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Watershed restoration work focuses on at-risk species

Jul 19. 12

The red-legged frogs in the Pinecrest area have a bit more habitat to thrive in after a local conservation group spent a day doing watershed restoration along the Sea to Sky Highway.

The Squamish River Watershed Society hosted the workshop by the B.C. Wildlife Federation last week, which saw participants in the area near Whistler on Friday (July 13) to restore two wetlands.

Society executive director and wildlife biologist Edith Tobe said the areas were identified last year with the purpose to expand the wetland to provide more diverse habitat for the red-legged frogs.

“The project… is to try to provide habitat for red legged frogs that may have been impacted from the highway upgrades,” Tobe said. “This is all part of a pot of funds that came for compensation for damages done by the Sea to Sky highway through the Pinecrest area.

“It was very exciting for me to be involved in identifying wetlands for resoration and to bring the workshop along.”

When Highway 99 was constructed leading up to the 2010 Olympics its location went through a known wetland where the provincially blue-listed species is located. The wetland the group worked on is on an old right of way for an access road adjacent to the roadway.

The frogs favour cool temperatures of the coastal forests breeding in shallow ponds or slow streams that are shaded by trees.

The work last week involved 30 participants in the B.C. Wildlife Federation workshop on restoring wetlands that takes place every other year.

Wetlands education program coordinator Neil Fletcher said the seven-day workshop is held in a different location each time and this year the Sea to Sky region was chosen.

Participants, he said, are developing their own wetland project and the workshop is meant to be hands on experience to help them complete that work.

In addition the two Pinecrest groundwater wetlands that were improved in size, area and quality work was done at the west Brohm Creek wetland near Squamish.

The Pinecrest work, said Fletcher is important because red-legged frogs are at risk in the province as their populations have declined due to habitat degradation.

“Within developed areas of the province we are looking at losses of 50 to 80 per cent of wetlands,” he said adding in certain areas that loss is more rapid. “Wetlands are magnets for wildlife because of the water they provide.”

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) have listed the red-legged frog as a species of concern while provincially they are blue listed as they have characteristics that make them sensitive to human activities. The status means they are at risk but not extirpated, endangered or threatened yet.

Funding for the workshop and project came from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Canadian Wildlife Federation and the Government of B.C.

By Tanya Foubert / The Question

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