RESTORING LAND & WATER
Not so long ago, North Saanich was predominantly wetland.
Tseycum translates as “land of clay,” and the name is appropriate: our clay-rich subsoil holds water and makes for slow drainage. So when the winter rains come, they turn this region into wet, muddy, stick-to-your-boots country.
Which, of course, is bad news when you are hoping to build houses or grow apple trees. And so, we developed technologies for ditching and draining, drying out the land, and in the last 150 years, we have drained most of North Saanich.
What we are now learning is this: wetlands are an incredibly important part of a functioning holistic ecosystem.
Absolutely free of charge, wetlands:
ease water shortages and drought;
provide flood control,
maintain natural drainage, and prevent soil erosion;
filter out contaminants, using native plants that are perfect for the task; and
create natural wetland habitats that support abundant fish, wildlife, and pollinators for crops.
Why are the wetlands so important to the Sandown site?
The Sandown wetland area feeds directly into Tseycum creek, then out into Patricia Bay. Every year, the Tseycum community releases salmon fry into the creek to establish a salmon habitat. But the tiny gills of the fry simply can’t survive contaminants and silt flowing through. For more information on the Tsyecum salmon initiative: https://www.gvsea.com/blog/return-of-the-salmon-to-tseycum-creek
This same water flows into Patricia Bay’s clam beds. These beds, once abundant sources of food, have been closed for over 30 years due to contamination.
What can we do to help change this at Sandown?
Best practises in regenerative agriculture provide a great model for land management. The idea is simple: use the higher, better draining areas to grow crops that will thrive. Use the low wet areas to create an abundant wetland zone. In this wetland zone, establish plants that perform multiple jobs free of charge: slowing down water; filtering out contaminants; and creating habitats that support an abundance of beneficial insects-- including wonderful pollinators for the nearby crops!
The Sandown Centre for Regenerative Agriculture will work in close partnership with The University of Victoria's Ecological Restoration program to plan, plant and establish a thriving wetland riparian zone.
In the Sandown forest, we see more ecological opportunity. Sandown forest is home to natural underground springs. It’s an ideal habitat for native frogs, a year-round pond, and stately stands of cedar, fir and hemlock. The cedars are doing well here, in part due to the extra moisture in this particular forest.
Alas, the forest is currently buried under a thick tangle of invasive ivy, which chokes out the biodiversity of the forest, climbing and eventually toppling trees.
We have an opportunity to undo the ivy’s damage, and reintroduce the food and medicinal plants which once lived here. Peninsula Streams Society has already begun the work, bringing grade school classes to the forest as part of their Creatures of Habitat program, educating young folks on invasives management. Hats off to Peninsula Streams for their community leadership! We hope to do the same by inviting neighbours to “adopt a patch” and steward a square of this forest back to abundance. Click here to learn more and sign up.