995, the idea of a Southern Strait of Georgia Marine Protected Area was born. This area was first proposed for national protection over 40 years ago. The NMCA will protect about 1400 sq. km of ocean surrounding the southern Gulf Islands. .

The Southern Strait of Georgia is home to more than 3000 species. These include many “world giants” such as the world’s largest octopus, 100-year-old rockfish, forage fish spawning habitat with nurseries of eelgrass meadows and kelp beds, schools of herring and salmon, millions of birds, as well as seals and sea lions, dolphins and whales, including the iconic Endangered Southern Resident Orca Whales (largest of the dolphin family), and they are all in peril.

The incredible natural beauty and abundance of life led scientists, including world-renowned ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, to call for its protection back in 1970. In 2003, Parks Canada and the provincial government began working to establish the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area, but over a decade later, the area is still not protected.

National Marine Conservation Areas are a type of marine protected areas created by Parks Canada, which have the same goals as a national park – conservation, public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment – in addition to the goal of sustainable use. Activities such as commercial and recreational fishing, shipping, transportation, tourism and recreation are still allowed in the region, but are managed in a conservation-oriented manner. Traditional food, social, and ceremonial harvesting by First Nations peoples are also allowed.

Exclusions include a network of ‘no-take’ core areas with buffer zones, as well as, special management zones (such as whale sanctuaries, research-only areas, and eelgrass protection sites), Also excluded from these areas are activities harmful to marine ecosystems including bottom trawling, large-scale dredging, dumping, salmon aquaculture and non-renewable resource development.

The waters of the Southern Strait of Georgia are a source of resources, transportation, recreation and inspiration for millions of humans, and a home to many plants and animals whose health and well-being is intimately connected to our quality of life. Known by Coast Salish peoples as “SQELATES” (meaning “home”), this very special body of water has long been revered for its role in nurturing both human and natural ecosystems.

Those of us who call the Salish Sea home or visit these waters will strongly agree that this stretch of ocean should be protected forever – from the seabed to the shore – before it’s too late! What can you do to help? While the boundary will be finalized during the next stage of discussions, the area proposed for the NMCA extends from Haro Strait to Gabriola Island and provide protection for a variety of marine life, including the endangered orca. You can help to protect this incredible natural habitat by showing your support for the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area to protect the diverse marine life in this bustling body of water. The Canadians Parks and Wilderness Society is one the groups pushing to protect this area.  Go to their website www.cpawsbc.org and learn how to send an email to the provincial government.  Just click on the banner of the pod of orca and let the Minister know that you support the NMCA.

PICA is currently involved in three projects which directly involve life in the Salish Sea. A team of volunteers regularly monitors beaches for signs of forage fish eggs. We are also working with a team from Sea Change in the restoration of eel grass meadows. Our newest project, which begins this month again with Sea Change, involves the mapping of kelp beds from the water and then comparing the GPS coordinates with satellite images. Visit our website or find us on Facebook and learn more about what we are doing and how you can get involved.

Sara Steil and Rhondda Porter


July, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

I know that it is hard to believe, but the educational panels have been installed in the kiosk at Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary.  It is intended that the panels will serve to give an insight into some of the special features of the Sanctuary.  The information on forage fish illustrates the need to protect the beach from excessive disturbances in order to protect this spawning habitat for surf smelt.  The ecology of the Sanctuary includes rare plant species and ecological communities, particularly in the brackish marsh, which are deserving of protection.  The marsh also plays host to a number of migratory birds. The coastal bluff and the upland forest also have their own characteristic ecological communities.  Recognition of the significance of W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) First Nations' history at Medicine Beach and the ongoing protection of this historical site are of major importance.  It is hoped that a closer relationship between our local First Nations and the Pender Islands' communities will result.  All in all, it is hoped that with this new source of information at the Sanctuary that this gem on North Pender will provide even greater enjoyment and provide a learning experience to both locals and visitors to the nature sanctuary and beach while increasing awareness of the ecological sensitivity of this location.

The Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary was established in 1995 through fund-raising activities by PICA  and donated to the Islands Trust Fund.  PICA is the manager of the 8.44 hectare (20.12 acre) site which is protected by conservation covenants jointly held by the Habitat Acquisition Trust and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.  The Sanctuary is inspected annually by the co-covenant holders to determine the overall health and status of the ecological communities. 

The driftwood on the beach should not be removed as it provides important protection to the berm/midden and in turn the marsh from wave action during winter storms and high tides.  The influx of seawater into the marsh through the drainage channel during storm activity maintains the salinity of this habitat rendering it suitable for a variety of salt tolerant plant and animal communities.  Two ephemeral streams and a year-round spring-fed stream flow into the marsh from three different watersheds.

In spite of regulations to the contrary there have been at least two beach fires on Medicine Beach during the dry weather this year. Pender Island Fire and Rescue and the R.C.M.P. have been made aware of these incidents.  Please be fire aware and report open fires.  Also, please “Pack in/Pack out”, the dogipot receptacles are for pet waste only.

For current infomation on matters of conservation interest on the Pender Islands visit our website at www.penderconservancy.org.

Graham Boffey
PICA Chair


June, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

On May 5th, PICA held its annual AGM at the Parish Hall.  At the meeting the Board presented its Annual Report and year-end financials.  The Board said farewell to John Chapman who is leaving the Board and welcomed our new board member, Elizabeth Miles.  The draft minutes of the 2016 AGM are on the PICA website as is the 2016 Report from the Board.  Go to penderconservancy.org/annual-reports/agenda-for-the-2016-annual.html  

After the short business meeting and refreshments, we welcomed Chris Genovali from the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.  Chris is the Executive Director of Raincoast and came to our AGM to talk about the Great Bear Rainforest, the work which has been done to protect it and the work which remains.

Chris began his talk by giving us a bit of background to the work of Raincoast by outlining the Foundation’s commitment to conservation, research and advocacy.   Their vision for coastal BC is “to secure protection for the habitats and resources of umbrella species” and to "investigate, inform, and inspire".  They do this by taking their scientific research to decision makers and communities to inspire people to take action to protect wildlife and wilderness habitats. 

The Great Bear Rainforest covers approximately 60,000 square kilometres (6 million hectares), which is about the size of two Switzerlands.  This area contains one of the largest intact tracts of temperate coastal rainforest.  The struggle to protect this area began in the 1990’s.  Earlier this year, the provincial government announced that a land use agreement had been reached and that 85% of the Great Bear Rainforest was now protected.  However, as Chris pointed out, this isn’t actually true. The new agreement protects 43% of the area through "eco-based management" which determines forestry practices.  The 42% defined as protected areas covers only 38% of the actual land mass.  Part of the agreement included a limited number of “focal species”, but Coastal wolves and wild salmon, a foundation species for coastal ecosystems, were not included.  

Many people who read the newspaper articles announcing the agreement may have thought that the announced protection would mean an end to trophy hunting in the area.  Chris explained that this is unfortunately not the case. Trophy hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest continues.  Chris pointed out that all the announcement means is that Raincoast and Coastal First Nations can purchase the commercial hunting tenures and the kill quota attached to the tenure will be permanently retired.  Hunting tenures are huge; one which Raincoast has managed to purchase was 24,000 square kilometres, and that was a relatively small one. (The Great Bear Rainforest includes portions of multiple commercial hunting tenures.)  However, the commercial trophy hunting announcement by the province does nothing to address the issue of trophy hunting by BC residents.  This hunt accounts for 60% of the grizzly kill in the Great Bear Rainforest.  Another animal which is accorded little or no protection from trophy hunting is the black bear.  Coastal black bears are particularly vulnerable when they come down to the estuaries to eat grass in the spring when the hunt opens.  They become “sitting ducks” as they feed in areas with little or no tree cover.  They are also “sitting ducks” in the fall when they come down to the streams and rivers to feed on salmon prior to hibernation.  Although it is illegal to kill the white ‘Spirit Bear’, there is no protection for the black bears, some of which carry the recessive gene which gives rise to the white form of the bear.

Since bear viewing generates ten times the revenue of trophy hunting, as Chris said, “It makes more sense to shoot bears with cameras.”

April 23rd was a wonderfully successful Beach Clean-up.  Look for Elizabeth Miles’ full report at the front of this month’s issue of the Pender Post.  Look here for pictures of the happy event.

Did you know that June 8th is World Oceans Day?  The original proposal for the day was made by Canada in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  After years of unofficial celebration, this day was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008.  If you read the most recent copy of Seaside Magazine, you will have noticed that on Sunday, June 5th, the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea will be hosting a “big, outdoor party at Beacon Park on the Sidney waterfront” from 10am to 3pm to celebrate all things ‘ocean’.  

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary


May, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar Event:
May 5 PICA Annual General Meeting and Great Bear Rainforest talk Parish Hall 7pm

PICA is holding its Annual General Meeting on Thursday, May 7th in the Anglican Parish Hall. You will be able to join PICA or renew your membership at the meeting. Everyone is welcome to attend the AGM, but only members will be able to vote. Following the business part of the AGM and a short break for refreshments, Chris Genovali of Raincoast Conservation Foundation, will talk about their work to protect the Great Bear Rainforest.

The Great Bear Rainforest is a 6.4 million hectare area of temperate rainforest on the north-central coast of the province. This area is part of the Pacific temperate rainforest ecoregion and is home to cougars, wolves, salmon, grizzly bears, and the white Kermode or Spirit bear, a unique subspecies of the black bear. The area got its name in the mid 1990’s when environmental groups and First Nations recognized that logging and resource development would soon destroy much of the remaining old-growth timber. Only this year did the Provincial government reach an agreement to protect 85% of the area from industrial logging. Following Chris’s talk, there will be an opportunity to ask questions and discuss some of the conservation issues involved in protecting endangered ecosystems.

As Executive Director of Raincoast, Chris has made it a priority to partner with coastal communities to monitor wildlife, keep ecosystems intact and healthy, and encourage the development of local conservation science. Before joining Raincoast in 1998, Chris led campaigns at the Wilderness Committee to conserve temperate rainforests and wildlife on southern Vancouver Island and coastal BC. Chris is a prolific writer, with articles, op-eds and features on Canadian wildlife and conservation issues widely published in Canada and internationally, including the Vancouver Sun, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and Guardian UK. We are fortunate that he was able to take the time to come to Pender to speak to us. Please join us on May 5th at 7:00 pm at the Anglican Parish Hall.

By the time you read this, PICA’s Annual Beach Clean-up will be over for another year. Once again the success of the event depended on the hard work of the organizers, Elizabeth Miles and Trinette Prior, and their team of volunteers. Thanks to everyone who scoured the beaches and dragged in bags of litter to our drop off at the Medicine Beach Liquor Store parking lot. Thanks also to our sponsors and to the people who donated prizes. A complete write up of the event, including the total amount of debris collected and the prize winners will appear in the June Pender Post.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary


March, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

March brings us a couple of special days related to the environment.  March 21st is the International Day of Forests, a day chosen by the United Nations to highlight the importance of the world's forests. The theme of this year's event is "Forests and Water / Sustain Life and Livelihoods".  The day is intended to draw attention to the importance of water in the "broader context of sustainable development.”  The International Day of Forests is followed on March 22 by World Water Day, chosen by the United Nations to draw attention to the many issues concerning water.  The theme for 2016 is water and jobs, to show how "quantity and quality of water can change workers' lives and livelihoods and even transform societies and economies."

According to statistics compiled by the UN, "Seventy-five percent of freshwater used for household, agricultural and industrial needs is provided through forested catchments", so it is easy to see how closely connected the themes of the two days are.

Locally, last October 10 we had our own Water Day.  We had the opportunity to hear a presentation from Dr. Jim Henderson about the groundwater on Pender and how important it is for us to plan for the future.  He also spoke about the importance of forested land in replenishing the water in our aquifers.  If you missed the talk or would like a refresher, you can see the information that he presented archived under Events on this PICA website.

PICA’s Forage Fish Monitoring team is hard at work, checking more of Pender's beaches for signs of sand lance and surf smelt eggs.  Many of Pender's beaches have an ideal configuration and location for forage fish spawning and we continue to check new beaches to add to our list.  If you are interested in joining the team, you can contact team leader Jon at 3748.  No experience or special equipment is required, just enthusiasm and a desire to become a "citizen scientist”.  All the data collected is forwarded to a forage fish biologist and shared with other scientists.

The Salmon People are continuing their work on restoring Chum salmon to Hope Bay Stream.  On January 20, 35,000 Chum eggs were placed in an incubation cassette in the stream.  Volunteers monitored the stream temperature daily and kept track of the ATUs (accumulated thermal units) to see when the eggs might hatch.  As a result of a flash flood after a couple of days of torrential rain in the middle of February, the cassette was dislodged.  Only a rope kept it from being washed out to sea. If this year was similar to last year, the eggs should have hatched and the alevin should have been out of the cassette and hiding in the gravel living off their egg sacs and hanging on tightly before the flash flood came.  Volunteers will continue to monitor the stream and check for fry.

Next month PICA will again be sponsoring the Annual Beach Clean-up in honour of Earth Day.   Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 23.  We are currently up-dating our list of Adopt-a-Beach volunteers.  If you have already adopted a beach, or if you have a beach that you would like to adopt, please contact one of the program coordinators: Trinette (2213) or Elizabeth (250-539-8843).   Adopt-a-Beach volunteers work year round collecting litter and other debris brought in by the tide. There is usually more than enough debris, especially in winter, to go around.  If you have a regular beach that you visit and already pick up debris as you walk or kayak, please let us know.  We would like to be able to have volunteers for every beach on Pender, and there are a lot of them!

To find out what PICA volunteers are doing, follow us on Facebook.  Don't forget to check our website for information on local conservation-related events and topics.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary


February, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Have you ever wondered what you might be stepping on as you roam the beaches of North and South Pender?  Maybe “critters” not seen by the naked eye?  Perhaps it might be the embryos of several types of forage fish that spawn on these beaches of the Salish Sea.  These fish feed on zooplancton which is at the bottom of the food chain; the top being the three resident endangered Orca pods that live in these waters.

There are two types of forage fish that spawn here, Pacific surf smelt and sand lance (needlefish or sand eel).  They range throughout the near marine shores from Alaska to California. Surf smelts are a small, silvery, pelagic schooling fish. They are about 9" in length; olive green in colour with silver or yellow side bands.Their scales are small and they have an adipose fin.  Their life span is about 3-5 years.  Sand lances grow to 8".  Their dorsal fin is grey-green in colour with silver sides.  The elongated pointed body has no adipose fin and the scales are almost invivisible.  Their life span is about 7 years.  Both types are repeat spawners and both spawn during the winter months.  On the San Juan Islands, the surf smelts spawn year round.

Both types of fish lay their eggs in coarse sand or pea-size gravel 1 – 2 metres below the high tide line.  They are repeat spawners throughout the spawning season.  These eggs, too small to be seen by the naked eye, are very susceptible to shoreline disruptions, i.e. development, pollution, and recreational activities.  Vegetation above the high, high tide line is of great importance as shade from trees and bushes regulate the temperature of the air and sand.  Therefore it is of great importance that landowners maintain or restore these shore line for spawning purposes.

Of great importance for the survival of these juvenile fish are Eel Grass beds, which provide food and hiding places.  These grasses attract more than 70 species of fish, invertabrates and a 100 species of algae.  These young fish feed on the zooplancton which is attatched to the green algae.

Eel Grass is not a seaweed but a green, ribbon-like grass that grows near the shore line.  These beds can often be seen at low tide.  This grass produces oxygen, and plays a role in global climate change and a critical role in ocean cycles.  They also protect coastlines by slowing down wave and currant actions.  There are many threats that affect these beds, from industrial and residential developments, to fertilizer and sewage runoffs.  Recreational activities are boat discharges, the dragging of anchors and propellers that can rip the young grasses.  As these grasses need sunlight to grow, the placement of docks is important.  These beds  are protected by law (The Federal Fisheries Act, Section 35).  If planning a project that might impact fish habitat, contact BC Ministry of Environment, Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Why not join us for about an hour or so to look for forage fish eggs that we can't see?  The sand samples are then looked at under a microscope for any signs of life.  A number of beaches on Pender Island have tested positive.  If you would care to join us, contact anyone at PICA.

Patti Badcock, Eleanor Brownlee


December, 2015
Medicine Beach Report

Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary at the head of Bedwell Harbour on North Pender Island has been a place of human experience for thousands of years.  Prior to the arrival of the first European settlers in the 1800's Medicine Beach was a location of the summer camps of the Coast Salish W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations or “saltwater people” where fishing, clam collection, plant and berry collecting occurred. The diverse ecology of the 8.44 hectare (20 acre) property is protected in perpetuity by conservation covenants held by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Habitat Acquisition Trust.

The Sanctuary, located in the endangered Coastal Douglas Fir zone, consists of a forested area, coastal bluffs and a brackish marsh which provide the community with a year round exceptional educational opportunity for learning about the inter-relationships between these ecological communities and their influence upon wildlife.  The beach is a popular place for relaxation and enjoyment by Pender Islanders and visitors.

Wandering along the beach one can find a variety of inter-tidal marine life, some adapted to living under the shattered rocks on the foreshore such as shore crabs, periwinkles and limpets, other species, particularly those sensitive to desiccation including the brilliantly coloured nudibranchs and sea cucumbers, surviving the period between tides in a pool or in the shallows along the shore.  After searching, always return rocks to the same place.  The foreshore provides habitat for the deposition and development of the eggs of the Surf smelt, an important forage fish species that provides food for many species of sea life including predatory fish, marine mammals and marine birds.  Never remove natural materials from the beach; kelp, driftwood, rocks, sand and gravel are essential habitat.

The brackish marsh is rare in the Gulf Islands and is a location where visiting birds may be observed during their migrations.  The blue-listed Henderson's checker-mallow is a member of the resident flora in the marsh but is threatened by the dietary habits of the Island's over population of black-tailed deer.  The logs and driftwood provide protection for the berm.

A clearly marked trail through the Douglas fir forest leads from Aldridge Road to the parking lot at Medicine Beach.  Visitors are requested to stay on the main trail to avoid ecosystem damage.  Oregon beaked moss provides a carpet under the trees and a variety of lichens and mosses grow on tree branches.  Unfortunately, invasive Spurge laurel (Daphne sp.) requires constant removal following seed dispersal by bird-life.  This area was logged in the early 1900's and was used as a sheep pasture. Thus, the forest is an example of second growth with evidence of developing mature forest ecological communities.  Western Red Cedar along with Douglas fir are the predominant tree species with Red Alder present in more moist areas.  Some Grand fir is present and an understory of Salal and Swordfern is abundant under the forest canopy.  The Garry Oaks and Arbutus are facing a limited future due to browsing on their seedlings by black-tailed deer.  Western garter snakes and amphibians such as Rough-coated newts and Pacific tree frogs are to be found in the forested areas.

The bluffs are evidence of the geological upheavals to which the area has been subject over millions of years.  The bedrock is a coarse grained sandstone deposited about 80 million years ago in primeval seas more than 200 metres deep and then uplifted by geological pressures, to where in the present day the strata have a near vertical orientation.  This rugged area provides habitat for species including arbutus and nodding onion.

On behalf of the Islands Trust Fund and PICA, a special thank you to those pet owners who are keeping the Sanctuary clean by using the Dogipots located in the parking lot and on the forest trail for collection of dog deposits, but please do not use them for garbage – always remember “pack in, pack out!"

Graham Boffey


November, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

On Saturday, October 10th, a full-to-overflowing crowd gathered at the Community Hall to hear Dr. Jim Henderson’s presentation “Truths and Misconceptions about Pender Islands’ Groundwater: Planning for the Future”.  Gary Steeves welcomed everyone, especially those travelling from other islands, including George Grams from Salt Spring, and Lee Middleton from Saturna.  Bill Deverell introduced Dr. Henderson, who first came to Pender in the early 1990s to study groundwater.  Dr. Henderson is a geophysicist based in Calgary who specializes in risk management as it relates to water. 

Dr. Henderson began his talk by explaining why small islands are such interesting places to study. Since the only potable water comes from rainwater and groundwater, studying the hydrology and answering questions about the water resources and their location becomes manageable.  He began with the four general ‘truths’ about water: 1) Water runs downhill (from high to low pressure); 2) Fresh water floats on salt water; 3) BC owns all groundwater; 4) The only freshwater is rainfall.  He pointed out that even these ‘truths’ are not always true.  For example, due to the area’s unique geophysical structure, Medicine Beach has a saltwater marsh, which means there is salt water floating on top of the fresh water.

