Ruby Creek Riparian Restoration Workshop

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Habitat Acquisition Trust is hosting an invasive species removal event and Riparian Restoration Workshop on Ruby Creek in Metchosin with Dave Polster of Polster Environmental Services.

We would like to invite you to join us for this unique educational opportunity and come out to get your hands dirty and have fun while broadening your knowledge base on habitat restoration, riparian corridors and bioengineering with expert Dave Polster!

The 2-day workshop includes a full day in a classroom setting and a full day in the field putting your new skills to work. In addition, there is an invasive species removal day prior to the workshop in partnership with the Greater Victoria Green Team and CRD Parks, in which volunteers will be clearing invasives from Ruby Creek to prepare for the field portion of the workshop. Participants who attend the optional invasive removal day receive a 50% discount on the cost of the Restoration Workshop.


Event: Invasive Species Removal on Ruby Creek in Metchosin - Optional FREE event

Date: September 28, 2017

Time: 10am-3pm

Hosted by: Habitat Acquisition Trust in partnership with

CRD Parks & the Greater Victoria Green Team

No Cost: A volunteer community event*

Lunch: Included at no cost

Event: 2-Day Riparian Restoration Workshop with Dave Polster R.P.Bio

(Polster Environmental Services) on Ruby Creek

Dates: September 29th & 30th

Time: 9am-3:30pm

Hosted by: Habitat Acquisition Trust

Cost: $100 for both days*

*Note: Those attending the Sept. 28th volunteer invasive plant removal day receive a %50 discount for the workshop.

Lunch: Bring your own lunch, or add $7/day for a HAT provided 'bag' lunch.


You can register for the 28th and/or the Workshop (29-30th) online at:

Space is limited for the 2-day workshop to 30 participants, so register soon to reserve your spot!

If you would like more details, or are interested in RSVP'ing for just the Sept.28th Ruby Creek Invasive Plant Pull Event

contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 250-995-2428.

Who Should Attend?

Anyone wanting to learn more about restoration options including bioengineering with an emphasis on riparian restoration techniques and other innovative options involved in the restoration and reclamation of damaged ecosystems using a combination of structural materials, vegetative cuttings and other specialized methods.

What's included in the cost of the workshop?

2 full days of hands-on, educational trainingcourse manual coffee/tea and morning snackstools & gloves


Ruby Creek is a small watercourse that empties into Witty's Lagoon. The area of Ruby Creek that workshop participants are restoring runs through private land, is adjacent to Witty's Lagoon and protected in perpetuity through a conservation covenant with Habitat Acquisition Trust and the CRD. HAT and community volunteers have been restoring this land and riparian corridor for over 10 years. We will also be continuing to clear laurel-leaved daphne on adjacent CRD Parklands to enhance the habitat for the Provincially at-risk Blue-grey Taildropper Slug, found near Ruby Creek in 2016.


Dave Polster is a plant ecologist with over 35 years of experience in vegetation studies, reclamation and invasive species management. He has developed a wide variety of reclamation techniques for the re-establishment of riparian and aquatic habitats using soil bioengineering and other innovative techniques. To find out more about Dave, check out his website at:


This two day course will focus on restoration techniques including soil bioengineering and options involved in restoration and reclamation of damaged ecosystems using a combination of structural materials, vegetative cuttings and other specialized methods with an emphasis on riparian restoration. Soil bioengineering is an applied science that uses live plant materials to perform an engineering function such as slope stabilization, soil erosion control, or seepage control.

Topics to be covered include:

Factors involved in successful restorationSuccessional reclamationSoil bioengineering techniquesRegional differences in climate, soils, hydrology, plant types, and growing seasonsMaintenance and monitoring


This workshop is a part of this year's Metchosin Good Neighbours Project. The goal of this HAT project is to engage with the Metchosin community to find solutions to significant local conservation issues and to promote community appreciation of healthy natural habitats. We are doing this on HAT covenanted lands and with private landowners in Metchosin. We are grateful to have the opportunity to host this workshop and invasive plant removal event through our generous funders of HAT's Good Neighbours Program

The Sitka Foundation

BC Gaming

Metchosin Foundation

District of Metchosin




Read more: Ruby Creek Riparian Restoration Workshop

Invasive Red-Eared Slider Turtles: A greater threat than first suspected

WPT group on log KO photoA row of turtles basks on a log in the lake, the sun warms their bodies like contented sunbathers. It’s a delightful, idyllic scene – or is it?

