Community groups need a bigger role in marsh management
The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society is entering its 24th year.
No longer is Somenos Marsh seen as a swamp. It is now recognized as a place to raise young salmon, a place to store water during flood season and a place that filters old water through peat to recharge the aquifer with the pure water we love here.
Somenos is now also known as a home or refuge for almost 250 species of birds, as well as a significant resting place for birds on their migrations. The green corridor from Mount Prevost and Mount Richards is an intact path through Somenos to the Cowichan Estuary for almost all our big game species.
The dream of a protected, rich and healthy wildlife area at Somenos still remains somewhat elusive despite much of the “Flats” being owned by conservation agencies or local government.
While progress has been made on the wildlife viewing infrastructure at the open air classroom, invasive species continue to grow in numbers. The spread of pollution and unwanted nutrients continue to contribute to the decline of water quality in Somenos Lake and the new dike around the Somenos wetlands is poised to bring new and unpredicted changes into the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area.
Probably our greatest success this year, after three years of protracted effort, is our first-ever Strategic Plan, endorsed by the membership at last spring’s annual general meeting.
Thanks to the leadership and guidance of board member Phil Jennings, the strategic plan now guides all initiatives that we undertake, while at the same time helping us plan for the next five years.
To initiate some of our strategic plan goals around habitat restoration we hired Kyle Rasmussen, a Vancouver Island University student, to prepare a report on the suitability of constructing a pond for both habitat and wetland restoration purposes.
His final report, Restoring Wetlands in the Somenos Basin, is a brave new approach to resolving old issues in Somenos and has already become a catalyst in stimulating discussion regarding the best use of the deteriorating agricultural lands in Somenos Marsh.
The year ahead will see the SMWS lobbying for some fundamental changes in the way Somenos Marsh is managed.
We believe that the SMWS and our partner community groups should take on a larger role in the overall management of the marsh.
We will also propose an alternative management strategy where we move agriculture for wildlife to new fields that are more attractive for wildlife and then repurpose the old, less productive fields, into a wetlands restoration project to improve habitat, manage invasive species and to help clean stormwater before it enters the Cowichan system.
Volunteers are welcome. If you like the work we are doing, like us on Facebook or, better still, consider joining us at somenosmarsh.com.
Former Duncan city councillor and monthly News Leader Pictorial columnist Paul Fletcher is also president of the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society.