In addition to explaining how groundwater data is collected, Dr. Henderson mentioned a number of issues related to water management on Pender and the other Gulf Islands: drought, saline intrusion and other contaminants, especially E. coli, water well interference, seismicity, and lack of alternative natural water sources.  One problem that he referred to several times in his lecture was the lack of a coordinated water management policy on the part of all three levels of government. 

An important part of his presentation was the tables of precipitation data for Pender.  The average for Pender is 803 mm per year.  About one quarter of the rainfall is in spring and summer with three quarters being in fall and winter.  Summer, the time of year with the least precipitation, is also the season of maximum consumption due to the seasonal increase in the number of residents and visitors.  

Drought is defined as any period which has only 60% of the average monthly precipitation.  Based on the historical precipitation data for Pender, every second year there is a summer drought; every third year there is a spring or fall drought; and every fifth year there is a winter drought. The records show that in 1943 there was a drought for the entire year.  Dr. Henderson stressed that water management must depend on the worst years, not on the average years.  Furthermore, total rainfall does not give a real picture of the availability of groundwater since approximately 64% of all rainfall is lost due to evaporation/transpiration and never becomes part of an aquifer.  In addition to total rainfall, a number of other factors influence groundwater recharge including texture and gradation of the surface, topography, temperature, the volume and intensity of rain, and the nature and use of the vegetative cover.  

Dr. Henderson gave us a fairly detailed explanation of the geology of Pender and how this affects groundwater storage and the availability of water from wells.  He referred to geology as “the bank that stores the water”.  Many people think of an aquifer as a bowl of water sitting on bedrock under more porous horizontal layers of rock.  Cross-sections of Pender show that rock layers here are anything but flat.  A view of the rocky shoreline of Medicine Beach from the top of the bluff will emphasize this point.  The geology of Pender is further complicated by the presence of faults.  The geology of Pender help explains why one well will produce ample water while a well on a neighbouring property will be dry. 

According to Dr. Henderson, water availability now and in the future will depend on a number of factors, many of which are within our control.  Protecting aquatic and wetland habitats helps recharge the groundwater.  Trees also play a significant role in recharging ground water by aiding infiltration and preventing run-off.   An island-wide campaign to encourage conservation and rainwater catchment even if it is only for outside use can reduce the drain on groundwater.  Educational programs have been shown to reduce consumption by 10%.  Installing water meters to help detect leaks and charging consumers for water also helps.  Monitoring and metering wells to determine the height of the water table and the quality of the water as well as the amount of water being taken out of the aquifer should be part of an integrated water management plan.  Every island has a limited carrying capacity and unfortunately no research has been done to determine what Pender’s carrying capacity is.  (Carrying capacity is defined as the maximum, equilibrium number of organisms of a particular species that can be supported indefinitely in a given environment.)

Dr. Henderson presented data which showed that 28% of North Pender is currently either protected from development or is agricultural land.  On South Pender almost 50% of the area is either protected or agricultural.  However on both Penders there are undeveloped lots.  On North Pender there are 2100 lots already built on with a potential of 4200 at total build-out.  On South Pender there are 270 lots, not all of which have been built on, but of these lots, 43 have potential for subdivision.  Every house that is built will require access to fresh water.  At some point there may not be enough water for everyone.

A major problem for islands is the fact that excessive extraction of groundwater through wells can deplete the aquifer.  This depletion can result in saltwater intrusion, especially in areas close to the shorelines. Salt water may not be that far down.   A test well at Roesland shows that the freshwater/saltwater boundary is only 56 metres below the surface.   Once aquifers are drawn down to the point of saltwater infiltration, there is no way to reverse the process. Digging deeper wells or additional wells to satisfy the demand is also not a solution.  

The amount of available groundwater is always limited by the amount of rainfall.  As Dr. Henderson pointed out, a change in the amount of precipitation due to climate change is one factor over which we have no control.  However, with effective water management strategies, areas dependant on rainfall for water can plan for the future.  Limiting development and controlling land use will help to protect the groundwater and prevent the rate of depletion from exceeding the rate of recharge. 

If you missed Dr. Henderson’s presentation or if you would like to review some of the data he presented and some of his recommendations there is a link to his slides on the PICA website at www.penderconservancy.org.  Dr. Henderson’s visit to Pender was sponsored by PITPS and PICA with financial support from the CRD.

On Saturday, October 17th at 1pm, there was a 20th Anniversary party for the Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary.  In 1994, under the leadership of a fledgling PICA, a group of dedicated volunteers came together to rally the community to raise $533,997 to save this remarkable place. A plaque next to the path up the bluff commemorates the successful completion of this incredible community effort.

It was wonderful to have so many of the original fundraising group come together at the beach to share in the celebration and swap stories of their adventures in fundraising.  Andrea Spaulding and Lynne Wells lead the crowd in a verse and chorus of the Medicine Beach song written by David and Andrea.  Andrea read a poem written by a visiting English poet to commemorate Medicine Beach, and then after a chorus of “Happy Birthday” it was time for Lynne to cut the cake.  Slow Coast Coffee donated the coffee for the party. Musicians, Elizabeth Miles, Dobro Bob, Paul Scarnati, and Dan Charman provided us with almost two hours of non-stop music, only stopping once to take a short cake break.  Down on the beach, Jon Ruiz and members of his Forage Fish Monitoring Team, explained the monitoring procedure and demonstrated how samples are collected and prepared.  In the parking lot, Judy Felber set up a table with information about forage fish and a microscope to show what forage fish eggs look like. Thank you to everyone who helped make this event such a success!

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary


October, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar entries:  

October 10  Truths and Misconceptions about Pender Islands Groundwater: Planning for the Future 1 pm upstairs in our Community Centre 

October 17  20th Anniversary of the Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary   1 - 3 pm at Medicine Beach

October will be a busy month, with two special PICA-supported events. On Saturday, October 10, PITPS, PICA, and the CRD will host a talk by Dr. Jim Henderson on “Truth and Misconceptions about Pender Islands Groundwater: Planning for the Future”. Dr. Henderson is a PhD geophysicist whose Masters and PhD work involved research on groundwater management on the Pender Islands. Jim’s presentation will provide an overview of water supply for the Islands Trust area, with a special emphasis on North and South Pender Island. He will discuss the limitations on our water supply and current water demands, along with what can be done to reduce demand now and in the future. He will also present an alternative approach to managing water issues on the Islands. Come to the Community Hall at 1pm to learn more about the protection of this vital resource. Admission will be by donation.

The second special event will be held the following Saturday, October 17, at Medicine Beach. Did you know that 20 years ago, in April 1995, the Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary came into being? The story of this remarkable feat on the part of the community is detailed in PICA’s newsletter from December 1995.  Here is part of the story.

On April 30 of this year (1995), Pender Island residents celebrated the successful culmination of a fundraising campaign to save the marsh at Medicine Beach. The effort behind this campaign was a truly remarkable experience for us islanders. It began more than a year before when the Pender Islands Conservancy Association negotiated with the property owners, the Atkins family of Vancouver, for an option-to-purchase on the 20 acre parcel of waterfront that included the 5 acre marsh. The purchase price of $477,000 was just under the assessed value of $500,000 and was a daunting figure in the eyes of the Conservancy directors. There was a mysterious feeling amongst us of actually pulling it off, we just didn’t know how it was to be done. Perhaps this is the advantage of novice fund-raisers—you set off to do the impossible because you don’t know it’s impossible to begin with.

The plan the Conservancy directors presented to the membership was to have an eight-month fundraising campaign. The Islands Trust Fund Board, an Agent of the Crown, had agreed to a request from the Conservancy to hold the property title, thus eliminating future property taxes on the property and creating tax advantages for potential donors to the campaign. Once the property was secured for protection, the Conservancy would manage it under agreement with the Trust Fund Board.

The Atkins family set the wheels in motion with an initial donation of $100,000. Suddenly we had to raise only $377,000. Psychologically this seemed to be achievable. The campaign began September 1 (1994) and the community responded enthusiastically. Over 37 events were held during the next eight months including a celebrity dinner hosted by James Barber, a huge barn dance, an art show, concerts, an auction, a home and garden tour, and many other activities involving all segments of the community. In the end these community efforts raised $267,000 towards the goal.

The visible community support also helped the Conservancy to secure additional funding for the project from other sources: $70,000 from the Habitat Conservation Fund of the BC Ministry of the Ministry of the Environment, $50,000 from Wildlife Habitat Canada, $10,000 from the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and $10,000 from the CRD. With the mounting success of the campaign, the Atkins family increased their initial donation to $127,000 and the fundraising thermometer located at the Driftwood went over the top.

The final fundraising tally is as follows: total amount raised by the campaign $533,997; fundraising expenses $31,859; purchase price $477,000. This leaves a total of $25,138 in a newly established Medicine Beach Management Trust Fund—funds that will be used for the next few years by the Conservancy in looking after the property.

PICA is still responsible for looking after Medicine Beach. In the past year we have added new trail markers, doggy pots, and the framework for an information kiosk which will have three panels with information about the First Nations use of the area and the ecology of the intertidal zone, marsh and upland area. Come and join us from 1 - 3 pm at Medicine Beach on Saturday, October 17 for a birthday beach party (with cake!) to celebrate this remarkable place and the community which made it possible. 

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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September, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar entry:  
October 10 Truths and Misconceptions about Pender Islands Groundwater: Planning for the Future 1 pm upstairs in our Community Centre 


Pender Islands Ground Water presentation:

We are anticipating a very interesting talk about Pender Island groundwater by Dr. Jim Henderson. This will take place October 10/15, 1 pm at the Community Hall.  This talk is organised by PITPS (Pender Islands Trust Protection Society) and co-sponsored by PICA (Pender Islands Conservancy Association).  Dr Henderson is a geophysicist whose Masters and Ph.D. work involved research on groundwater management on North and South Pender Islands.  His presentation will provide an overview of water supply including supply limitations.  He will also present an alternative approach for managing our water issues on the Penders.

Why might you be interested in the groundwater of our islands?  Here are a few teasers that will also indicate the timeliness of this topic.

We know that we are in an exceptional summer with high temperatures and little rain. At this writing, the Sunshine Coast has just declared a stage 4 water use - no outside watering with potable waters at all by homes and industry.  Our own CRD has adopted a stage 3 Water Conservation practice - no lawn watering, filling pools/hot tubs/ponds, no washing of vehicles/driveways etc.  Of course these locations - the Sunshine Coast and the CRD - both depend on reservoirs which are seriously depleting, as they are in other locations in BC.

What about wells?  All of us on Pender, save those in Magic Lake Estates, depend on well water or we have cisterns, many of which are filled from a well.  It is much more difficult to determine the amount of water available from a well than in a reservoir or cistern.  As our summer progresses, the level of water in our ground/rocks aquifers is lowering.  Many of our residents experience sea water in their wells at these times, making them useless as a source of drinking water.  But, there is anecdotal and some factual evidence that the occurrences of salinization are increasing.  We have without question always expected that our winter rains will replenish our aquifers. However there is one monitored aquifer on Galiano that is getting lower with each successive year, as is found on the monitored well on Pirates Road on North Pender.  And again, our local climate is shifting in unpredictable ways, accompanied by a gradual rising of ocean levels.   Can we expect the same winter rainfalls we have always enjoyed in the past?  (`Enjoyed' is a fresh meaning for our winter wet period.)

Our increasing population puts heavier demands on our aquifers.  This also happens for the summer influx of part-timers and visitors.  Do you know the capacity of the aquifer your well draws from. Likely not.  Do you know your own consumption needs?  Likely not.  Do you know how many other wells are drawing from your aquifer?  It is likely that you, like me, know little about your aquifer. We need to be gathering data on our Pender wells and aquifers, an activity presumably done by the CRD and/or our Provincial Government.  After listening to Jim we may better know what questions to ask and to whom.

Many of us, including myself, will be very interested in what Jim Henderson has to say about our ground water and aquifers.  Our fresh water supply is precious and at risk.

Hope Bay Salmon Stream update:

PICA has sponsored restoration of the chum salmon-bearing capability of the Hope Bay Stream actively starting in 2010.  Chum were last seen in this area in the mid-80's. Of course, this is a seasonal stream and does not flow during summer.  But Chum spawn on a suitable gravel bed in November-December when the stream is running, and eggs hatch in February-March.  

Eggs and fingerlings have been released in past years.  They have a 4-year lifetime period in the ocean before they return to spawn. We hope to see them in the Hope Bay stream this fall for the first time. That is a desired outcome for this project.  

Much volunteer effort over this time has gone into cleaning up the stream and banks.  Native vegetation was planted along the banks to reduce erosion and to give shade to the fish. However deer have stymied us by choosing to eat the unexpected.  And tree branches have been inadvertently removed in an effort to get more light to the creek.  PICA is altering its strategy about how to make this creek a sustainable salmon stream and outsmart the deer.  Stay tuned for details, and let's see what comes back this fall!

Eel Grass Project update:

PICA is working with Nikki Wright and SeaChange on another habitat restoration project, this one to restore Eel grass meadows.  Eel grass is essential habitat for a number of marine creatures including herring, the main food of Chinook salmon, which in turn are the main food of our resident orcas.  On July 31st volunteers from Pender and Brentwood Bay met at Browning Harbour to attach weights to Eel grass.  About 24 volunteers prepared the seedlings for the divers to plant on the sea bed. This is the second year of this project and in July divers found that 70% of last year's planting had survived. If you missed this event, more Eel grass restoration events are planned for Pender.

John Chapman
PICA board member

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August, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

On Saturday, July 18th a super pod of people gathered at Thieves' Bay for "Celebrating the Orca of the Salish Sea".  They were joined by a transient pod of orca researchers from Whidbey Island and Friday Harbour on San Juan Island.  There were displays, whale adoptions, presentations by Ken Balcolm from the Center for Whale Research, Howard Garrett of the Orca Network, and Jenny Atkinson from The Whale Museum.  The only thing missing was a visit from J pod.

Ken Balcolm gave the audience a chance to ask questions about orcas in general and the southern resident population in particular.  Although residents and transients are classified as one species, research suggests that at least 700,000 years of non-breeding separate transient populations from resident populations.  Transients don't mix with residents.  Transient pods will give way to resident orca if they find themselves in the same waters.  Even northern and southern residents populations have social arrangements which prevent mingling.  If they meet in a channel, they will travel along opposite shores. 

All orca are extremely sensitive to sound.  They can communicate over 30 miles underwater.  There is no commonality between the resident and transient calls, but they can recognize each other acoustically and change direction to avoid contact.  Resident orca are more vocal than transients. Transients, which hunt sea mammals such as seals, don't say much until they gather to celebrate a kill.  

The 81 individuals of the southern resident orca population belong to three pods: J, K and L.  Our local pod, J, has 27 individuals, including the 104-year-old matriarch, Granny, and the four calves born this year.  K pod has 19 members and L pod has 34.  Lolita, who currently is in Miami in a marine park, is one of several young females taken from L pod off Whidbey Island in 1970.  She is the only one of the 46 orca taken from the southern resident population to survive. Efforts continue to have her released and returned to her family.  

Howard Garret of the Orca Network described how the network started and the work that it does in keeping records of orca sightings and collecting demographic data.  Orca Network is a non-profit organization registered in Washington State, dedicated to raising awareness about the whales of the Pacific Northwest (not just orca), and the importance of providing them healthy and safe habitats. You can report orca and other whale sightings to the Orca Network website www.orcanetwork.org.  The Orca Network also has links to information about the campaign to free Lolita. 

Jenny Atkinson rounded off the presentations with a brief summary of the work of the Whale Museum and then answered a few more questions from the audience.  The Whale Museum collects information on whale and marine mammal sightings.  You can report sightings through the whale hotline at their website www.whalemuseum.org.  The data which has been collected for over 30 years is being used not just to identify individual orca, but also to identify critical habitat in the hope that law-makers on both sides of the border will take action to protect this endangered indicator species and the habitat it needs to survive.

The Fall Fair will soon be upon us.  Come to the PICA table to say “Hi” and learn more about some of our projects.  We always have room for more volunteers!

Also, don’t forget to visit the PICA website at www.penderconservancy.org to find out more about what we do and for links to useful information.  Check us out on Facebook for the latest updates on projects and events.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary


Calendar entry:

July 18  “Celebrating Orca of the Salish Sea” – 1:30 to 4:00 at Thieves Bay

July, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Since the beginning of the year, three orca calves have been born to the endangered southern resident orca, bringing the total in the three resident pods, J, K, and L to 81 individuals. It has been several years since so many calves have been born in one year.  With so few individuals, every birth is a cause for celebration.  On July 18th there will be a celebration of the Orca of the Salish Sea beginning at 1:30 at Thieves Bay.  There will be presentations by the Whale Museum, Sound Watch for boaters, and the Orca Network.  Whale research biologist, Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research will be the featured speaker. The Whale Museum will be offering ‘Endangered Resident Orca Pods’ adoptions. Lester Quitzau will be providing music and there will be a “Children’s Corner”.

Parking is limited so please walk, cycle, use Car Stops, carpool or take advantage of the Park & Ride shuttle bus service from the school parking lot. The clinic parking lot can be used for overflow parking. Shuttle service begins at 1:30 pm and continues until 4:15 when the last shuttle bus leaves Thieves Bay.

Bring a picnic lunch and a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy the afternoon with our visitors from the San Juan Islands and Whidbey Island. Don’t forget to bring water and sunscreen. Admission is by donation. Information: Contact Sara at 250-629-6885 / steils@shaw.ca

The celebration is sponsored by the Pender Islands Squadron of the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron, the Pender Islands Conservancy Association, the Pender Islands Trust Protection Society, and supported by the Friends of Brooks Point, the Kikuchi Family, the Pender Islands School Children, and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

Chinook salmon are a keystone species for the marine ecosystem and are the main food for our southern residents (78% of their diet). Overfishing of chinook threatens the well-being of orca and degradation of the marine environment affects the food supply of the smaller fish and invertebrates which feed the chinook.

PICA is involved in a forage fish monitoring program to establish which beaches on the Penders are being used for spawning by forage fish, the small fish which feed the larger fish. Come to Thieves Bay on July 18 to learn more about forage fish and the complex ecosystem which supports the orca. If you are interested in participating in our monitoring project, please contact Patti Badcock or Jon Ruiz.

Correction: In last month’s Pender Post, the excellent article written by Elizabeth Miles about the Annual Beach Clean-up was mistakenly attributed to the writer of this column.  

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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Calendar entry: 

Saturday, July 18 at Thieves Bay from 1:30 to 4:30 – “Celebrating Orca of the Salish Sea”.

June, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Despite the forecast predicting rain, PICA's Annual Beach clean-up for Earth Day held on April 25, did not get rained on. The volunteers came out; the garbage came in, and by the time volunteers had gathered for soup, coffee, and carrot cake at the Slow Coast Café, the sun was shining. At one point the parking lot got so crowded that people coming to drop off household garbage found themselves surrounded by volunteers unloading bits of boats off trailers.

An amazing amount of broken boats and other nautical debris was pulled off our beaches and out of the water: mooring floats, styrofoam from broken up floating docks; and derelict boats, including collapsed Zodiaks, a small dingy, half a canoe and a large aluminum kayak which went to the recycling depot.

Thank you to all the volunteers who came to help clean up the beaches and a special "Thank you" to the organizing committee of Elizabeth Miles and Trinette Prior, and to Margaret Alpen and Bob Simons who coordinated volunteer activities at the sign-in table. Also thanks to all the tall guys, including Director David Howe and Trustee Derek Masselink, who helped unload and sort the arriving debris and load it into the garbage skip.

On Thursday, May 17, PICA held its Annual General Meeting at the Hope Bay Studio. After a presentation of the 2014 Financial Report and the Annual Report from the Board, elections to the Board were held. Two new directors, Patti Badcock and Sara Steil, were welcomed to the Board. The Board bid a reluctant farewell to Paul Petrie who retired from the Board. Paul has agreed to continue as PICA’s Brooks Point liaison with the CRD and the ITF as work on the final covenants continues. Eleanor Brownlee, Graham Chapman, Davy Rippner, Rhondda Porter and Ursula Poepel were re-elected to another two-year term.

