The wetlands behind W.L. McLeod Elementary school have been dug out and will be revamped to have a variety of flora and fauna and attract a variety of birds. (Aman Parhar photo)

Restoring the wetlands in Vanderhoof

The community is coming together to re-establish a healthy habitat at the W.L. McLeod wetlands in Vanderhoof, B.C.

The site has been recently dug up and grade 7 – 8 students from NVSS will use the site as an opportunity to develop skills to assess water health. They will also collaborate with peers, First Nations and Vanderhoof community members t0 engage in the ongoing ecological stewardship.

The project is being spearheaded by Patty Borek, teacher at NVSS and the Wayne Salewski, chair of the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative group.

Students will learn about soil, flora and fauna, birds, insects and more, which will prepare them for further work when they go to 9th grade as participants of the ‘Koh’ learning in our watersheds project.

READ MORE: ‘Koh’ learning in our Watersheds: SD91 pilot project

SD91 launched the Koh learning project as a pilot, to help students become stewards of the Nechako watershed.

Borek told the Omineca Express that getting youth out of the classroom and engaged with their environment is a great way to increase curiosity and a good learning experience.

“The wetlands are right across the street from us, so teachers can see if the weather is good and off you go. Students learn a lot by practicing science, learning how to use equipment, analyze stuff before they get into the real meat of the stream monitoring program,” she said.

The stream monitoring program was established two years ago as a collaborative pilot project between UNBC, SD91 and the Nechako Environment and Water Stewardship Society (NEWSS).

Salewski, also a board member of NEWSS, said re-establishing the wetlands will involve hydration, planting indigenous plant species, construction to promote bird and amphibian habitat. As a result, students and community members work collaboratively to engage in the ongoing support of land, water and air health.

“In the past, the wetland would hydrate nicely with spring thaws and freshets,” he said, noting that the drought Vanderhoof has had for the past three years is turning the wetland into a grassland.

“So we are losing the bird species that are here and the opportunities for education,” Salewski added. Restoring the wetlands to a healthier habitat will attract unique birds, ducks as well, he said.

The NVSS project is supported by the Centurra Mines legacy fund and by local businesses such as M4 Enterprises Ltd.

Wetlands play an important role in the ecosystem. “People may not realise that, but portion of the stream from the storm drain comes through here.”

“Roads collect a lot of impurities, salt and carbon and it gets flushed away,” Salewski explained. “When it enters into a wetland it gets filtered out of the system into the river. Wetlands have multiple functions.”

The project will be ongoing and Borek said students will be studying the wetlands a long time to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Borek said an NVSS teacher, Doug Rash, studied Soil at university and has been intrigued with what he found at the wetlands.

“So he was out here digging and was very excited about what he was finding. And that is a whole different aspect to study,” she said.

Making students stewards of their environment is very important to Borek and she puts it very simply.

“This is your river valley, your home, your wetland. Lets value it, be stewards of it. It is our home.”

Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express

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Wayne Salewski, left, stands with Patty Borek at the site of the W.L. McLeod wetlands. (Aman Parhar photo)

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