After a short break for refreshments, Jim Stafford gave a fascinating talk on “The Archeological Landscape of the Penders”. Jim started his talk by explaining that archeology is the study of the physical remains of past human activities, while landscape archeology is the study of the ways in which people in the past constructed and used the environment around them. Landscape archeology is increasingly being used to validate people’s oral histories. Jim’s talk covered so much information, illustrated by maps, charts, and photos that it was hard to take notes without missing something.

The Coast Salish peoples who lived on the shorelines of the Salish Sea are referred to as the Salt Water people because they had no salmon rivers and instead relied on the bounty of the marine waters. The area inhabited traditionally by the Coast Salish peoples is one of the most inhabited of the province, both now and in the past. The Archeology Branch of the provincial government has a registry of 53 known archeological sites on Pender alone.

Jim took us through a whirlwind historical tour of the paleoclimate and paleobotany of Pender, beginning 14,000 years ago. There was the potential on Pender for the earliest post-glacial inhabitants. Both the Spaulding Valley and the Weins farm were at one time intertidal zones. An aerial photo of the Spaulding Valley shows a semi-circular terrace. Spear points have been found there and the site appears to be 8,000 to 11,000 years old. Changes in sea level mean that some sites in the Gulf Islands are now under water. For example, there is a stratified shell midden on the bottom of Montague Harbour.

Jim introduced us to some of the landscape modifications that First Nations made to their environment. Most of us are familiar with shell middens and the cultivation of Garry oak meadows for camas, but there are other forms of modification. One of the most recently studied is clam gardens. Clam gardens are tended intertidal zones designed increase the number of clams available for harvest. Stones are moved out of the area, down to the water’s edge. From the pictures that Jim showed us, it seems obvious that the rock walls created at the water’s edge could not be natural formations and had to be man-made. For information on clam gardens and pictures go online and do a search. One article of interest is dated May 10th is on the CBC website.

There is ample evidence of the continuous First Nations’ use of the Penders. The area now occupied by Poet’s Cove shows evidence of 5000 years of year-round occupation. Jim mentioned several other archeological sites on Pender including the reef net fishery site off Peter Cove, a number of middens including Medicine Beach and Clam Bay, and burial sites at Bedwell Harbour and Shark Cove. For information on the Shark Cove and Mortimer Spit sites, google archeological sites + Pender and look for the article “The Pender Canal Excavations and the Development of Coast Salish Culture”.

Cultural modifications did not always occur at the water’s edge. There are also inland camps which contain animal and fish bones and lithic scatters (stone tool fragments). On George Hill there is a culturally modified Douglas fir. The tree has a bare patch where the bark was removed possibly to make a storage box. Beacon Hill in Victoria has a number of rock burial mounds which mark family burial sites where the cremated remains were placed. Jim’s talk and slides showed us that what we see in nature may only be part of the story and that the real history of the landscape is still waiting to be discovered.

Our next big event will be “Celebrating Orca of the Salish Sea” on Saturday, July 18th at Thieves Bay. Watch for the posters and check next month’s Pender Post for all the details. Don’t forget to visit the PICA booth at the Farmers’ market on Saturdays. Pender Ocean Defenders (POD) and Pender Island Field Naturalists (PIFN) will be making guest appearances, so come and learn more about the organizations working to protect the environment.

Visit the PICA website for updates on our activities and for links to a number of sources of information and articles. www.penderconservancy.org

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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Calendar entry:

May 7 - PICA Annual General Meeting, 7pm at the Hope Bay Studio

May, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Fragmentation, Edge Effects, and Invasives … During his fascinating talk in March on the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem, Andy Mackinnon covered a lot of information in a limited time. Among the topics he only had only limited time to mention were habitat fragmentation, edge effects, and invasives. These three related topics are of particular interest to people involved in habitat conservation and habitat restoration.

The term habitat fragmentation refers to the loss of habitat which results in the division of large, continuous habitats into smaller, more isolated ones. The term covers the following: a decrease in the total area of the habitat; the isolation of one area of habitat from another; the cutting up of one larger patch of habitat into several smaller sections; a decrease in the size of each section; and a decrease in the interior to edge ratio. Because habitat fragmentation always involves some degree of habitat destruction, the biodiversity of the remaining fragments is also affected. Plant species tend to be most affected, but birds and animals which inhabit the ecosystem also suffer and may face increased competition for food and in the case of birds, loss of suitable nesting areas or increased predation. (Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitat_fragmentation#Definition)

The Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem (remnants of which are protected by the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve) has been especially affected by development. In 2006, the BC Ministry of Environment formally designated the Coastal Douglas-fir forests for protection, not just for their rarity, but also for their incredible bio-diversity.

This brings us to ‘edge effects’. The decrease in the interior to edge ratio which results from fragmentation leads to more ‘edges’, as each new section has its own edges, rather than there being one continuous edge around the entire, un-fragmented ecosystem. Small habitat fragments show especially pronounced edge effects. Edge effects include the loss of plants native to that zone due to changes in the amount of light or temperature. The shrubs, plants, and fungi in the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem live under the canopy of the trees. The trees protect them from strong direct sun and help keep the soil cooler and damper. When new ‘edges’ are created by the loss of trees and the shade they provide, native plants such as salal and mahonia tend to be replaced by plants which are more tolerant of drier, more exposed areas. This brings us to invasives.

Invasive plants are those non-native plants which move into native ecosystems from the “edges" created by development. These invasive plants don’t appear magically; they are introduced by humans, often as garden plants, or by road builders to stabilize exposed slopes alongside roads. They move into areas where the native vegetation has been removed and the conditions have been altered to such an extent that the native vegetation will not regrow. Once invasives are in an area they can spread rapidly. In the case of broom and gorse, this is due to their prolific seed production and the long-term viability of their seeds.

What can we do? Don’t plant invasive plants and remove as many as you can. Spring is a good time to work on removing broom and gorse. The plants are putting their energy into flower and seed production so anything you can do to remove or weaken the plants now, will mean fewer plants in the future. For a list of PICA’s ‘Wanted Dead’ invasive species, visit our website at www.penderconservancy.org

On Sunday, April 19th, the Friends of Brooks Point hosted another educational Raincoast event at the Hall. Misty and Lori from Raincoast presented up-to-date information about risks of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project to the Salish Sea and the consequences of a spill. Many of the people who attended are involved in some way with submissions to the NEB as part of the mandated review process. If you are interested in participating and learning about the newest research, contact Monica Petrie.

Don’t forget to mark your calendar for PICA’s AGM! Thursday, May 7th at 7pm at the Hope Bay Studio. Come to learn more about PICA’s activities in the past year and our plans for the next. Everyone is welcome. We have a number of on-going projects, plans for a few more, and we can always use more volunteers, no experience necessary! Hope to see you there. 

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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Calendar entries:

April 25 - PICA’s Annual Beach Clean-up in honour of Earth Day.  10am in front of the Slow Coast Cafe

May 7 - PICA 2015 AGM  at Hope Bay Studio at 7pm

April, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

On Saturday, March 7th, more than 60 people gathered upstairs in the Community Hall to hear Andy MacKinnon’s presentation “The Coastal Douglas-Fir Zone – Ecology, Status, and Conservation Challenges”.  Among the audience were Parks Canada staff, CRD Director David Howe, the Trustees from South Pender, Wendy Scholefield and Bruce McConchie, and North Pender Trustee, Derek Masselink.  

As Stuart Scholefield reminded us in his introduction, Andy is well-known as the “mushroom man”, but his talk was based on his expertise as a research ecologist with the BC Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.  Andy’s talk was so full of fascinating information that it was hard to take notes without missing some of the information shown in his slides. 

Andy opened his talk with a brief discussion of how any study of ecosystems must consider the system’s geographic and historic context.  After briefly touching on the value of ecosystems as processes which help modify temperature and filter water, Andy began the main part of his talk with one of his favourite subjects: fungi.

Indian pipe, which lacks chlorophyll, is classified in most books as a saprophyte, an organism which lives on dead or decaying organic matter, but Indian pipe has fungal threads which are attached to nearby conifers.  The conifers use chlorophyll to produce sugar, which moves to the roots where fungal threads connect the tree to the Indian pipe.  All the trees in a stand are connected either directly or indirectly through underground fungal threads.  Recent research looks at how the seedlings in a stand are linked to adult trees and how nutrients move along the interconnecting fungal threads.  Fungi attached to roots of seedling firs are the same fungi as the ones on roots of the parent tree. This interconnected system is sometimes referred to as the “wood-wide web”.  The biggest trees are the most connected and the removal of the largest trees in an area will break the fungal web.  About 3000 different fungi species are attached to Douglas-fir roots.

There is very little of the Coastal Douglas-Fir ecosystem left and less than 1% of it is old growth. Other zones, such as the Coastal Western Hemlock and Mountain Hemlock have about 50% of the original area left and much of it is old growth.  In BC, protected forest areas are usually found as parts of Crown land, rather than on property in private hands.  Looking at land ownership in BC, as a whole, approximately 5% is privately owned and 95% is public or Crown land.  In the CDF zone, however, approximately 93% is privately owned, and only 7% is public.  Only about 5% of the CRD zone is protected, in other zones 16% to 17% is protected.  Provincially, 116.6 square km of CDF is protected.   In the CRD 23.9 square km is protected.  The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve protects an additional 28.3 square kilometers.  Within the CDF zone there are 127 plants at risk, 81 animals at risk and 36 ecological communities.  The CDF zone is one of the most biologically diverse zones in the province and the one most threatened by development.

On the landscape level there are a number of factors which affect the CDF zone: fragmentation and edge effects due activities such as road building and urban development and global climate change.  On a more direct local level, vegetation removal and damage, soil removal or compaction, ditching, and invasive plant species all affect the health of the ecosystem.

So, what to do?  Andy suggested the development of an international conservation strategy including more formal protected areas, more private land stewardship activities, tax incentives for conservation, strong invasive species management, restoration and research.  Less than 9% of the remaining Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem is viable mature forest and less than 0.5% is old growth and this remnant is under threat.

Before the audience got too depressed, Andy interjected a hopeful note.  Within the CRD, Victoria has purchased a large area of watershed which it is working to restore.  The long term plan is to restore the area to old growth to protect the water supply of the future, because old growth and older second growth forests make the best watersheds.

After an enthusiastic round of applause and some questions from the audience, Andy and a small group of walkers set out for the GINPR at the end of Hooson Road for a guided walk in the forest.  Fortunately there was time for a second walk, so more people got to hear Andy explain what they were looking at and what they weren’t aware was happening right under their feet.

Don’t Forget!  April 25 is PICA’s annual Beach Clean-up.  The event begins at 10am in front of the Slow Coast Cafe.  There will be snacks, prizes, and a lot of fun as gangs of garbage guys and gals hit the beaches in search of all the junk which has no place in a marine environment.  Come and join the crowd, rain or shine.  If you have questions or want to volunteer with set-up, sorting, or anything else, contact Trinette at 629-2213.

Mark your calendars!  PICA is holding its annual AGM on Thursday, May 7th at the Hope Bay Studio beginning at 7pm.  

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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Calendar entries:

March 7 - Andy MacKinnon – "Coastal Douglas-Fir Ecosytem" 1 to 4 pm at the Community Hall.

April 25 - PICA’s Annual Beach Clean-up in honour of Earth Day – garbage drop off at Medicine Beach Liquor Store parking lot starting at 10 am 

March, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Thursday, February 5th, PICA held its annual community potluck.  About 30 people came together to enjoy a gourmet meal with curries, a variety of salads, sushi, and of course several not-to-be-missed desserts.  After dinner, we had the opportunity to listen to a talk by an expert in ecological restoration, Dave Polster:  "Broom's gone; Now what? Restoration of Sensitive Ecosystems"

Dave Polster is a vegetation ecologist who specializes in the restoration of severely damaged ecosystems.  Through a series of slides, he showed us some of the projects that he has been involved in and some of the challenges of ecosystem restoration.  He gave us the following definition: "Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed."  He discussed something most of us had not previously considered - the various values connected to ecosystem restoration.  His diagram illustrated how individual personal values and collective cultural values are connected to individual ecological values and collective socio-economic values.  He used the Garry Oak ecosystem as an example.  The Gary Oak ecosystem is a culturally modified ecosystem, with collective cultural and socio-economic value.  Some Gary Oak meadows show evidence of 4000 years of First Nations’ habitation. Camas-harvesting areas were burned yearly to keep down unwanted vegetation and to encourage the growth of Camas, an important food source.  The use of fire as a management tool by the First Nations, means that when we restore Gary Oak ecosystems we are restoring a culturally modified ecosystem, not a “natural” one.  Restoration of any ecosystem should always start with the question of what we want the end result of the restoration to be and what values need to be considered in the process.

Dave used a variety of slides to illustrate the various ways that we can assist in ecosystem recovery. One of the primary ones is the removal of invasive shrubs, such as broom, English hawthorn and gorse.  Often this is enough to allow native vegetation to regrow.  Since fire is not usually an acceptable management strategy, other methods have been studied.  In one study, involving the restoration of a Garry Oak meadow, only the woody species were removed and the area was mowed.  In another study, an area was mowed twice yearly to allow an endangered plant to recover from an infestation of non-native grass.  Although fire might be a more efficient management tool, regularly mowing of invasives during a period of maximum energy utilization (usually summer) depletes the plants’ energy reserves and allows native species to re-colonize the area.  

In his talk and during the question period after, Dave discussed some of the challenges which groups and individuals face when planning to restore any ecosystem.  One question he raised is whether we should be conducting active management in an ecological reserve.  The answer goes back to the question of what we want the area to return to.  When broom and gorse are being discussed the answer is usually to get rid of them.  However, in addition to invasive alien species there are also invasive native species.  Although we don’t usually consider our native Douglas firs to be invasive, when Gary Oak meadows are not subject to burning, the Douglas Firs begin to take over and change the ecosystem. Regular mowing removes seedlings, but if the goal is to return the area to a Gary Oak ecosystem, some of the firs will need to be limbed to allow more light to reach the ground and other firs will need to be killed by girdling.  Dave showed an example of 200-year-old Gary Oaks which were being crowded out by 50-year-old Douglas firs and how limbing and girdling of the invading firs allowed the Gary Oak ecosystem to re-establish itself, something you might want to think about when you next visit Brooks Point.

Mark Your Calendars!  March 7th at 1pm.  Join us for a special presentation by Andy MacKinnon, Provincial Research Ecologist for the Coast Area with Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resources Operations, and co-author of Plants of Coastal British Columbia.

Andy will be giving a talk on the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) bio-geoclimatic zone, an area of "coastal rain shadow forest”   Only fragments of these unique ecosystems remain in an old-growth state and we are in danger of losing what is left.  The protection of this increasingly rare and threatened ecosystem is the reason that the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve was established in the Southern Gulf Islands.

The event commences at 1 pm upstairs at the Community Hall with an opportunity to view information about the CDF, talk to Andy and have him sign your copy of “Plants of Coastal British Columbia” (You still have time to pick one up!).  Andy’s talk will begin at 1:30.  After the talk, you will also have the opportunity to sign up for an ‘out in the field CDF Zone walk-about with Andy’. The number of number of participants for the walk will be limited.  The terrain will be moderate to steep, so bring those hiking boots if you plan to sign up!

Earth Day is coming and so is PICA’s Annual Beach Clean-up!  On Saturday, April 25th, teams of garbage gatherers will descend upon Pender’s beaches to collect the vast array of debris tossed up by the winter seas.  Join us for fun, prizes, and general good feelings as we do our bit to contribute to a cleaner, healthier ocean.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary 

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Calendar entry:

February 5th - PICA’s Annual Community Potluck – “Broom’s Gone, Now What?” - 5:30 in the Parish Hall
March 7th – Endangered: Coastal Douglas-fir Ecosystem with Andy Mackinnon – 1 PM in the Community Hall

February, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Thursday, January 15th an over-flow crowd of between 130 and 140 people of all ages crammed the upstairs room in the Community Hall to see the Raincoast film “Directly Affected”, and to participate in the panel discussion which followed.  

The evening opened with a welcome sent by Gwen Underwood on behalf of the Tsawout First Nation. 

The introduction to the film, including background information on the NEB hearings into pipeline construction, was presented by Lynne Wells. This introduction was prepared by The Friends of Brooks Point and Raincoast Conservation Foundation to give the audience a bit of the background to the topic. 

Here are a few of the points which were mentioned in the introduction: the NEB tried to restrict participation in the Kinder Morgan hearings in order to shorten the time required to approve the pipeline expansion; the number of interveners in the Kinder Morgan hearing is ten times greater than the number who spoke to the Embridge proposal; and the Federal Government’s view of pipelines as “nation building” is turning out to be true, but not in the way they thought.  The title frame of the film formed the backdrop for the evening’s events.  It read, “Our future. Their pipe dream.” 

The film documented some of history behind pipelines carrying oil to the coast.  When the first Trans Mountain pipeline was constructed 60 years ago, its purpose was to carry crude oil to support local refineries.  This pipeline has a large degree of local support because of the jobs that would be created by the Burnaby refineries. Now the sole purpose of the pipeline is to carry diluted bitumen for export to Asia.  Kinder Morgan isn’t applying to replace their 60-year-old infrastructure; it is applying to add a new “twin” pipeline.   

Among the people “directly affected”, who were interviewed for the film, were some people from an Abbotsford neighbourhood.  In 2012, they had to leave their homes after an oil spill at a tank farm, a tank farm that they weren’t even aware was in their neighbourhood.  In 2007, people living on Inlet Drive in Burnaby had to be evacuated when 200,000 litres of oil spewed from a ruptured pipe, 70,000 of which ended up in Burrard Inlet. The film points out that although these people would be directly affected by the new pipeline, their voices will not be part of the review process. 

One of the highlights of the film was an interview with Robyn Allan.  Robyn Allan has held numerous executive positions in the private and public sectors, including President and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, Vice-President Finance for Parklane Ventures Ltd., and Senior Economist for B.C. Central Credit Union.  She is highly critical of the review process and makes the point that she is in favour of market capitalism, but not unregulated market capitalism.  The film makes the point that the NEB is conducting its own review according to its own rules and that many who are “directly affected” have no voice (including the orcas).

After the showing of the film, the members of the panel, Misty McDuffy (Raincoast), Zack Embee (the film’s producer), Mae Moore (Artist/Founding Member of PODand Adam Olsen (Tsartlip First Nations and interim Leader of the BC Green Party) spoke briefly and then took questions from the audience.  Since the NEB hearings are focussed on economic impacts of the pipeline project, the local First Nations will be in the forefront of the opposition as they seek to assert their Douglas Treaty rights to hunt and fish, not just for subsistence, but commercially. Adam Olsen pointed out that he is descended from reef-net fishermen and under the treaty, they have protected fishing locations scattered around the Salish Sea. They also have a right to “unimpeded access”, and the tanker routes are impeding their right to commercial fishing.  This historic commercial right earned him intervener status at the hearings.

There were a number of questions from the audience as to how the NEB hearings are structured.  The hearings are supposed to be a court with judicial standing.  However, since the Enbridge hearings, the rules have changed to speed up the review.  At the Enbridge hearings, 4000 commenters got to speak, and interveners could cross-examine.  At the Kinder Morgan hearings, commentators can only send in written testimony, and while interveners can speak, they can’t cross examine.  As a result, none of Kinder Morgan’s models to describe risk can be questioned and even the scientific data that they say they used to construct their models does not have to be made available.  Perhaps the last words should go first to the National Energy Board:  “The Board does not intend to consider the environmental and socio-economic effects associated with upstream activities, the development of oil sands, or the downstream use of the oil transported by the pipeline.”  And then to Robyn Allan: “This review process is supposed to determine whether these oil pipeline projects are in the public interest.  How can it effectively fulfill this task with a large part of the public interest concern excluded from their assessment?”

Two poems read by the poets (“Mother Earth on the line”- Leslie McBain and “I am a Casualty” - Crystal Smith de Molina) offered reflections on climate change and the impact of an oil spill.  Brent Marsden auctioned a limited edition of a Mark Hobson Orca print donated by the Friends of Brooks Point as a fundraiser.  In an interesting twist, Laurie from Raincoast proposed that everyone pitch in $5 to purchase the print for the community.  The auction raised $767.75 to cover event expenses and to support future related events.

After the program upstairs, people were invited to go down to the main floor for the last part of the program: information tables from PICA focusing on protecting the marine environment; Raincoast Conservation Foundation; Pender Solar Initiative 2020; Pender Ocean Defenders and Dog Mermaid, which included a life-size replica of J50, the newest member of J POD.

The event was co-sponsored by Raincoast, PICA, Friends of Brooks Point, Dog Mermaid Kayaking and supported by Pender Ocean Defenders, Greenangel Woodchoppers, and the Pender Chamber of Commerce.  A big “Thank you!” to the organizing committee, consisting of representatives from the above groups, for arranging this event and for bringing the community together to discuss the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (K-M TMX).

PICA is holding its Annual Community Potluck at 5:30 on Thursday February 5th.  The potluck will be followed by a presentation by Dave Polster, a plant ecologist, who specializes in ecosystem restoration.  His talk, “Broom’s Gone: Now What?  Next Steps in the Restoration of Sensitive Ecosystems”, will encourage those of us who have diligently removed patches of broom and are now wondering what to do with the empty spots.  Dave has had an extensive career in restoration including streams, cliffs, and mining sites. Come and learn more about habitat restoration.  For all the people on South Pender who are battling broom’s nasty cousin, gorse, I am sure that Dave will have some advice, and of course sympathy!  Even if you aren’t a member of PICA, you are more than welcome to attend.  Come and join us for dinner and an exciting evening of ecology.  Bring some food, an appetite, and your questions.

On March 7th, Andy MacKinnon is coming to the Community Hall from 1 to 4.  He's a research ecologist in the Forests and Coast Forest Region Research Section of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources of British Columbia.  His areas of responsibility include research in forest ecology and ecosystem-based management (EBM), bio-geoclimatic ecosystem classification (BEC) and zone mapping.  He will be discussing the importance of our local Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem.  According to the Centre for Forest Conservation Genetics at the Department of Forestry at UBC, “the CDF is the least protected zone in BC and has the lowest number of large (>250 ha) protected areas.  Most of the protected areas are small, isolated land parcels surrounded by development.”  The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve was established to try to protect some of the larger tracts of this increasingly fragmented ecosystem.  Come to the Hall on March 7th to learn more.  Admission is by donation.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary 


Calendar entry:

January 15: “Directly Affected”, a film and panel discussion at the Community Hall – 7pm
February 5:  Annual PICA Potluck at the Parish Hall – 5:30pm, speaker at 7:00pm

January, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

The new year 2015 is already shaping up to be a very interesting one.  Despite years of opposition by environmentalists, farmers, and First Nations, the Provincial government has approved the Site C dam on the Peace River.  This mega dam will flood 55 square kilometres of river valley, much of it highly productive agricultural land.  The estimated cost of $8.8 billion will make this the largest infrastructure project in the province’s history and one of the most controversial.  In addition to the legal cases currently before the courts, we can expect more public demonstrations of opposition.

The price of oil continues to remain low, making the exploitation of the Athabasca tar sands economically even more questionable.  The environmental cost of these mega extraction projects is incalculable, not that the Federal or Provincial levels of government seem to be willing to acknowledge this.  The large number of people who protested on Burnaby Mountain obviously did not agree, as the opposition to the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline continues.  The National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on the Kinder Morgan proposal have again been postponed, this time until July.  PICA will be there to represent the environmental concerns of islanders.

On January 15th at 7pm, the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and PICA are co-sponsoring the short documentary film “Directly Affected” at the community hall. The film describes how we are all directly affected by the proposed Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion proposal.  After the showing of the film there will be a panel discussion about what we can do to protect our coast.  Downstairs, there will be a number of tables with information about a variety of conservation- related topics.  PICA is co-sponsoring this event as part of our commitment to provide conservation education opportunities on Pender.  Refreshments will be available.

On February 5th, we will be holding our annual potluck at the Parish Hall, starting at 5:30.  In addition to the usual amazing food, we will have a special speaker, Dave Polster, a plant ecologist, who specializes in ecosystem restoration.  He will be discussing strategies for restoration from the general to the specific, including dealing with invasive species.  Dave has had an extensive career in restoration including streams, cliffs, and mining sites.  Come and learn more about projects that we could tackle here on Pender.  Even if you aren’t a member of PICA, come and join us.  Everyone is welcome.  Bring some food, an appetite, and your questions.

On March 7 from 1 to 4 in the Community Hall, the Pender Islands Trust Protection Society and PICA will be sponsoring a presentation by Andy MacKinnon, the province’s leading research ecologist and co-author of “Plants of British Columbia”.  He will discuss the importance of the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem and why this ecosystem is in peril.  According to the Centre for Forest Conservation Genetics at the Department of Forestry at UBC, “ the CDF is the least protected zone in BC and has the lowest number of large (>250 ha) protected areas.  Of the 80 protected areas, only five are larger than 250 ha, together covering 1% of the zone.  Most of the protected areas are small, isolated land parcels surrounded by development.”  The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve was established to try to protect some of the larger tracts of this increasingly fragmented ecosystem and the threatened and endangered species which call this zone home.  Come to the Hall on March 7 to learn more.  Admission by donation.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary 

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Calendar entry:  

December 30 - PIFN and PICA host the 2nd Annual CBC4 Kids at Brooks Point from 10:30 to 1

December, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

The season of cold, wet, and possible snow is upon us and while many Penderites are checking their supplies of wood and cozying up in front of their fires, groups of intrepid PICA volunteers are out in the field, working on the Hope Bay Stream, taking samples from beaches for the Forage Fish Monitoring Project, and holding Gardening Parties at the Community Hall.

On November 11th, after the morning Remembrance Day ceremony at the Legion, a group of volunteers met in the afternoon at Hope Bay Stream to continue the work of removing invasive species from the stream banks.  Our target this time was a large area infested by spurge-daphne, aka daphne-laurel.

Spurge-daphne (Daphne laureola) is a small, evergreen shrub with dark, waxy leaves and pale yellowish-green flowers.  This native of southwestern Europe was introduced as an ornamental garden plant, but is now recognized as being a serious invader as it spreads rapidly, especially in shadier, moister areas. Daphne grows rapidly and flowers in its second year.  Large numbers of purple or blackish fruits develop in early summer.  Although the seeds are poisonous to humans, they are palatable to various birds, which aids in their dispersal.  Daphne plants develop deep tap roots and also produce new plants from lateral roots.  It is easier to remove the plants when they are small or when the soil is moist, but cutting the plants off, unless the cuts are well below the soil line, won’t kill them, just slow them down.  Volunteers filled a large black garbage bag with spurge-daphne of various sizes from the very tiny to the very large, but there are still more to remove before we prepare the area for replanting with native shrubs.

PICA is on the list to receive Chum salmon eggs from the Goldstream Hatchery next spring.  In January volunteers will begin to monitor the stream temperature.  If the temperature variance within the stream is too great, the eggs will die from thermal shock, so we need to keep careful records.  After incubation in the stream, the alevin move into the gravel and remain until their egg sacs have been consumed.  It is important that the stream velocity doesn’t move the gravel around, so we are planning on using large rocks and logs to slow the stream down around the hatching area.  We are hoping to see our first returns (from a fry release in 2011), next December.  Old timers on the island remember when there were salmon in Hope Bay Stream, and on November 11th as I watched a determined thirteen-year-old wrestle with a large spurge-daphne, I was thinking that all the volunteer work over the years would mean that one day he would be able to bring his children down to Hope Bay Stream to watch the salmon returning to spawn.  

The Forage Fish Monitoring group continues to meet monthly to take samples from various Pender Island beaches.  Thus far this year we have taken samples from Medicine Beach, Mortimer Spit, James Point Beach, and Hamilton Beach.  On November 24th, volunteers met again at Hamilton Beach to take more samples.  The results of the various samplings are not yet known, but Ramona de Graaf will be coming back this month to do more sampling on other beaches and we hope that she will have more good news for us - another beach on Pender testing positive for forage fish.

Other PICA volunteers have been meeting at the Community Hall for ‘Gardening Parties’.  This is not the kind of garden party where you find cucumber sandwiches and cups of tea, but rather a party of people with spades, secateurs, loppers, trowels, and rakes ready to tackle rampant rose bushes, gigantic horsetails, and a variety of other weeds.  There is still work to be done, but the garden is already starting to look better.  If you want to join the Gardening Group, send an email to pica_secretary@yahoo.ca and we will send you an invitation to our next party!   

If you want to be on our general e-mail list to learn more about PICA events and volunteer opportunities, e-mail us at info@penderconservancy.org 

PICA’s normal membership year runs from January to December, although there are a few people with memberships which begin partway through the year.  If you would like to renew now for 2015, you can pick up a membership form from the Conservancy folder in the Pender Island Realty office or download a copy HERE.  You can also pick up your tax receipts from the same office folder.  If you aren’t sure about your membership status, please contact our Treasurer, Ursula, or e-mail pica_secretary@yahoo.ca.  As usual, there will be an opportunity to renew or join at our annual pot-luck in February.  

A date for your 2015 calendar!  PICA’s annual pot-luck will be held on Thursday, February 5.  More about our guest speaker, Dave Polster, and his talk about “Strategies for eco-system restoration – from the general to the specific”, will appear in the January Pender Post.  

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary


November, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Of marches, trails, and doggy pots … On September 21st, an estimated 570,000 people gathered in 162 countries around the world in advance of a September 23rd gathering of world leaders at the United Nations for a meeting on climate change.  The largest climate march was in New York City where an estimated 310,000 people marched through Manhattan to the United Nations.  In Paris, an estimated 25,000 people marched, and in Melbourne, Australia approximately 30,000 people gathered to highlight the importance of governments’ taking action on climate change.  In London, England where about 40,000 people took part, Monica Petrie was one of the marchers.  Here is Monica’s report:

"I happened to be on holiday in London on September 21st this year.  Thanks to Avaaz.org I was able to locate the gathering place for the London Climate March at Temple tube station.  After pushing my way into the crowd I joined two women carrying a homemade Green banner, one of many that I saw from places as far flung as Cornwall and Newcastle.   Placards included 'Green Party – say no to fracking', 'London – 100% green energy', and 'Tell Cameron to frack off- no dash for gas, climate jobs now' from the Socialist Worker.  Friends of the Earth were there with banners and drums.  A man pulled by bicycle played a drum set and his boom box belted out 'Wild Thing, I think I love you'. Several marchers were in animal costume – lions and tigers.

"It took more than an hour to get moving and by then I’d had a few conversations. I told people that my MP is the leader of the Green party in Canada, and that Elizabeth May was marching to the UN in New York, as was my daughter-in-law Hannah Petrie who had flown out from California.  Oh yes, I mentioned PICA and the conservation work that we do here on our islands. By the time I got to Westminster, the speeches were over so I missed hearing Green MP Caroline Lucas and actor Emma Thompson.  But Emma Thompson was front page news in the Independent and the Guardian next day." 

If you want to see pictures and videos of the various marches around the world and be amazed by some of the costumes, just ‘google’ Climate March September and you will get lots of hits, including an entry in Wikipedia!

If you have recently been to Medicine Beach you will have noticed a couple of changes.  There are now signs marking the official trails through the covenant area on the bluff.  Over the years a number of unofficial trails have been opened up, often when people follow deer trails which eventually peter out, forcing people to backtrack to find their way out of the area. Please follow the trails marked by the signs to lessen the impact on the ecosystems the Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary was intended to protect.   

The second change is the addition of two doggy-pots.  The first is located at the parking lot near the beach; the second is located on the main trail near the entrance to the forested area, just off the road.  If you come to Medicine Beach with your dog, please clean up after it and use the doggy pots to dispose of the plastic bags.  

One of the risks of climate change is the danger of rising sea levels. With the number of high tides in the winter there is always the danger that the berm protecting the Medicine Beach marsh will be breached.  The marsh is protected by a berm which consists of a midden and a line of large logs directly in front of it on the seaward side.  If logs are cut up for firewood and removed from the berm, there is the danger that a high winter tide will punch a hole in the berm and flood the marsh with salt water.  The marsh is the home of some rare species and their continued survival depends on the marsh, so if you see people cutting up the logs at the base of the berm, please remind them that the area is protected.   PICA is responsible for the care and management of Medicine Beach as we are co-covenant holders with Nature Conservancy Canada and the Islands Trust Fund.  Please contact Graham Boffey if you have concerns about anything happening on Medicine Beach, in the marsh, or in the forested area.

Brooks Point Management Plan: A public meeting was held at the Community Hall on September 16th to review the new draft management plan for Brooks Point Regional Park.  Paul Petrie, the co-chair of the Brooks Point Committee, gave a brief background to the creation of the park and then turned the meeting over to Lynn Wilson, Regional Park Planner for the CRD.  Lynn gave an excellent presentation of the plan and explained how the management plan will help to protect this precious piece of coast line.  People were given the opportunity to ask questions and Lynn encouraged everyone to fill out the public comment forms.  The next step is to send the Management Plan to the CRD Parks Committee in November and from there to the CRD Board in December.  The plan is to have the covenants finalized in December. 

Forage Fish up-date: The forage fish monitoring group was out again on October 7th, with a return to Mortimer Spit.  The weather was once again kind to us, no howling gales or torrential rains to make the sampling a bit of an endurance test.  Our leader Jon Ruiz tries to get the weather to cooperate with the best low tides, but it isn’t always possible, unless we want to go out at 3am.  We are planning on another monitoring session in November. Volunteers are always welcome. 

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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October, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

(See eelgrass maps)

The two most recent PICA events both involved the marine environment.  On August 19th, Nikki Wright of SeaChange Conservation Society came to Browning Harbour with boxes of eelgrass seedlings for PICA volunteers to prepare for transplanting.  Volunteers attached weights to the seedlings to hold the eelgrass to the seabed until they can attach themselves.  In the afternoon divers from SeaChange transplanted the 800 clumps to the bottom of Bracket Cove.  The SeaChange team will be back in the spring to check on the health of the transplants.  Future transplanting sessions are planned.

Eelgrass, Zostera marina, is the thin green seaweed that grows in estuaries and along shorelines with low wave energy.  Eelgrass forms ‘meadows’ which provide food and shelter for many fish and invertebrates. Here are a few interesting facts about eelgrass taken from The Nearshore Eelgrass Inventory, a report prepared for the Islands Trust and Islands Trust Fund by Nikki Wright, Leanna Boyer, and Keith Erikson. “The productivity of native seagrasses rivals the world’s richest farmlands and tropical rainforests….The plants offer surface area for over 350 species of macro-algae and 91species of epiphytic microalgae – the basis of the food web for juvenile salmon in marine waters… nearshore marine environments containing eelgrass beds are home to over 80% of commercially important fish and shellfish species, including all species of salmon, at some point in their life histories…Like terrestrial forests, eelgrass habitats capture and store large amounts of carbon but at much more efficient rates - up to ninety times the uptake provided by equivalent areas of forest…” Eelgrass is definitely a natural resource worth protecting and restoring.  To learn more about eelgrass, go to the PICA website (www.penderconservancy.org) and click on the link to the Eelgrass Inventory.  There are maps of North and South Pender showing the locations of eelgrass.

The second event was another Forage Fish monitoring session, this time at a new location on James Point at the end of MacKinnon Road.  On September 4th, a group of PICA volunteers met to take samples to see if the beach is being used for spawning by either sand lance or surf smelt.  This is a new beach for the monitoring team but the beach has all the characteristics of a good spawning beach, a mixture of sand and pebble, partial shading of the beach from foreshore vegetation, and no structures such as docks, seawalls or riprap to interfere with the natural wave action.  Just as with Mortimer Spit and Medicine Beach (both successful forage fish spawning beaches), there is also evidence of eel grass growing just off-shore.

Sand lance and surf smelt lay their eggs on the upper beach near the high tide level just a few meters below the line of logs on the upper shore.  The eggs are sensitive to any changes which affect the spawning substrate.  Alteration of the foreshore by removal of vegetation, or activities which cause an increase in the volume of runoff carrying fine sediment, can result in the eggs either being cooked or smothered.  Other foreshore activities such as shellfish aquaculture can also make the beach unsuitable for forage fish spawning.  

There will be more monitoring sessions this fall.  Check our website for dates, times and locations.  

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary



September, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

September is PICA’s official “Be a Volunteer for the Environment” month. We have a lot of volunteer opportunities for people who want to become more involved in the work that PICA does. Here are some of those opportunities.

Forage Fish Monitoring: Since 2011, PICA volunteers have been involved with Forage Fish monitoring on Medicine Beach, under the guidance of Ramona de Graaf, a fisheries biologist. This January she sent the exciting news that two beaches on Pender had tested positive for forage fish spawning: Medicine Beach for surf smelt and Mortimer Spit for sand lance. On August 7th, PICA volunteers met Ramona on Mortimer Spit and took samples and then moved to Hamilton Beach to take more samples. Ramona would like us to expand our monitoring to other beaches, but we need more volunteers. Each monitoring session takes about 90 minutes. To learn more contact our Forage Fish Coordinator, Jon Ruiz at 250-629-3748. Email: lilajon@aol.com.

Hope Bay Stream Salmon Recovery Project: The Hope Bay stream is the only documented salmon stream on Pender Island. Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) records indicate chum salmon were using the creek for spawning and rearing up to the mid-1980s. PICA volunteers have been working to restore chum salmon to the stream. In 2012, salmon fry from the Goldstream hatchery were released into the stream. In 2013, the eggs were actually incubated in the stream and then released. There was a shortage of eggs in 2014, so there was no incubation of eggs or release of fry. The plan is to have eggs incubated in the stream for release in April 2015. Before then volunteers are needed to monitor water temperature and water flow in the stream. Work also needs to be done in building a weir, creating riffles (to slow down the water flow), restoring native vegetation to the banks of the stream, and getting the culvert under Hoosen Road replaced with a more fish-friendly one. The first chum may start returning later this fall, so if you are down by Hope Bay, keep your eyes open. If you are interested in becoming involved contact our program coordinators:
Elizabeth Miles at 250-539-8843 - email elizabethmiles999@gmail.com
or Lisa Fleming lisafleming@shaw.ca.

Purple Martin Next Box Program: Here is the latest update from the Program Coordinator, Bob Vergette. “Last summer we provided information about the Purple Martin Stewardship and Recovery Program that PICA supports and how with the efforts of a local team Purple Martins are again nesting and rearing young on Pender. As a reminder Purple Martins are the largest bird of the swallow family and the Western sub-species like to nest over water in communal sites but in separate boxes. On Pender we now have 29 nest boxes at 6 sites around the island with 4 to 6 boxes at each site. This year, under the oversight of Charlene Lee, Purple Martin Coordinator for the stewardship program, we banded a total of 30 nestlings in 7 boxes and there were another 10 boxes that contained a combination of nestlings too young to band or eggs totaling 36 in number. This has been the best year yet with all sites having birds present and 5 of the 6 sites have breeding pairs but not all were nesting. For those interested Purple Martins can best be viewed the Otter Bay Marina and the government wharf at Port Browning. For more information on the stewardship program visit the website www.georgiabasin.ca. PICA thanks Parks Canada for their support of this project and would like to especially thank Janet Mercer of Parks Canada for volunteering her own time and arranging for the Parks boat to access two of the sites that require water access.” For more information on volunteering with the Purple Martin Team, contact Bob Vergette at 250-629-3820 email bvergetter@shaw.ca or Jill Ilsley at her email jill.ilsley@icloud.com.

Pender Lake Stewardship: PICA is a member of the BC Lake Stewardship Society and the monitoring of Pender Lake (commonly referred to as Magic Lake) is one of the newest projects that PICA is involved in. The Stewardship Team has been monitoring the lake for turbidity and hopes to expand to program to include more detailed analyses of the water quality. Future plans include doing a survey of all the plant and animal life which either live in the lake or around it. For more information or to become involved, contact Don Peden at pedenonpender@shaw.ca.

Other opportunities: PICA is also looking for people to help with preparing brochures and educational materials, to represent PICA at the Farmer’s market, and to participate in invasive species removal. If you are interested in any of these additional volunteer opportunities, contact us at info@penderconservancy.org

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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August, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

On Friday July 18th the Pender Island community came out in force to celebrate the completion of Brooks Point Regional Park.  It has been a long, and at times a rocky road to get to the point where we can say that the land is protected for now and for future generations.  

The story of the park began in the early 1990’s when Alan Brooks approached the Board of PICA and asked how best to protect the undeveloped waterfront property that he owned on Gowlland Point Road from future development.  In 1996, he agreed to donate one of the three undeveloped lots if the community could raise the money to purchase the other two. The Friends of Brooks Point launched a fund-raising campaign with the support of PICA to raise the needed money. This was just the beginning of what was to become a multi-year effort to secure the future of the remaining undeveloped land between Brooks Point and Gowlland Point.  

In early 2000, Phase I was completed and Brooks Point became a CRD Regional Park Reserve with a covenant jointly held by the Islands Trust Fund and Nature Conservancy Canada.  The covenant states in part that “the lands be used and maintained in a manner that will protect, preserve, conserve, restore, and enhance the ecosystems and native biodiversity of the lands in perpetuity.”  

Phase II of the project was the purchase of Gowlland Point adjacent to Gowlland Beach in September 2000.  It wasn’t until 2010 when the property between the two areas became available that Phase III began. The CRD took out a loan to purchase the property but retained the option to resell or divide the land to recover some of their costs. 

PICA, through its Brooks Point Completion Committee, again became involved in fund-raising and in April 2011, launched an ambitious 150-day campaign to raise $150,000 with two goals: “to retain the property in its entirety for inclusion on Brooks Point Regional Park and to maintain the ecological values of the property in perpetuity.”  The campaign raised $152,000.

In March 2013, the CRD Board entered a contribution agreement with PICA.  The CRD would remove the resale, sub-division option on the condition that PICA raised an additional $150,000 before December 2014.  This goal was reached in December 2013, a year ahead of schedule.  The wonderful coastal bluff, the chocolate lilies, the Garry Oak meadows, and red-listed Sharp Tailed snake, will be protected in Brooks Point Regional Park by conservation covenants so that future generations will be able to share in the park’s natural beauty.  For a more complete history of Brooks Point, visit the PICA website and look for Brooks Point under “Projects”.

People may hear the term “conservation covenant” without really understanding what they are and how they work.  Conservation covenants are a way for landowners to ensure that natural features of their land are protected now and in the future.  PICA and the Islands Trust Fund are co-covenant holders on 17 Pender properties.  The properties range in size and protect a variety of ecosystems, from ponds and wetlands to Douglas fir ecosystems and Garry Oak meadows.  Each covenant is different and each specifies what portion of the property is covenanted and what features are protected.  

In addition to the satisfaction of knowing that the special places on your land will be protected even after you are no longer around to watch over them, there can also be significant tax savings.  For more information on conservation covenants, visit the Islands Trust Fund website at www.islandstrustfund.bc.ca or give their office a call at 1-250-405-5186.  You can also drop in at the PICA booth at the Saturday market and pick up information on covenants. 

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary


July, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Are you looking for an excuse to go the beach all year round?  Join PICA’s Forage Fish Monitoring Group.  In January Ramona de Graaf, our forage fish mentor, confirmed that two of Pender’s beaches are spawning areas for forage fish.  Apparently, surf smelt like Medicine Beach and sand lance like Mortimer Spit.  Ramona has identified other beaches on Pender which have the necessary conditions to be suitable spawning areas for these and possibly other forage fish.  More monitoring is needed to confirm whether or not the fish agree.

On June 5th a small team met on Medicine Beach and took more samples to send to Ramona for analysis.  PICA has been participating in a monitoring program on Medicine Beach since 2010.  The next scheduled monitoring of Medicine Beach will occur later in July.  More volunteers are always welcome.  No experience or scientific background is necessary to join the team.  If we get a large enough core group of monitors, we could expand our monitoring to include Mortimer Spit and other beaches.  For more information, contact Jon Ruiz at 250-629- 3748.  We will also be sending out notices to everyone on the PICA email list.  Join our group of citizen scientists and come to the beach!

This year, the Provincial Government proclaimed June 9th to 15th as Invasive Species Week.  To help celebrate, PICA held a prize draw at the Saturday Market on June 14th.  People were asked to complete an entry form indicating how many invasive plants they had removed that week and how many they intended to remove the following week.  Honesty was assumed and entrants did not actually have to produce the plants for inspection and counting, which is just as well, as one entrant indicated that he had just finished removing more than 100 broom plants from his property. Remember: every time you remove an invasive species, you make room for a native one.

PICA will be at the market every Saturday during the summer.  Come talk to our volunteers, renew your membership, or sign up to join one of our project groups. 

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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June, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

PICA held its Annual General Meeting on Thursday, May 15th in the Hope Bay Studio.  About 25 members attended the meeting. The Board reported on the year’s events, finances, and talked about some of PICA’s future plans.  One new director, John Chapman, was added to the Board.  John has been active with the Brooks Point Committee and we welcome his joining us.  There is always more than enough work to go around!

David Manning also spoke to the meeting.  After nine years coordinating the Eagle Watch program, David is retiring.  He is looking for people willing to coordinate the project and keep track of the records.   If you are interested, please get in touch with David.  This is a fascinating project and is an example of citizen scientists producing useful data when there is no official agency doing the monitoring.

After a break for juice, coffee, tea, cake and cookies, the meeting continued with Misty MacDuffee’s fascinating talk “Salmon, Orcas, and Humpbacks: The State of the Strait”.  Misty is a fisheries ecologist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation (www.raincoast.org).  She started her talk by giving us the historical context of exploitation in the area.  The earliest species affected were the sea otters which were hunted almost to extinction  Sea otters were extirpated from most of the coast and even today the species is listed as endangered.  The Northern Elephant Seal was the first species hunted for its oil.  It to was almost hunted to extinction.  Gray whales were also targeted for their oil and by the late 1800’s were commercially extinct.  Both baleen and toothed whales were hunted from land-based whaling stations on the Mainland and Vancouver Island.  Baleen whales are an important part of the marine ecosystem.  They dive deep and eat krill, rich in iron.  The whales return to the surface to breathe and excrete the iron in their feces.  This iron acts as a fertilizer for the phytoplankton and the amount of phytoplankton, which is an important food source for other marine animals, increases.

Once the commercial salmon industry became established, several marine animals were targeted because it was believed that they were competing for salmon with the commercial fishermen.  Prior to 1970, when the Fisheries Act came into force, about 55,000 Steller Sea Lions had been killed to protect salmon stocks, although only about 10 to 20 percent of their diet is salmon.  About 500,000 harbour seal were killed for bounties and perhaps the most tragic victims were the basking sharks. These large, gentle, plankton eaters were easy targets as they lay on the surface.  Boats were fitted with long knives off their prows to cut any sharks on the surface in half.   The basking shark population has still not recovered and sightings are incredibly rare.

After giving us this historical context, Misty talked about the three types of orcas which are found in and around the Salish Sea: the resident orcas, which eat salmon; the transient orcas, which eat marine mammals; and the off-shore orcas, which eat fish and sharks.  There are two main populations of resident orcas: the northern residents (Johnstone Strait and the Central Coast) and the southern residents (the ones we see).  The population of the northern residents is increasing while the population of southern residents is not.  It is estimated that in 1960 there were only about 100 resident orcas.  About 48 of them were removed for the aquarium trade.  The removal of almost half of the group was devastating for this matriarch-based social group.

About 80% of the residents’ diet is chinook salmon with chum being eaten in the fall.  The chinook salmon stocks are key to the resident orcas' survival.  In the north the chinook stocks are stronger and there is evidence to show that if the chinook decline past a certain point, there is an increase in orca mortality.  The southern residents are also eating fish which is more contaminated by industrial activity.  In addition to stress due to the food supply, there is also the physical and acoustical disturbance as a result of marine traffic.  Misty played us a recording of what one freighter sounds like at 170 metres depth.  Given the amount of marine traffic through the Strait, the resident orcas must be exposed to almost constant noise.

In 2003 the southern resident orca were listed as endangered.  In 2009 a Federal court ruled that the government was legally bound to protect their habitat.  This court decision forced the Federal Government to come up with a recovery strategy, which they released in 2011 with a target date of March 2013.  Thus far the government has only designated an area as critical habitat but has done nothing about the biological, acoustical, physical, and chemical components of the Southern residents’ habitat.  There is no protection for the orca’s food supply, the chinook salmon, which supply the majority of their diet.  For a so-called Action Plan it is “woefully lacking in action.”

Misty then dealt with the current controversy over the increase in oil tanker traffic and the effects that any spill could have on these endangered mammals.  In March 1989 when the Exxon Valdez ran aground, there were orca in the area.  Both the resident and the transient pods were affected by the spill.  The resident pods have not recovered and since the transient pod lost all its breeding females it is likely going to disappear.  Since orca are long-lived it is difficult to assess exactly how they are affected by spills, but a study of a 2007 shipping barge accident which released 10,000 litres of diesel oil showed that there was a higher mortality rate among the Northern residents after 25% of them swam through the spill.  The recent down-listing of the humpback whales from “threatened” to “a species of special concern” removes the government’s requirement to protect their critical habitat. Since part of the proposed route of oil tankers out of Kitimat goes through critical humpback feeding areas, the timing has struck many people as being highly convenient for both Enbridge and the Federal Government.  To learn more about whales on our coast, go to www.wildwhales.org, the website of the BC Cetacean Sightings Network.

PICA volunteers will be at the Saturday Market throughout the summer.  Drop in and visit, renew your membership, and volunteer for one our projects.  You can read the minutes of the 2014 AGM and the 2014 Report from the Board here.

Don’t forget to save July 18th for the big party at the Community Hall to celebrate the completion of Brooks Point Regional Park!

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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May, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

May 15th - PICA Annual General Meeting – 7:30 Hope Bay Studio

Despite the dire weather forecast, the annual Beach Clean-up began and concluded under cloudy skies, not torrential downpours!  About 100 volunteers scoured the beaches of North and South Pender to remove an amazing variety of debris.  There were the usual cans, bottles, plastic bags, and chunks of Styrofoam, including some rather large pieces of old docks and floats with attached ropes. Among the more interesting articles turned in at the Medicine Beach Market drop-off were a Boaters Advisory sign from Ladner Habour in Delta and a pair of Kodiak work boots in their original box which was found behind the fence around the Medicine Beach marsh.  In addition to the beaches, a few intrepid souls tackled the roadsides and ditches.  One Pender Pacer was observed running up Scarf Hill in the direction of the drop-off carrying a large, half-full, black garbage bag!  Thank you to everyone who contributed to the day’s efforts and especially to Amanda for overseeing another successful Beach Clean-up.

Thankfully the promised rain didn’t arrive until all the volunteers had had a chance to get to the Community Hall for their reward, a cup of lovely hot chili or minestrone soup.  At 1pm the Stewardship Day events began in the lounge upstairs in the Hall.  A variety of displays provided information on the various ways that we can be good stewards of the land and the seas.  At 2pm Ramona de Graaf gave a fascinating talk on Marine Shorelines as Critical Fish Habitats.  She discussed the importance of protecting Marine Riparian Habitats, the edge of vegetation around the shoreline.  This vegetation provides necessary shade for forage fish spawning beaches, is a source of insects for juvenile fish including chinook salmon, and helps stabilize shoreline slopes.

Two beaches on Pender have been confirmed as forage fish spawning beaches: Medicine Beach for winter surf smelt and Mortimer Spit for sand lance.  There are other potential spawning areas on the Penders.  To learn more about the beaches of Pender go to the Islands Trust website and look under Initiatives for marine conservation/ forage fish (link)  There are maps for both North and South Pender.

At 3pm, the Chair of the Islands Trust Council, Sheila Malcolmson, spoke about the risk of oil tanker expansion to our shorelines “Salish Sea Shorelines at Risk”.  In its role as an advocate for the residents of the Southern Gulf Islands, 13 major and 450 smaller islands, the Trust Council has long voiced its opposition to oil tanker traffic through the waters of the Islands Trust area.  The proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline would increase the current 300,000 barrels of tar sands bitumen going past our island to 800,000 barrels per day with a corresponding increase in the number of tankers.  Since 2009 there have been three incidents in Plumper Sound of bulk tankers dragging their anchors and coming dangerously close to the rocky shoreline.  The more tankers, the greater the risk of a catastrophic spill.

Various Federal government reports warn about the lack of an adequate spill response on the west coast.  Oil at sea is Federal; oil on the shore is Provincial, but the province currently has no money allocated to spill response and only 14 full-time monitoring staff.  In comparison, Washington State has a $7 million dollar spill response fund and 70 full-time staff.  Alaska has a $50 million dollar fund and 146 full-time staff.  Since most spill response is dependent upon being able to see where the oil is using aerial surveillance, dil-bit presents a problem; it isn’t visible from the air.  Since the current response to oil spills is to skim the oil from the surface of the water, dil-bit presents an additional problem; it sinks in the presence of waves, something the ocean has in abundance!  When industry and government talk about a “world class spill reponse”, one has to wonder what it could possibly consist of.

On a happier note, PICA’s annual general meeting is being held on Thursday, May 15th at the Hope Bay studio at 7:30 pm.  Everyone is welcome.  You will be able to join or renew your membership and meet some of the great people involved in conservation on the island.  There will be a great speaker, goodies, elections to the Board, reports on the various PICA projects and various ways for you to become more involved.  We are looking for volunteers for our Stewardship Committee, our Forage Fish Monitoring group, Invasive Species Removal team, and for people to help at the PICA booth at the Saturday market.  Come join us and learn more! 

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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April, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar Dates:

April 19th  PICA’s Annual Beach Clean-up drop-off at Medicine Beach Market 10-12
May 15th   PICA AGM at the Hope Bay Studio 7:30
May 24th  Brooks Point Chocolate Lily Celebration

PICA’s annual Beach Clean-up for Earth Day will be held on Saturday, April 19th.  You can pick up bags and gloves from the smiling volunteers in the parking lot of the Medicine Beach Market.  After walking one of Pender’s many beaches, you can drop off your ‘treasures’ at the bins in the parking lot from 10 to 12.  After the Beach Clean-up come to the Community Hall to help the Island celebrate Stewardship Day.  There will be a ‘thank you’ lunch for the Adopt-a-Beach volunteers and Beach Clean-up crew.  There will also be displays and speakers, as we all get together to celebrate stewardship on the Penders.

One of PICA’s stewardship initiatives is our Forage Fish Monitoring Project.  We first became involved after Ramona de Graaf, a forage fish expert, was a PICA guest speaker in 2010.  She proved to be a very dynamic, enthusiastic and passionate presenter with impressive knowledge of the subject.  This resulted in PICA being inspired to become part of the forage fish monitoring program which attempts to locate fish eggs and thus verify spawning activity in a given area.  The major forage fish in the Salish Sea are Pacific sand lance, surf smelt and Pacific herring.  Surf smelt and sand lance lay tiny eggs in pebble and sand beaches just below the high tide line in the intertidal zone and are the fish on which this project focuses.

We ran into many snags along the way in arranging for an all-day workshop to train volunteer monitors, but finally made it happen in July, 2011.  Participants spent the morning at the library meeting room hearing presentations and observing displays, then the afternoon unfolded at Medicine Beach in a hands-on session that took us through the monitoring process.

Subsequent monitoring sessions have also taken place at Medicine Beach, but it would be desirable to add more beaches in the future.  Ramona has also done pretty extensive monitoring herself at a number of beaches on both North and South Pender.

In July of 2012 Ramona conducted a follow-up practical workshop that was open to the public and we were pleased to have some new faces, including children, take part that day.

Ramona felt that several beaches looked promising for sand lance, and possibly winter smelt.  Sadly, smelt have been elusive everywhere.  Sand lance eggs were found in the winter of 2013 on Lasqueti Island and the San Juans.  We were very excited this January to hear from Ramona that she had discovered positive samples for winter smelt at our Medicine Beach and positive results for sand lance at Mortimer Spit.  The winter smelt finding was especially thrilling as it is so rare an occurrence. 

Why are forage fish so important?  These small fish form a key link in the marine food chain. They travel in large groups (called schools) and consume plankton and tiny animals floating near the surface, and in turn become protein for everything higher in the food chain, for bigger fish such as salmon, for seabirds, for marine mammals like seals and sea lions, and ultimately for whales.  They are a crucial food source for all ocean wildlife, and thus are of both commercial and economic importance.  Healthy stocks of forage fish impact the commercial fishery, the recreational fishery, bird watching (80% of the diet of puffins, marbled murrelets and rhinoceros auklets is sand lance), whale watching and even forestry (forage fish feed the salmon whose carcasses provide important nutrients for the forests).  These days forage fish are often converted into secondary uses such as feed for livestock, pets and farmed fish.

These wee fish are very vulnerable to overfishing, climate change, habitat loss, and changing ocean chemistry.  Chemical or oil spills from the land, or oil from vessel operations near beaches can cause mortality of eggs incubating on the beaches.  Of course, an oil spill would be disastrous for them.  However, the biggest threat to their habitat is shoreline development because they spawn mainly on mixed sand and gravel beaches, and anything that affects the composition of beaches can render those beaches unsuitable for spawning.  Particularly problematic are the hardening of shorelines using seawalls or riprap, altering shorelines with docks and groins, taking away the logs that prevent shoreline erosion, and removing the vegetation that provides shade and cooling.  Shoreline vegetation helps protect the beaches from drying winds, and is an important habitat for the insects that feed juveniles.

We are particularly concerned with two species of forage fish that are shore spawners: Pacific surf smelt (spawn May to September) and sand lance (spawn November to February).  Both depend on nearshore habitat for their survival, but also require eelgrass beds and kelp forests for rearing their juveniles.  Monitoring takes place on the nearshore, and requires specific equipment, much of which Ramona purchased or made on our behalf.  Last year we purchased a clinometer to measure beach elevation, as we didn’t do very well with the low-tech method of measuring the height of water in a plastic tube to determine the slope of the beach. The samples and the data sheets are sent to Ramona who does the analysis of the samples and records the data.  Any positive samples are then recorded in the Forage Fish Atlas.

Monitoring is an interesting process.  Should you be beach-walking and encounter a group of people with long measuring tapes, scoops, buckets and assorted filters, and some who look like they are doing the hula while swishing a dishpan in front of themselves, chances are you are seeing a group of forage fish monitors!

A huge vote of thanks is due to our wonderful volunteers without whom this research could not take place.  New volunteers are most welcome, especially as some of us are unable to continue.  We would be delighted to hear from anyone interested in joining the team.  For information about doing so, please contact our newly appointed team leader, Jon Ruiz (250-629-3748).

Submitted by Eleanor Brownlee with much assistance from Ramona de Graaf

If you are interested in learning more about Forage Fish Monitoring on the Gulf Islands go to the Islands Trust Fund website www.islandstrustfund.bc.ca and under Our Initiatives, click on Caring for our Shorelines. The Forage Fish Habitat Assessments will give you more information on the work that Ramona has been doing on North and South Pender to assess our beaches for their potential as spawning areas for forage fish.  We will put the link on our website www.penderconservancy.org. 

PICA’s Annual General Meeting is coming soon!  Put Thursday, May 15th on your calendar.  If you are interested in joining the Board, please contact Eleanor Brownlee for information on the nomination process.  The AGM will also be an opportunity for people who missed our potluck to renew their membership for 2014 and for people interested in becoming members to find out more about us. 

Brooks Point Completion

On March 12th we delivered PICA’s final $55,000 cheque to the CRD to complete the community’s contribution to join Brooks and Gowlland Points as a “Regional Conservation Area.”  PICA is now working with our conservation partners to establish a strong covenant to fully protect this important ecological gem for future generations.  PICA is also working closely with the CRD to update the 2008 Park Management Plan to emphasize park use that respects the sensitive ecological habitat and will have minimal impact on the natural environment.  The CRD is planning to install a pump-out toilet on the new acquisition and remove the old boathouse.  There is also a plan to install steps to provide safe access from Gowlland Beach to Gowlland Point in the area of the “goat trail.”  There will be an opportunity for the community to participate in the Management Plan review.  In the meantime, we welcome your suggestions for improving the current Management Plan found on the CRD website.

PICA will be making a submission to the National Energy Board on the Kinder-Morgan pipeline proposal in the next six weeks.  The proposal would dramatically increase the oil (bitumen) tanker traffic through Boundary Pass close to the sensitive South Pender shoreline including Brooks Point.

Save the Date!

In the last Pender Post article we indicated PICA is planning a community celebration to recognize our collective achievement.  We have set Saturday, May 24th - Chocolate Lily Day - as the date.  This celebration is not about speeches (although there are a few well deserved awards to be made).  You are invited to PICA’s party to Celebrate Brooks Point Completion!  So please mark your calendar and get out your dancing shoes.  We will provide more details in next month’s Pender Post.

Monica Petrie, Co-chair for PICA’s Brooks Point Committee: Paul Petrie, Rhondda Porter, Ursula Poepel, Trallee Dun, Jill Ilsley, John Chapman.


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March, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

On Friday, February 7th about 35 people braved the cold and dire threats of snow to attend PICA’s annual potluck.  As usual there was an amazing variety of delicious food.  A couple of people suggested that in future all the dishes be labelled with the cook’s name so that the cook can be tracked down and badgered for a copy of the recipe!

The highlight of the evening was a lecture by David Boyd, “The Optimistic Environmentalist”, who spoke about some of the successes achieved by people involved in the fight for environmental rights.  He mentioned people like Antonio Oposa, Jr. in the Philippines, who won a landmark law case in the Supreme Court of the Philippines and established the right of individuals to sue on behalf of future generations in order to stop environmental damage today.  David also spoke about the work of Beatriz Mendoza and a group of neighbours from a shanty town in Buenos Aires who filed a case at the Supreme Court arguing that the systemic pollution of the watershed and the river basin had caused and was causing damage to residents’ health.  In 2008, the group won the lawsuit and the court legislated a cleanup of the area.  

Argentina and the Philippines are just two of the approximately 150 nations which have recognized the right to a healthy environment as being a human right.  Ninety countries have constitutions which explicitly recognize the right to a clean environment.  Countries as diverse as Brazil, South Africa, East Timor, Egypt, Mongolia, Costa Rica, Portugal, France, and Norway are all on the list.  Noticeably lacking are the United States, Great Britain, Australia and Canada.  In Canada the “right to a healthy environment” is not part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has been part of our constitution since 1982.  However, Section 7 of the Charter does refer to “the right to live”, and since the constitution has already been amended 11 times, there is reason to hope that some future government of Canada will add Canada to the list of countries which have included environmental rights in their constitutions.

Although North America does not have constitutionally recognized environmental rights which would make it easier to protect the environment, some states and provinces have legislation which can be used to protect the environment.  To encourage us, David mentioned a few good news stories.  Regulation of CFCs and a reduction in the amounts released into the atmosphere have slowed the depletion of the ozone layer.  Measurements of the layer suggest that 2014 may be the first year in which the ozone layer actually shows signs of recovering.  The banning of DDT has helped many populations of raptors recover.  For example, the peregrine falcon has been removed from the endangered species list.  Protection through legislation has helped populations of other endangered species, such as humpbacked whales, grey whales, Bald eagles, and sea otters to recover.  Of course there is always more work to be done, and the shorelines of Pender are a good place to start.

Thank you to all the people who turned up to help at the potluck and especially to the valiant kitchen cleanup crew of Eleanor Brownlee, Sue Kronen, and Davy Rippner.  If you weren’t able to attend our potluck, don’t forget you can still renew your 2014 membership.  Individual membership is $10 per year and family membership is $15 per year.  Cheques can be left in the PICA folder in the Pender Island Realty office.  New members are always welcome.  You can find membership forms in the PICA folder or on-line at www.penderconservancy.org.

Advance Warning!  Beach Cleanup and Stewardship Day are fast approaching.  On Saturday, April 19th join our annual Beach Cleanup, which will be held in the morning, followed by Stewardship Day events at the Community Hall in the afternoon.  There will be more details in next month’s Pender Post and on the PICA website. Watch for posters announcing the times of the various events. If you would like to sign up in advance for the beach cleanup, contact Amanda Griesbach at 250-629-3915.

David Boyd: The Optimistic Environmentalist

In a world besieged by bad news about the state of the planet, almost everyone is thirsty for good news, for stories that inspire hope about the future.   Pessimism breeds apathy and despair, whereas optimism fuels action and progress.  As Winston Churchill wrote, "The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.   The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty." To be sure, modern society faces substantial environmental challenges, but these are far from insurmountable, as our surprising track record of success demonstrates.

Concerted efforts have pulled endangered species from bald eagles to gray whales back from the precipice of extinction.  Thousands of new parks have been established across the globe, protecting billions of hectares of land and water.  We saved the vital ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from UV-B radiation emitted by the sun.  Clean, renewable energy harnessing the wind, water, and sun is booming.  There is a race to be the greenest city in the world. Transportation innovations feature smart public transit, electric vehicles, the renaissance of cycling and walking, and the prospect of self-driving cars and solar roads. Buildings are being engineered to produce more energy than they consume. We’ve made remarkable progress in cleaning up the air we breathe and the water we drink.   The leaded gasoline that damaged children’s brains was phased out.  We’ve eliminated the production, use, and release of dozens of the world’s most toxic chemicals.  We’ve ended the acid rain that ravaged lakes, forests, and soils.

With the completion of Brooks Point Regional Park a year ahead of schedule, it is time to send a big round of applause to all the people on Pender who helped make it possible: the supporters, the donors, the volunteers, the grant writers, and all the people off-island who recognized the value of the unspoiled coastal bluff of Brooks Point and donated so generously to our fund-raising efforts.  Thank you!  


February, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

PICA’s Annual Potluck   February 7 in the Anglican Church Community Hall

Our invited speaker will be David R. Boyd, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University, an adviser on environmental policy to governments in Canada and Sweden, and one of Canada’s leading environmental lawyers.  He is the former Executive Director of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund (now Ecojustice), Canada’s leading public interest environmental law organization.   David was recently a Trudeau Scholar at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia and is currently an Adjunct Professor in Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University, Associate Faculty in the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University.

Boyd’s current research focuses on the effects of enshrining the constitutional right to live in a healthy environment, a right now recognized in at least 100 nations.

He is also an international expert on human rights and the environment, assisting countries from Iceland to Tunisia in securing constitutional protection for the right to a healthy environment.


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Brooks Point Regional Park

With our goal of raising $300,000 accomplished in the final days of 2013, the Brooks Point Committee turned its attention to having some seriously youthful fun at the beginning of the New Year.  We joined with Amanda Griesbach and Julie Johnston to host Pender Islands' first ever "CBC4Kids" - a birdwatching event that introduces kids to counting birds, much like the Christmas Bird Count carried out here on the islands by adults in mid-December.

Under kind winter skies on January 4th, 26 kids accompanied by 16 parents met at the boardwalk entrance to Brooks Point Regional Park.  Small birding groups were formed, each with its own experienced adult bird mentor, and off they went down the trails through forest and meadow, atop bluffs, binoculars and checklists at the ready.  Crows cawed, Harlequin ducks dove, Bald eagles soared, a Song Sparrow sang; together the kids identified and counted 17 bird species, 84 individual birds - and one seal!  Afterwards, all repaired to the Petries's place for hot chocolate, snacks and more bird games.  Smiles abounded.

PICA would like to thank Amanda Griesbach, Julie Johnstone and Jill Ilsley for organizing the event, as well as all the mentors who volunteered their time to nurture the kids' appreciation of wild birds and Brooks Point: Jackie Gill, Michelle Masselink, Robyn Pirie, Ian Pirie, Diane Swindell, Don Williams, and Kelly Skrukwa. Thanks also to Hans Tammemagi, John Heinonen and David Ohnona for capturing the fun on 'film'! 

It is good to know that the completed Brooks Point Regional Park, with its tapestry of habitats, is protected for our youth and the wild birds - forever.

Monica Petrie


January, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

January always seems such a slow month, far less exciting than December with all its festivities, but if the ground isn’t frozen and it isn’t pouring with rain, pulling broom is an excellent way to start off the new year and burn off a few calories. 

The introduction of Scotch broom to British Columbia has often been blamed on homesick Scottish immigrants but broom (Cytisus scoparius) is actually a native of the Mediterranean countries, not Scotland.  The plant was first introduced to the province in 1850 by Captain Walter Grant who had a farm in Sooke.  He planted some broom seeds that he got from the British consul in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).  From the three plants which germinated, broom spread up the east coast of Vancouver Island.  From there it spread to the Gulf Islands and on to the Mainland.  Its spread was aided by the highways department which used broom to stabilize the slopes alongside roads and by gardeners who liked the bright yellow flowers.  Unfortunately no one realized how aggressively the broom would spread, nor what its impact would be on native plant species.

Broom is a highly invasive perennial shrub.  It is drought tolerant, grows in almost any soil and needs an exposed area with only about four hours of sun a day to thrive.  Broom won’t spread into areas with good tree cover, but it can quickly invade any cleared area, which is another good reason to leave as much of the native vegetation as possible on your property.  Broom plants mature and flower when they are about three years old and plants can reach a height of nine or ten feet.  After flowering the plants produce large quantities of black seed pods.  Each pod contains between five and nine seeds.  When ripe, the pods explode, distributing the seeds in an ever-widening circle. Slower growing and slower reproducing native species such as salal (Gaultheria shallon) or Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) can’t compete.     

Any time of year is a good time to pull broom (except when it is covered with unexploded seed pods), but if you want to tackle a large bush or have a lot of large plants to get rid of, you can borrow PICA’s trusty broom puller (check our homepage).  Later in the year, when the broom is in flower, but before it produces seed, plants can also be cut off close to the ground.  They might regrow from the stem, but after a couple of years of cutting the stems, the underground roots will die.  Another method which works on larger plants and doesn’t disturb the soil is to strip off all the flowering stems and as many side branches as possible.  If you find the idea of "broom-bashing" with a group of like-minded individuals exciting, let us know; we are always looking for volunteers.  No experience necessary!  

On January 4th an enthusiastic group of young birders and their parents will be on Brooks Point from 1 to 3pm.  If you missed the other announcements about this event and want to join, the information you need is below.  Many thanks to Julie Johnson, Amanda Griesbach, and Jill Ilsley for organizing this event, and to Monica and Paul Petrie for offering to host the hot chocolate party afterwards.     

Christmas Bird Count for Kids!

A family event over the holidays, the Christmas Bird Count for Kids will take place on Saturday, January 4 at Brooks Point from 1 to 3 pm. There will be bird games and activities for the younger children and opportunities for older kids to do some bird watching, identifying and counting (as "community scientists”), with experienced Pender birdwatchers.  This feathered friend-raising event will be the first of many youth-oriented activities in 2014 sponsored by the Pender Islands Conservancy Association's Brooks Point Committee.  Pre-registration is necessary to ensure enough hot chocolate for everyone!  Please contact Jill at jill.ilsley@icloud.com to register, letting us know 1) how many people in your family will be coming, 2) the age/s of your child/ren, and 3) whether any of them are passionate about bird watching and would like to "count" with a birding mentor during the event.  Bad weather date: Sunday, January 5.  Please remember to bring your binoculars!

PICA is planning its annual potluck for February.  We will let you know via e-mail and on this website as soon as we have a confirmed date.  This year we will have a very special reason to celebrate conservation on our small islands, the completion of Brooks Point Regional Park on South Pender. 

Rhondda Porter 

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December, 2013
Brooks Point Completion Update

 GOOD NEWS for Brooks Point completion keeps on coming!  In October, PICA received two substantial legacy gifts.  The first gift honours the memory of John and Dorothy Henshaw. John and Dorothy were mainstays of the South Pender community who made many lasting contributions to Pender.  The following week we received another unexpected legacy gift from Ruth Hamson to honour the memory of her late husband Leo Hamson.  Leo was a lifelong conservationist who recognized and appreciated the importance of protecting special places for future generations.  These legacy gifts give PICA’s Brooks Point campaign a huge boost as we enter the final year to meet the community contribution requirement to complete Brooks Point Regional Park.

In October we applied to Shaw TV for a $5,000 community partnership grant.  There is no decision on the grant application yet, but Shaw sent reporter Karen Elgersma from Go Island to do a piece on Brooks Point.  This important coverage will carry our message to Vancouver island and beyond to gather wider support for Brooks Point completion.  We’ll have a link to that video here in a day or two.

Check out the piece on PICA’s valued conservation partner, the Greenangels woodchoppers, telling their story while splitting another cord for Brooks Point:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UM_az43-5sk

In the November Pender Post we announced that with contributions from our conservation partners, we were able to reduce the remaining community funding requirement down to $85,000.  With the incredible legacy gifts and other donations in October - November we are happy to report that we now have $53,000 left to raise by December 2014.  Since March 2013 when we agreed to raise another $150,000 if the CRD would remove the subdivision option, PICA has raised close to $100,000!  This was made possible first and formost by the strong support of the Pender community and also by the dedicated work of PICA’s Brooks Point committee: John Chapman, Trallee Dun, Jill Ilsley, Rhondda Porter, Ursula Poepel, co-chaired by Paul and I.  Together with the community we are bringing this vision to fruition.

We are especially appreciative of the unexpected and very generous legacy gifts that have given us the momentum to bring our campaign to the point where the goal is in sight.  This is the time of year when we all focus on giving.  This holiday season you may wish to consider making a donation to PICA for Brooks Point Completion on behalf of someone on your gifting list.  This is a gift that keeps on giving because the donation will help protect the park for future generations.  It is a special place for people of all ages to enjoy in all seasons so is a suitable gift for everyone.  The person on whose behalf you make the donation can have a virtual visit by going to brookspoint.org.  Gift cards for such a donation will be at the PICA table at the Dec 14 Winter Market at the Hall.  You can also make a donation using paypal on brookspoint.org Thanks for your support.  

Monica Petrie, Co-chair
PICA’s Brooks Point Committee


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Fall on Pender seems to be the season of tree felling, wood chopping, and branch burning.  Fall also brings the first of the storms which bring down trees and branches which knock out the power and make all the chopping worthwhile as you sit in front of your wood-burning stove.  But what about all those branches?  Rather than burning them outside, why not use them to build a nice brush pile for the birds which live and nest near the ground and depend on dense, shrubby growth for protection?

Building a brush pile can be as simple or as complex as you wish; the birds and other small creatures which use them don’t really care about your architectural skills. The basic brush pile is a conical pile of criss-crossed branches, beginning with the largest ones on the bottom and the smaller branches with leaves or needles on top.



The aim is to provide an open protective shelter that small birds can easily slip in and out of. However, to encourage birds such as juncos, wrens, and towhees to use the brush pile for nesting, the brush pile needs to be reasonably large.  A three-foot high, five by five brush pile will provide shelter from predators for all kinds of birds, but a brush pile for nesting birds should be at least eight-feet by six-feet in area and five or six feet high.  If the brush pile is longer, more like a hedge, it can accommodate more than one nesting pair of birds.

Although a brush pile will be used practically anywhere you put one, some areas are more beneficial to wildlife than others.  Putting your brush pile near the forest edge or in an opening in the forest, near the margins of streams and marshes, or close to land that is being cleared will give wildlife access to sources of food and water in addition to the shelter that your brush pile provides.  Building a brush pile next to rotting logs or fallen trees will offer the brush pile users a ready source of insects. Amphibians in particular benefit from brush piles near boggy areas, as the piles help maintain the cool, moist conditions that these animals require, especially during hot, dry summers.

Depending on how it is built, the average brush pile will last about four years with no further work.  It will gradually disappear as the wood decays.  However, a brush pile can be maintained and expanded over the years to provide a semi-permanent natural refuge for wildlife.  For more information on brush piles, go to the PICA website www.penderconservancy.org. There you will find links to a number of interesting websites.  Go to our Links page from the Home Page and look for “Brush Pile Info”.

After an exciting year of shoreline talks and workshops, the PICA Board is hard at work planning for 2014.  If you have ideas about interesting topics, if you know about interesting speakers, or if you are yourself an interesting speaker, let us know.  We would love to hear from you and don’t forget, volunteers are always welcome.

Rhondda Porter

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Autumn

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer and the last event of the 2013 Shoreline Apocalypse follow-up series has been held.  The first event was the return visit in March by John Readshaw, a coastal engineer.  His visit gave residents of North and South Pender an opportunity to go to two different waterfront locations to learn about the effects of rising sea levels on the shoreline and on the structures that we build there: houses, docks and sea walls.  In June Rick Harbo returned to Pender to take an enthusiastic group on an inter-tidal walk on Medicine Beach to look at various ecosystems and to consider what changes might occur as a result of climate change.  

On Saturday, September 21st, Nikki Wright of SeaChange and Leanna Boyer from the Mayne Island Conservancy met with about 15 people for the afternoon workshop “What Nature May be Telling us About Adapting to Changing Climate.”  The workshop began with the participants sitting at tables arranged in a horseshoe.  We were each given a piece of waterfront property and a million dollars to build our dream home.  With coloured pens we drew up our plans on large, numbered sheets of newsprint which had been marked with the shoreline of our waterfront lot.  After our plans were complete, Nikki gave a presentation on coastal shores as living systems.  She introduced us to the principles of the Green Shores Initiative, a cross-border program between the Islands Trust, San Juan County, and the City of Seattle.  Basic principles include the following: to preserve the integrity or connectivity of coastal processes, to maintain or enhance habitat diversity, to minimize or reduce pollutants to the marine environment, and to reduce cumulative impacts on the environment.  

During Nikki’s presentation we were introduced to some of the information that will be needed to understand how to adapt to climate change.  As islanders, adapting to climate change will mean learning how to deal with an increase in sea level.  Low-lying areas on the Penders will, over time, be inundated by sea water and our shorelines will be threatened by the increased storm activity resulting from climate change.  The rise in sea level is a combination of the amount of water, the temperature of water, changes in wind and current patterns, and vertical land movement.  Recent predictions indicate that the sea level will rise by one metre by 2100.  Healthy shorelines can help moderate the effects of storms and flooding.  A healthy shoreline also helps cleanse and assimilate land-based pollutants, and provides spawning and feeding areas for fish, shellfish, and birds.  What we do on land affects what happens in the ocean.  For example, building too close to the shoreline and removing native trees and shrubs can result in sediment run-off, which smothers the eggs of small fish, such as sand lance and surf smelt, buried in the gravel of the inter-tidal area.  We also learned about some of the processes that occur on the coast including the effect of wind and waves, natural erosion, sediment sinks, and deposition areas, and some of the effects that intertidal structures have on these processes.

After a break for coffee, tea, brownies, chocolate chip cookies and other scrumptious desserts we returned to our horseshoe and rearranged our waterfront properties according to numbers on the top of the paper.  Suddenly we became a neighbourhood of property owners around a bay and our decisions about our dream homes could affect not only the foreshore, but also our neighbours.  Nikki admitted to being rather disappointed that she could find almost nothing in our little community to complain about.  Everyone built their house away from the shore to minimize the disturbance of the shoreline or coastal bluff and no one clear-cut their properties to improve their views.  The people who built on low bank properties left the native vegetation intact and some put in an extra buffer zone of native plants to help stabilize the shoreline and reduce the effect of increased wave action.  No one put in a dock or a seawall, so none of their neighbours had to worry about changes in wave action which could result in increased erosion of their property.  Everyone used porous surfaces for driveways and paths to allow rainwater to drain naturally into the ground.  Many homes had a solar component and most had their fenced gardens away from the shoreline to minimize run-off.  We had obviously learned a lot from the earlier presentations.

Leanna Boyer introduced us to some of the projects that involve studying everything from the location and ecology of eel grass meadows to the use of computer modelling to identify the areas in the Gulf Islands and along the coast which would be sensitive to sea level rise.  The eel grass mapping project has found that 11.6% of North Pender shoreline and 8.5% of South Pender support eel grass.  Over 1000 species use eel grass and the loss of these areas would affect everything from sea lance and surf smelt, which depend on these areas, to salmon which eat these small fish, and to orcas which eat the salmon.  

For more information on Green Shores go to the Islands Trust website (www.islandtrust.bc.ca) and click on Trust Council, then drop down on the menu to projects and you will find Green Shores for Homes.  Clicking on this will take you to integrated shoreline and watershed maps and a video of the aerial survey of the shorelines of North and South Pender, a fascinating journey by helicopter around the islands.

Volunteers for our various activities, from forage fish monitoring to broom bashing, are always welcome.  Just let us know!

Rhondda Porter

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Calendar Events for October

Chasing Ice

Presented by PICA & Pender Islands Film Group
7:30 PM October 12, 2013
Pender Island Community Centre
Admission by donation

September, 2013

On Saturday, September 7th about 50 people came to the Community Hall to see the controversial documentary Salmon Confidential.  The film chronicles Alexandra Morton’s fight to educate the public about the effects of fish farms on the health of BC’s wild salmon.  The film follows Alexandra from remote rivers and shorelines to grocery stores, sushi restaurants, and courtrooms, as she collects samples and tries to get the government to recognize the dangers of European salmon viruses being introduced into wild salmon populations by fish farms and to take the action required under the Fisheries Act.  According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans official website, the Government focuses its protection under the Fisheries Act “on real and significant threats to the fisheries and the habitat that supports them.”  Salmon Confidential documents the failure of DFO to take the steps necessary to even investigate the negative impact of fish farms on the wild stocks.

Film maker and colleague Twyla Roscovich was on hand to talk about the making of the film and to give us an update on Alexandra’s work and their future plans.  She also answered numerous questions from the audience.  If you missed seeing the film, the full-length documentary will be available for viewing on their website www.salmonconfidential.ca after the Vancouver Film Festival on October 12th.  The website also has a link to a recent video about Twyla’s visit to Norway to ask Norwegian scientists about the piscine reovirus and its effects on salmon. You can also read a recently published paper in the Virology Journal, which documents the occurrence of piscine reovirus outside of Norway and shows that the virus likely entered BC  from Norway sometime around 2007.

On a rather curious note, if you google Salmon Confidential, you will not only get Alexandra Morton’s website but also another site: www.salmonconfidential.com, a site which attempts to refute all the points made in the film.  The website is anonymous and the author says, “I am a salmon farmer.  That is all you need to know … this blog is not 'run by industry', although I do receive writing and research assistance from other salmon farmers.”  Enough said.

In October 2012, three years after the disastrous collapse of the Fraser River sockeye run in 2009 and $26 million dollars later, the Cohen Commission released its three volume report.  In Volume 3, beginning on page 90, Mr. Justice Cohen addresses DFO’s responsibility to conserve wild sockeye salmon stocks.  The last word should go to him.  “As long as DFO has a mandate to promote salmon farming, there is a risk that it will act in a manner that favours the interests of the salmon-farming industry over the health of wild fish stocks.”

On Saturday, September 21st, Nikki Wright of SeaChange and Leanna Boyer from the Mayne Island Conservancy came to Pender to talk about “What Nature May be Telling us About Adapting to Changing Climate.”  For those of you who didn’t make it to the talk, check out next month’s Pender Post for a complete report.

For your calendar, on Saturday, October 12th you will have an opportunity to see a fascinating film, Chasing Ice. In the spring of 2005, environmental photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on assignment for National Geographic.  His task was to capture images to help tell the story of Earth’s changing climate. The film captures a multi-year record of the disappearance of Arctic ice.  If you need more convincing to attend, visit www.chasingice.com and watch the film trailer. Thanks are due to Colin Hamilton and the Pender Film Group for arranging a showing of this amazing film.

Rhondda Porter


Brooks Point Completion Update

In the August Pender Post we reported that the Greenangels woodchoppers had donated 13 cords of firewood at $300 a cord for Brooks Point.  Well, the woodchoppers didn’t stop at 13 cords.  They topped it up to 20 cords!  That is an incredible $6,000 we didn’t request and certainly didn’t expect.

Our hats off to the Greenangels woodchoppers and everyone who donated the wood (your tax receipts are in the mail) and to everyone who purchased a cord of this high quality firewood.

PICA’s Chocolate Lily Cup II golf tournament at Prospect Lake course was a fundraising success.
We exceeded our goal of $4,500 by $250, thanks especially to generous sponsors including Greenangels Financial, our event sponsor, and hole sponsorship from Saunders Subaru, Poets Cove Resort, Island Savings, Odlum Brown Financial, The Pinch Group at Raymond James Financial, RBC Wealth Management, Island Tides, and Prospect Lake Golf Club.  We especially appreciate Poets Cove Resort offering a fabulous first prize accommodation package and Saunders Subaru offering a new Subaru for a hole-in-one on the 170 yard 7th hole.  Unfortunately, no one drove away in the impressive new Subaru.

Big winners at the tournament included Jeff Bell’s team from the Times Colonist with low score.
Ruth Saunders won the "
longest drive" contest and "closest to the pin" contest.  South Pender’s team, led by Frank Ducote, won "most honest team" honors with highest score.  Frank also won the "ball in the lake" contest and "closest to the centre" line contest.  Honorable mention went to Michael Butler who played his first game in 41 years.  Dishonorable mention went to the unnamed South Pender duffer who sliced his drive from the 7th tee over the parking lot, just missing a car-in-one.

The silent auction was especially rewarding with a range of valuable pieces including a very limited edition print donated by Robert Bateman, a Nikon D3200 SLR camera from Wynne Powell and London Drugs, some great accommodation packages from God’s Mountain B&B on Skaha Lake and Morning Moon on Pender and Leslie Munro’s woven shawl of exotic wools.  All 13 auction items sold and contributed $2265 to the total.  Tom Watson, a Board member with The Land Conservancy, was a double winner, donating the most auction items and also having the winning bid on the most items.

One of the most significant contributions to our Brooks Point campaign is the wonderful video produced by David Ohnona and Joanne Green “For Future Generations,” showing the natural beauty of Brooks Point through a child’s eyes.  The video was previewed at the outdoor showing of the Penders Film Group’s film “The Kings of Summer” to rave reviews!  This video presents the essence of PICA’s goal of protecting our ecological gem for future generations.  The footage of the Orcas in close to the Point helps capture the magic of Brooks Point.  You can view the video at our website
http://brookspoint.org.

PICA’s Brooks Point committee is currently pursuing land acquisition grants from the Federal Habitat Stewardship Program, The Vancouver Foundation, The MacLean Foundation and the Weeden Foundation.

We were very pleased to hear that that a wannabe camper at Brooks Point in early August was informed by the RCMP that the
"no camping" sign meant exactly that.  The helpful constable escorted the individual to Prior Park.  Thank you.

Monica Petrie, Co-chair
PICA’s Brooks Point Committee


Calendar Events for September

What Nature May be Telling us About Adapting to Changing Climate

With Nikki Wright and Leanna Boyer.  1:30 to 4:30 PM
Upstairs at the Community Hall Saturday, September 21, 2013

“Salmon Confidential” with film maker Twyla Roscovich.  7:30 PM
Upstairs at the Community Hall Saturday, September 7, 2013

The recent news about the sockeye salmon runs seems to be all bad.  The Skeena fishery has been closed entirely, due to the “desperately low numbers” of fish returning to the river to spawn.  The Fraser fishery has also been closed for all species of salmon.  “Record high in-water temperatures” in the river above Mission are expected to lead to excessive mortality of an already low number of returning fish.  According to Department of Fisheries and Oceans staff, up to 70% of the sockeye returning to the Fraser will die before reaching the spawning grounds.  Even the test fishery has been scaled back to “conserve dwindling salmon numbers”.  

This month’s showing of the Alexandra Morton film “Salmon Confidential” will look at what happens when a scientist tries to present factual information about how fish farming has introduced dangerous European salmon viruses into our wild salmon populations and the effect that these viruses are having on our native fish stocks.  The film documents Morton’s fight to make her findings public, despite the opposition of the government and the fish-farming industry.  Twyla Roscovich, the maker of the film and Morton’s colleague, will be on hand to discuss the film and answer questions.  Admission is by donation.

Despite all the bad news, there are a couple of good news fish stories.  Alexandra Morton is not alone in her fight.  The summer issue of the Ecojustice newsletter has as its front page “Disease & wild salmon don’t mix”.  Ecojustice, “on behalf of Alexandra Morton, is headed to Federal Court to challenge an aquaculture licence issued by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).”  To read more about this issue and about the most dangerous virus being introduced into wild salmon populations go to www.ecojustice.ca/salmon.

The other piece of good news is the work being done by conservation groups all over the province who are working to restore salmon spawning streams and reintroduce native salmon to areas where they have not been seen for years or even decades.  One of these local efforts is our own Hope Bay Stream Salmon project.  We are now into our second year of sending baby chum salmon down the stream and into the ocean where they will remain for several years before returning to spawn.  Chum are shallow spawners and use small river channels and streams with relatively slow-moving waters to lay their eggs, so we hope to make the Hope Bay stream a better place for them to spawn and spend the first few weeks of their lives.  There are still invasive plants to remove, native species to plant, and stream beds to "renovate".  Volunteers are always welcome, no experience necessary.  More work will need to be done on the stream in the fall and we can also use volunteers to help again in the spring to monitor the stream, as we prepare for year three of sending baby chum off to the ocean.  To volunteer for this project contact Amanda at 250 629-3915.  

Later in the month, as part of the Near-shore Apocalypse follow-up series, Nikki Wright of SeaChange and Leanna Boyer from the Mayne Island Conservancy will present “What Nature May be Telling us about Adapting to Changing Climate”.  The presentation will provide us with an opportunity to learn more about shoreline dynamics, rising sea levels, and the effects of climate change on the marine ecosystems which surround us.  We hope to see you there.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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August, 2013
Brooks Point Completion Update

“Bocce In the Pines 2” organized by Karl Hamson, Hedi Kovacs, Bill Deverell and Jan Kirkby as a fundraiser for Brooks Point succeeded beyond PICA’s expectations.  Our MP Elizabeth May kicked off the tournament and when all the bocce balls had come to rest, the donations and contributions came to $4,490!  This far exceeded our projections and, once again, demonstrated the Pender community’s strong support for protecting Brooks Point for generations to come.  Perhaps it was poetic that the winners, Team Gracie, were led by a 3½ year old “third” that led Gerry and Glenn to the championship in an exciting sudden death overtime victory.  The coming generation was well represented by Gracie on the winning team. 

But wait, there’s more ... three days before the bocce event, our CRD Director Dave Howe and his Greenangels woodchoppers offered 10 cords of firewood at $300 a cord as a fundraiser in conjunction with the tournament.  When the sawdust had settled, 13 cords had been ordered (and honored) bringing the grand total for the tournament and the Greenangels’ contribution to almost $8,500.  Thank you, Greenangels!

PICA’s remaining fundraising events are focused in Victoria to give our conservation partners in the greater Capital region an opportunity to help PICA complete the remaining conservation partner portion of the funding requirement.  The Islands Trust Fund has already collected $2,600 toward their goal of $5,000 which they will match.  The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Habitat Acquisition Trust, The Land Trust Alliance of BC, and The Land Conservancy of BC are all supporting PICA’s fundraising efforts.  On June 27th PICA presented the CRD with a cheque for $25,000 as the first installment on the $150,000 remaining funding requirement.  In case you were wondering, the Pender community and our conservation partners have raised $825,000 since 1996 to create Brooks Point Regional Park; the CRD has already contributed $500,000 and agreed to pay the remaining $1,300,000 required to complete the acquisition.  

PICA’s next event is a golf tournament, Chocolate Lily Cup II, at Prospect Lake course in Victoria on Sunday, August 18th.  Saunder’s Subaru has offered a new Subaru for a hole-in-one contest.  The tournament will be followed by a silent auction and a fabulous dinner.  Golf and dinner are $80 (with a charitable tax receipt for a portion) or just dinner for $45.  Register by August 9th with David Greer at davidgreer@shaw.ca. 

We are delighted to report that David Ohnona and Joanne Green have now completed an enchanting video of Brooks Point as seen through a child’s eyes, complete with kite flying, tidal pool exploration and a passing Orca pod in close to the Point.  Watch for the preview coming soon.  The video captures the mystery and magic of this ecological gem and keeps the focus on protecting the Point for future generations.  

Monica Petrie, Co-chair
PICA’s Brooks Point Completion Committee


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July, 2013
Brooks Point Completion Update

PICA has enhanced its website to include a new Brooks Point sub-domain to promote conservation partner awareness and support.  This website includes information for supporters in the Capital Region and beyond to appreciate the special ecological and recreational values of Brooks Point.  The website also provides a convenient PayPal “donate” feature for ‘off-island’ conservation partners to contribute to the remaining funding requirement from anywhere on the planet.  Check it out at brookspoint.org. A huge THANK YOU to PICA’s webmaster Davy Rippner, and committee members John Chapman and Trallee Dun for engineering this big step forward.  And a special thanks to Sergei Petrov for contributing technical expertise.  

Our 2013 fundraising brochure is hot off the press, thanks to donated production from Wynne Powell and London Drugs.  We will be including this brochure in our communication campaign to inform other conservation organizations in BC and beyond of our success in completing the $150,000 community share of the funding requirement and our challenge in meeting the additional $150,000 conservation partner share.  We will be seeking support from these organizations similar to the recently announced generous funding support from the Islands Trust Fund to match donations up to $5,000.  On July 5th PICA will provide the first installment of $25,000 on the conservation share of the additional funding requirement to the CRD thanks to the $20,000 from Poets Cove resort and unsolicited donations from committed supporters.

Plans are taking shape for the 2nd edition of “Bocce in the Pines” thanks to the generous support of Karl Hamson, Hedi Kovacs, Bill Deverell and Jan Kirkby who are organizing and co-sponsoring this fundraiser for Brooks Point.  Once again, we will have entry by donation with charitable tax receipts (over $10) and prizes for the winners.  We are especially pleased that the Pender Lions will be providing their popular smokies and hotdogs to help with their fundraising goals.  Get your two member teams together to challenge the past tournament winners.  Register between 1:00 and 1:30 on Sunday July 14th, or just cheer on the players and enjoy the fun and festivities.  There will be a beer garden and music. Come and help us keep the FUN in fundraising! 

Plans are also well under way for the 2nd Annual Chocolate Lily Cup charitable golf tournament on Sunday August 18th.  This event is being organized by former South Pender Trustee David Greer in partnership with PICA and will be held at Victoria’s Prospect Lake Golf Course (www.golfprospect.com) to encourage participation by conservation partners from Vancouver Island.  Golf and dinner for $80 and ‘dinner only’ for $45 (with charitable tax receipts for charity portion).  The tournament will be a “Texas Scramble” theme with prizes and a focus on a "fun-raising" event.  Save the date and plan to come and have fun!

We are delighted to report that Joanne Green and David Ohnona have agreed to do a video of Brooks Point to capture the magic and the mystery of the Point “Through a Child’s Eyes.”  This will be a great addition to PICA’s website and will illustrate and reinforce our goal of protecting Brooks Point “for future generations.”  

Monica Petrie, Co-chair
PICA’s Brooks Point Completion Committee


June, 2013
Brooks Point Completion Update

As we reported in the last Pender Post, PICA’s Brooks Point committee is now focused on securing the additional $150,000 from conservation partners beyond Pender.  We are heartened by the decision of the Islands Trust Fund Board (ITF) to set aside $5,000 to match donations made tothem to protect Brooks Point in 2013.  This is a big step forward for us, and with a good response from ITF supporters, we will be $10,000 closer to our goal.

The recent $20,000 from Poet’s Cove Resort is also part of the additional $150,000 to be raised from conservation partners.  Over the last few months PICA has also received donations of approximately $5,000 toward our ultimate goal of $150,000.  This means we have already made a $30,000 dent in the additional fundraising requirement, and will be remitting the first installment to the Capital Regional District Parks committee in late June.

We have two off-island fundraising events planned so far.  Former South Pender trustee David Greer has offered to host a fundraising golf tournament at Prospect Lake Golf course on August 18, 2013. We will be announcing more detailed plans in next month’s Pender Post.  Save the date!

Our Brooks Point Committee is also in the early stages of planning a fund raising concert at Alix Goolden Hall in early November.  More on that in future columns ... watch for the poster and announcement.  Habitat Acquisition Trust and ITF have agreed to assist PICA with these two off-island fund raising events.

We are waiting for a decision from the Federal Habitat Stewardship Program in response to our application for a $50,000 grant to secure the habitat of the Sharp-tailed Snake found in the remnant Garry Oak meadow in Phase III.

Although we had not planned to hold any fund raising events on Pender in 2013, we have agreed to make an exception in response to a generous and welcomed offer from Karl Hamson, Hedi Kovacs, Bill Deverell and Jan Kirkby, to host the second Brooks Point Bocce-in-the-Pines Tournament behind the Community Hall on July 14, 2013. The 2011 bocce tournament raised $5,120 and was great fun for the participants.  Circle the date on your calendar and join us at 1 PM Sunday, July 14th as we keep the ‘fun’ in fundraising.  Register your 2-member teams with me at 250 629-3419 or miraonpender@shaw.ca  Come, cheer on your favorite team and enjoy the festivities.

PICA now has new Brooks Point tee shirts for sale.  David Greer’s chocolate lilies photo has been turned into a stunning graphic image in black on light grey tees.  Look for them most Saturdays at the PICA booth at the Farmer’s Market.

Monica Petrie, Co-chair
PICA’s Brooks Point Completion Committee


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May, 2013
Brooks Point Completion Update

This past month I had the pleasure of accompanying Her Honour Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of BC, on a tour of Brooks Point Regional Park.  N. Pender Trustee Gary Steeves, S. Pender Trustees Liz Montague and Mike Jones were also with her.  And greeting her with me were members of PICA’s Brooks Point Completion Committee – Rhondda Porter, Trallee Dun, Jill Ilsley and John Chapman.   (We were all careful to remain on the path.)  

Her Honour was very interested in Brooks Point’s acquisition history and the ecological values.   She recently sat on a task force for species at risk and we provided her with a framed photo of the Sharp-tailed snake along with two Brooks Point tee shirts as mementos of her visit.  As we walked down the boardwalk toward the open headland we could hear a bagpipe playing.  Pipe Major Jim Dunlop stood silhouetted against the sky and we all stopped to listen in rapt attention.  The Chocolate Lilies had begun to bloom, there were fawn lilies, and the wonderful vistas from Brooks and Gowlland Points looking to the San Juans and Vancouver Island.  Her Honour pointed to the fire danger gauge near the entrance and said there was one like it near her home in the Nicola Valley, though it measured danger of drought!  Although it was a windy morning, the Vice Regal party expressed their enjoyment at visiting the park.

Meanwhile PICA’s Brooks Point committee has intensified our efforts to raise the additional funding required in response to the CRD’s recent agreement to retain all of the 2010 Phase III acquisition that completes the Regional Park.  Our focus is now on securing the additional $150,000 from conservation partners beyond Pender.  We are waiting for a decision from the Federal Habitat Stewardship Program in response to our application for a $50,000 grant to secure the habitat of the Sharp-tailed snake and the remnant Garry Oak meadow in Phase III.  We have just completed an application to the Island Trust Fund for an Opportunity Fund grant to contribute to the additional funding requirement.  Two members of our team attended the excellent fundraising workshop sponsored by our CRD director, David Howe, which has energized and focused our grant application initiative.  Our team is working with PICA’s webmaster, Davy Rippner, to update PICA’s website to enhance off island funding.  We have a way to go, but we are quickly putting a plan together to meet the additional funding requirement. 

Monica Petrie, Co-chair                                                                                                                                  PICA’s Brooks Point Completion Committee

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April, 2013
Brooks Point Completion Update

Many of you will have heard by now that the CRD Board APPROVED PICA’s proposal to retain and protect all of the 2010 Phase III property linking Brooks Point and Gowlland Point, completing Brooks Point Regional Park rather than resell any of the property.  This has been the goal of the Pender community and PICA from the outset.   

The CRD borrowed the $1,650,000 to purchase this 1.17 hectare prime waterfront property in 2010 through their Regional Park Land Acquisition Fund.  The CRD required community and conservation partners to contribute approximately one-third of the park acquisition cost.  At the time of acquisition, the CRD retained the option of reselling the property to pay off the loan if necessary.  

The CRD initially partnered with the Land Conservancy of B.C. (TLC) who agreed to pay the interest on the loan and to assist in fundraising to help cover the cost of the property.  PICA initiated an on-island fund-raising campaign and the Pender community raised nearly $152,000 to support the acquisition, a remarkable feat for our small island population. However, TLC’s financial difficulties in 2012 left the disposition of the 2010 acquisition in doubt.

In response to TLC’s financial challenges, PICA offered to raise an additional $150,000 if the CRD would remove the resale option.  At their March 13, 2013 meeting the CRD Board accepted PICA’s proposal and voted to remove the resale option!

Thanks to the generous $20,000 donation from Poets Cove resort raised through their Chocolate Lily Accommodation package and matching funds from the resort’s owners, PICA is able to make an initial payment on the additional $150,000 contribution. We are pleased that Poet’s Cove Resort has agreed to extend its fundraising campaign into 2013.  TLC has paid the interest on the loan for the past two years so PICA’s contribution will go toward the principle.

PICA has partnered with Habitat Acquisition Trust and the Islands Trust Fund to continue off-Island fundraising in 2013 and 2014.  We believe these partnerships will assist us in achieving the additional goal of $150,000.  We currently have an application to the Federal Habitat Stewardship Program for species at risk for a $50,000 land acquisition grant to protect the habitat of the endangered Sharp-tailed snake that is located in the Garry Oak stand in the centre of the 2010 acquisition.  Removal of the resale option will enhance our chances of securing additional grants to achieve this goal.

Sylvia Pincott, past president of PICA who initiated PICA’s fundraising campaign in 2011, said: “This important decision by the CRD Board helps protect one of the last ecologically-intact open headlands in the Southern Gulf Islands for future generations.”

Monica Petrie, Co-chair
PICA's Brooks Point Completion Committee

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March, 2013
Annual Potluck

More than 50 people attended the PICA Potluck on Friday, February 8, in the Parish Hall.  After an amazing meal, the guests were treated to an interesting and diverse lecture by Dr. Peter Arcese on the indirect effects of humans on native species and ecosystems.  Dr. Arcese is a professor in the Faculty of Forestry at UBC, specializing in applied conservation. 

Dr. Arcese introduced his topic with a number of thought-provoking observations and examples. He pointed out that we often compare developed landscapes with undeveloped ones and assume that what we see in the undeveloped areas is natural.  This may not be the case.  A study in the 1990s of vegetation plots originally mapped in the 1940s produced some surprising results.  The general loss of plant species in the areas outside of protected areas was 18%.   In the adjacent parks where deer could not be hunted, the study found a loss of 55% of the original plant species.  This and other studies have shown that protected areas are not maintaining valued species and ecosystems and that conservation of native species requires more than just protecting the land.  He used the example of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park to show the effect of wolves on the health of the ecosystem in a protected area.  The reintroduction of wolves reduced the overall number of elk by only about 10%, but because the elk were forced to move around more and ate less, there was also a decrease in their reproductive rate.  Over-grazed areas began to regenerate.

Looking at the situation in our area, Dr. Arcese presented some of the research findings on the indirect effects of humans on deer and ecosystems.  In the Coastal Douglas Fir Zone deer density was historically low due to predation and hunting.  Hunting is now outlawed on many islands, and the cougars and wolves that used to eat the deer are gone.  Many islands have ten times the normal density of deer and this has affected other species, both plant and animal.  As deer density increases the richness of vegetation decreases.  For example, if there are too many deer in an area where camas grows, the size of the bulbs decreases to the point where camas is unable to reproduce and eventually disappears.  In areas without deer, the bulbs double or triple in size in three years.  In deer-dense areas there is a loss of shrub cover.  This loss means that birds which use the flowers, fruit or seeds of the shrubs as food or use shrubby areas as nesting sites leave the area.  Humming-birds, which feed on the nectars of flowering shrubs, are eight times more abundant on islands without deer.  The photographs that Dr. Arcese showed of the forest vegetation in areas with low deer density or where areas are protected from deer by enclosures versus areas with high deer density further proved his point that our assumption about what is ‘natural’ could be wrong.  As his photographs showed, the lack of shrubs under mature conifers is only ‘natural’ in areas of high deer density.  For more information on this topic Google “Biodiversity + deer + Arcese”.  

In another example, Dr. Arcese talked about the Canada Goose.  Canada geese (Branta canadensis) used to be entirely migratory in British Columbia.  Prior to 1919 they were seldom seen except when migrating through the region.  In 1919 geese were released from a game farm near Elk Lake. Beginning in the 1960s geese were intensively introduced and started to form resident colonies.  One study looked at the effect of non-migratory geese on the decline of native plant species in marshes and along shorelines.  To illustrate the effect of resident populations of geese on estuaries, Dr. Arcese showed pictures of what happens to the marsh grasses in the presence of large numbers of geese.  These pictures can be found if you Google “effects of Canada Geese on marshes”, click on Botanical Electronic News-450 and look for the link to the photos.

To conclude his lecture, Dr. Arcese raised the questions “What can we do?” and “How do we measure success?”  Land use planning, stewardship, and education all play a role, but other changes could also make a difference.  At present the Farm Tax Credit program gives people who produce $3000 a year in agricultural products an 85% reduction in property tax.  If land is covenanted there is only a 65% reduction in property taxes and only on the covenanted portion.  Controlled hunting programs, “earn your buck”, which require hunters to take does in addition to bucks, have become part of management plans in parts of the United States.  Success is not always easy to measure, but many declines are reversible.  Gray whales have returned to the Coast and in 2012 the presence of resident humpbacks in the Strait was confirmed.  In 1970, when the use of DDT was banned, there were only about 90 pairs of Bald Eagles in BC. Today, there are an estimated 950 pairs.  

Don’t forget that on Saturday, March 2, John Readshaw will return to Pender.  There will be two sessions, one at the South Pender Firehall beginning at 9:45, followed by a field session on Drummond Bay and one at the Hope Bay Studio beginning at 1:45, followed by a field session on Bricky Bay.  These events are open to everyone and are free of charge.  Thanks to Sara Steil for organizing the day’s events and to John Readshaw for kindly donating his time to come to speak to us on the topic “What we must know about our Shorelines”.  This event is part of the follow-up to October’s “Uplands and Near-shore Apocalypse”.

For more information on PICA, our events and projects, visit our website penderconservancy.org 

Rhondda Porter

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January, 2013
Brooks Point Completion Update

I write this report as the festive season is well underway on Pender and Paul and I are on our way to the airport to pick up our two grandchildren, Pender and Ada (and their parents). Looking back over 2012, I am pleased to report that we have gained substantial ground in our community’s goal of retaining the new acquisition to complete Brooks Point. With the generosity and commitment of Pender Islanders and friends, we have to date raised $152,000!  Poets Cove Resort has added another $20,000 to that amount.

We have survived the financial near-meltdown of The Land Conservancy of BC (TLC), the CRD’s primary acquisition partner.  In response, PICA stepped into the breech and offered to raise an additional $150,000 from off-Island sources, if the CRD would remove a subdivision option.  We meet with the CRD Regional Parks Committee on January 16th to get their response.  PICA’s Brooks Point Completion Committee will be there one more time in our colourful Brooks Point T-shirts to remind them of our community’s uncompromising commitment to retain Brooks Point in its entirety for future generations.

We have applied to Mountain Equipment Co-op for a land acquisition grant toward our goal of an additional $150,000 (MEC provided $35,000 to help acquire Phase I in 1999).  Following the confirmed and documented sighting of a rare and endangered Sharp-tailed snake on the new acquisition in March 2012, we have just completed an application to the federal Habitat Stewardship Program for an acquisition grant to protect the Sharp-tailed snake habitat.

We have partnered with Habitat Acquisition Trust and the Islands Trust Fund to pursue off-Island funding in 2013.  On the eve of this article TLC has stepped-up and raised $33,400 toward the 2012 interest payment on the acquisition loan.  We are pleased that Brooks Point is high on their list of priorities as they work to regain financial stability.  PICA will contribute the $19,481 balance of that payment.

We hope to have a final decision from the CRD board to remove the subdivision option at their meeting on February 13th, almost 2 years to the day when PICA launched our campaign to protect Brooks Point in its entirety for future generations.

We hope you have an opportunity over the holidays to take visiting family and friends to enjoy the midwinter beauty at Brooks Point. We will be serving hot spiced apple juice in front of the boathouse just West of the Point on January 1st to celebrate our progress so far, and in anticipation of COMPLETION in 2013!  

Monica Petrie, Co-chair
PICA’s Brooks Point Completion Committee


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December, 2012
Brooks Point Completion Update

In the last Pender Post we reported that the CRD Regional Parks Committee postponed making a decision on completing Brooks Point Regional Park without subdivision until after the November municipal elections.  This means that PICA’s submission to protect Phase III of Brooks Point from subdivision will not be considered until early 2012 when a new Regional Parks Committee is in place.

In the meantime, PICA will be meeting with CRD staff to ensure that our community’s commitment to protect Brooks Point is included in any report they provide to the new Regional Parks Committee. And when the new Committee is in place we will lobby vigorously to achieve our goal.

PICA’s submission to the CRD Parks Committee in strong opposition to subdivision of the property linking Brooks Point (phase I) and Gowlland Point (phaseII) emphasized the importance of maintaining the ecological integrity of the phase III acquisition.

PICA has written to Regional Parks Committee Chair, Mayor Christopher Causton and advised the CRD that the $130,000 raised by PICA is in support of the community’s goal of maintaining the new acquisition in its entirety.  This is a substantial amount for the community to offer in lieu of the proceeds that could be realized through the sale of a portion of the land.

PICA also pointed out that the community and conservation partners contributed $744,000 to the acquisition of phases I & II, and with the $130,000 for phase III, the community and conservation partners will have contributed 27% of the total cost ($2,770,000) of Brooks Point Regional Park. This compares favourably with the 27% community share for all of the CRD parkland acquisition in the last 10 years.

PICA will redouble our efforts in the new year to persuade the new Regional Parks Committee to forgo the subdivision option and allow the CRD land acquisition fund (which we all contribute to) to pay off the balance of the acquisition loan over time.  With the community’s continued support, we believe we will achieve our goal in 2012.  In the meantime, bring your holiday guests and friends to Brooks Point and celebrate the natural beauty of this special place.

Monica Petrie, Co-chair
PICA’s Brooks Point Completion Committee


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November, 2012
Uplands and Near-shore Apocalypse workshop

On October 13, more than 100 people attended the Uplands and Near-shore Apocalypse workshop at the Pender Island Community Hall.  The theme of the day was "How climate change, plunging fish stocks & declining Orcas will affect all our futures".  The workshop was organized by Sara Steil with the support of PICA and Parks Canada. Wayne Bourque, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Superintendent, acted as the moderator for the morning session.  In addition to interested Penderites, participants included members of the Saanich Inlet Protection Society from Brentwood Bay, Islands Trust Council Chair Sheila Malcolmson from Gabriola Island, and Trustees from Keats, Gambier, Thetis, South Pender and North Pender Local Trust Committees.  Six experts from various fields dealt with a variety of themes related to climate change.

The first person to speak was John Readshaw, a coastal engineer, who discussed the implications of rising water levels for shorelines and shoreline structures in his talk, "Sea Level Rise in BC and its Implications. Options for Adapting".  The Global Mean Sea Level Change is presently 11mm per year, based on measurements taken over an 18 year period from 1993 to 2010.  The province is using a half metre increase in sea level by 2050 as its basis for planning.  Recent evidence of increased polar sea ice melt and Greenland ice melt suggests that this estimate is probably too low.

There are a number of implications of rising water levels for the Gulf Islands.  An increased depth of water leads to higher waves across the intertidal profile.  The deeper water offshore brings more wave energy closer to shore and leads to faster erosion of the seabed and bluffs.  According to John Readshaw, seawalls don't solve problems; rather, they bring new problems.  Beach shorelines are better protection than seawalls, since gravel beaches, whether natural or enhanced, disperse wave energy.  The Dutch have used this knowledge for generations.  Holland is protected by a ring of sand and gravel "dunes".

Marlow Pellatt, an ecosystems scientist and restoration expert with Parks Canada, talked about "Land Sea Connections and Possible Impacts of Climate Change".  He pointed out that climate change will have effects on land, fresh water, and marine ecosystems.  Maintaining the health of ecosystems so that they will respond and adapt naturally is of paramount importance.  Climate change will affect a variety of land areas, for example the tundra, grasslands, and boreal forests. It will also influence the spread of pests and disease.  The impact of changes in the amount of water and its timing will affect both fresh and saltwater areas.  One concern is the effect on the transfer of nutrients between watersheds and off-shore marine environments.  A change in the timing of freshet (water entering river systems from snow and ice melt), the volume of water, and the amount of sediment in the water will all affect the marine environment.  Increasing sedimentation of coastal waters can destroy eelgrass meadows, an important area for forage fish.  Marine environments respond fairly rapidly to temperature changes and many species of fish are particularly sensitive. Since entire ecosystems can change in less than 100 years due to changes in climate, restoration must look at the future of the area.  Habitat restoration in certain areas may be a waste and destined to fail simply because of climate change.

The third speaker was Rick Harbo, a retired Department of Fisheries biologist and author of several books.  His talk on intertidal and sub-tidal marine life, "From Whelks to Whales", introduced us to the amazing diversity of marine life.  There are about 7000 invertebrates, 640 plants, 400 fish, 200 marine birds, and 30 mammals which call the area of the Southern Gulf Islands, home.  This diversity of species is not stable.  An examination of the various layers in middens reveals different dominant species from the present.  Changes in the number and type of species can be due not just to changes in climate but also to human activities.  First Nations modified beaches and created "clam gardens" to increase their shellfish harvest.   Whaling in the late 1800s and early 1900s virtually eliminated the humpback whales from the Strait of Georgia.  They are only now beginning to make a comeback.  Similarly, the once fairly common basking shark is now listed as endangered due to overfishing.  Other human activities have resulted in the introduction of more than 40 alien plants, shellfish, and fish. These introductions have changed the coastal ecosystems.  About forty years ago, when aquaculture introduced Pacific oysters from Japan, Manilla clams and Japanese seaweed came as hitchhikers.  Varnish clams arrived about 20 years ago in ballast water.

While some of the effects of changes in water temperature, salinity, and amount of silt on individual species are known, the overall effect on the marine ecosystem, from eel grass and cold water corals to orcas is not.

Ramona de Graaf, in her talk "More Than Just a Pretty Beach", discussed the importance of beaches as critical fish habitat, which supports fish during their entire life cycle.  The biggest threat to shoreline habitats is development along shorelines.  Gravel and sandy beaches are spawning areas for forage fish such as sea lance, surf smelt, and capelin.  Erosion is a necessary part of beach growth and hardening shorelines with docks, riprap, and seawalls decreases the natural sediment flow and can make a beach unsuitable for spawning.  Removal of vegetation such as trees and shrubs close to the shoreline can also have devastating effects.  The loss of shade leads to an increase in water temperature which can "cook" spawn.  The lack of vegetation near the shoreline can also deprive juvenile fish of an important food source, terrestrial insects.  Juvenile Chinook salmon, for example, rely on terrestrial insects for 50% or their diet.  The best way to protect beaches is to remove seawalls and riprap, maintain vegetation near the shore, decrease paved areas, and plan the site to reduce the impact on the shoreline.

Nikki Wright spoke about eel grass conservation in the Salish Sea.  She is the Chair of the Seagrass Conservation Working Group which has been active since 2001 in monitoring and restoring eel grass meadows.  Eel grass meadows provide important spawning and foraging areas for fish.  The meadows also calm waves and reduce the effect of waves on shorelines.  At present, the effects on sea grasses of rising water levels and rising water temperatures is unknown.  However, what is known is the value of sea and marsh grasses in storing 'blue carbon' in their leaves and roots.  Sea grass beds and salt marshes are 90 times more efficient in carbon sequestration than terrestrial vegetation.

The final speaker of the day was Rob Walker, Manager of Resource Conservation for Parks Canada, filling in for Steve Oates, Ecosystem Scientist with Parks Canada.  He presented a report "Preliminary Assessment of Sub-tidal Habitat in 13 Anchorages in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Anchorage Areas".  The study looked at the impact of anchoring and mooring on sub-tidal ecosystems.  Three areas on Pender were part of the study: Otter Bay, Roesland, and Beaumont Marine Park.  The areas in the study were surveyed by underwater cameras.  Three ecosystem components were chosen for the study: eel grass, sea pens, and anemones.  The study showed that eel grass is more sensitive than either sea pens or anemones.  The impact of boating on eel grass is fairly well known; boaters and eel grass like the same areas.  No eel grass was found at Beaumont, no sea pens and only a few anemones.  What was found was garbage; 80% of the surveyed sea bed was covered.  One important piece of missing data is the number of boats using the various anchorage areas.  Unfortunately this project is currently on hold because of the federal government cutbacks to Parks Canada staff.

Standard moorings consisting of concrete blocks and heavy chains scour the seabed.  To limit scouring of the seabed, Parks Canada is looking at the use of "conservation mooring" and voluntary anchor exclusion areas.  Plans for the future include identifying best practices for anchorage, changing moorage buoys, restoration of some areas, anchorage exclusion, and education of boaters on how best to limit their impact on the marine habitat.

The afternoon "in the field" sessions at Roesland, Port Browning Harbour Commission dock and Medicine Beach gave participants an opportunity to talk to the experts about particular issues related to those areas and to discuss the potential impact of climate change.

PICA would like to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation to Parks Canada for their assistance in providing this important educational opportunity, to all the experts and scientists for giving their time and expertise, to all those who supported and attended the event, and to Sara Steil who helped make the day possible.

A final note: don't forget to put Monday, November 19th, on your calendar.  PICA will be hosting another open Board meeting in the Community Room in the Driftwood Centre at 1pm.  Amanda Greisbach and Lisa Fleming will be reporting on the Hope Bay Stream restoration project and Eleanor Brownlee will be talking about the Forage Fish monitoring project.  Come along and learn more about some of the projects that PICA supports and meet the people involved.

Rhondda Porter


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October, 2012
Brooks Point Completion Update 

In the October Pender Post we reported that The Land Conservancy’s current organizational difficulties have compromised their ability to meet their $700,000 funding commitment to the CRD that was made at the time of the acquisition of Phase III.  In response to this challenge, PICA advised the CRD Regional Parks Committee on September 19, 2012 that PICA’s Brooks Point committee will seek additional off-Island funds from conservation granting organizations with the goal of raising between $60,000 and $100,000 in 2013 in support of completing the regional park.   In response to questions raised by Committee members at that meeting, we have written to the Chair of the Parks Committee advising that we are prepared to commit to raising a total of $150,000 in 2013-14.  In exchange for this offer, we have requested a decision by the CRD to remove the subdivision and possible sale option from the table at this time in recognition of the Pender community’s $151,770 contribution to date and PICA’s commitment to raise an additional $150,000 from off-Island sources by the end of 2014.  We will meet with the Parks Committee on November 21, 2012 to get their response to this offer.  We hope that we will be able to report a positive response from the CRD by Christmas.

Monica Petrie, Co-chair                                                                                                                                  PICA’s Brooks Point Completion Committee


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October, 2012
Butterflies

Even though we have been enjoying summer-like weather for much of September, I know that fall is on the way when the last of the butterflies disappear from the garden.  In August the flowering lavenders were surrounded by little clouds of the coppery Woodland Skipper.   By the first week of September they were gone.  The last butterflies to disappear were the Western Tiger Swallowtails.

I hope that the butterflies I have enjoyed this year will return to my garden next year, but in the Gulf Islands and on Vancouver Island some species have disappeared and many others are threatened. One of the main causes of the decline in butterfly numbers is the loss of habitat and consequent loss of their host plants.  Each species of butterfly has a strong association with certain specific plants. Butterfly larvae are sometimes so dependent on one particular food source that if that plant is not available, they cannot eat anything else, and if the adult butterflies cannot find a suitable host plant they may not even lay eggs.   This is the case with the Anise Swallowtail, which is dependent upon a small group of plants with small white flowers in umbels, such as cow parsnip and Queen Anne’s Lace.  Other host plants, such as stinging nettles, thistles and wild grasses, are regarded by many homeowners as weeds and are removed from their gardens in favour of more attractive and manageable plants.  This year I left several large clumps of stinging nettles on the slope behind our house.  There are at least four different butterfly species reportedly found in the Gulf Islands which use nettles as host plants.   Perhaps I will see one or two of them in my garden next year.

At this time of year caterpillars are busy preparing to turn into next year’s butterflies.  Most of us are familiar with the silky cocoons of moths attached to the undersides of fence rails and garden furniture, but we may overlook the chrysalides of butterflies.  The chrysalides of different butterflies often match the habitat in which they live.  They can be various shades of brown or green and can look like bits of bark or lichen.   The chrysalis of a butterfly found on Pender, Lorquin’s Admiral, looks very much like a dried bird dropping.  When we do our fall cleanups in the garden and get rid of fallen leaves from deciduous plants or trees, we may inadvertently be destroying next year’s butterflies.

The spread of invasive species such as broom can also have a devastating impact on butterflies. Native pla