Take a closer look at those turtles. Do they have a vivid red-orange underbelly? Or is the belly yellow and the cheeks with a blushing red to brown streak?

If you’ve spotted a turtle that appears painted red to orange on its belly, you’re lucky to be looking at Vancouver Island’s only remaining native species of freshwater turtle, a member of the endangered coastal population of Western Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta bellii). A welcome sight and an animal that needs all the help it can get to keep its remaining wetland habitat livable.

If you’ve spotted a turtle with a yellow belly, “red ears”, or a bold yellow Z-stripe on the side of its face, you are looking at an abandoned pet. Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) and Yellowbelly Sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta) can live to 50 years old, and grow to over 30 cm (12 inches) long. Pet owners that find themselves unwilling to honour a life-long commitment to their turtles look to the great outdoors - Instead of responsibly finding their pet a new home or surrendering pets to an animal shelter. Yes, many turtles – at least 6 species – have been abandoned in our lakes and ponds. Unfortunately, the wild is not the place for domestically raised, non-native species. Of all the species released here in BC, only one – the Red-eared Slider – is released in sufficient number to allow males an females to find each other.

Other turtles released in BC include the Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentine), a Map Turtle (Graptemys sp.), Reeve’s Turtle (Chinemys reevsi), European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis), and one species of softshell turtle (Apalone sp.). These five are disctinctive and cannot be mistaken for our native Painted Turtle.

Red eared slider nestingIf an abandoned pet Slider survives the ordeal of going from a cozy, all-inclusive home to fending for itself outdoors, it now poses a serious risk to coexisting with Western Painted Turtles. We have found that Sliders frequently have respiratory disease when rescued from the wild, and this could be spread to native Painted Turtles.

WPT log ken groatDisease is not the only problem, introduced Sliders compete with native turtles for basking habitat, food, and nesting sites. Not only that, but Sliders increase pressure on other species as they gobble up plants, crustaceans, aquatic insects, snails, amphibians, and their eggs. As bigger turtles, Sliders can easily dominate basking logs. Basking spots are not only a nice place to catch some sun, they are essential to maintaining healthy metabolic rate and digestive function in Painted Turtles. Suitable habitat for Painted Turtles is essential, yet in the Victoria region over 80% of pre-colonial wetlands have already been lost, and water quality has declined in the remaining waterbodies with alteration of flow, as well as modern use of industrial chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides. Now Painted Turtles have to cope with abandoned pets on top of habitat loss and degradation.

Red-eared Sliders are among the top 100 worst invaders recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). But at least these non-native Sliders can’t hatch babies in British Columbia’s cool northern climate… right? While this was once thought to be true, it turns out our worst fears about the invaders are confirmed. BC’s first record of successfully hatched Slider nestlings in the wild came in 2015, during Coastal Painted Turtle Project nest monitoring in Delta. Before this, we had only found Slider nests with partially developed embryos, and nearly successful but dead hatchlings. The survival of Slider hatchlings in 2015 is concerning for a number of reasons. With projected climate warming, the nesting success of Sliders may only increase. Not only that but, Slider’s lower age of maturity could provide a reproductive edge in overtaking our endangered Painted Turtles locally.

bb wptSo what’s to be done about this rival for precious habitat? Aimee Mitchell and researchers at the Coastal Painted Turtle Project recommend recording non-native turtle and nest observations, removing non-native turtles before successful breeding, monitoring the area following removal, and public education on non-native turtles.

Habitat Acquisition Trust welcomes your observations of turtles and turtle nests on South Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Please send your observations, with clear photographs whenever possible, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Thank you to Gavin Hanke of the Royal BC Museum and Aimee Mitchell of the Coastal Painted Turtle Partnership for information included in this article.

Habitat Acquisition Trust’s Western Painted Turtle program for habitat restoration, enhancement, and education on South Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands is funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program and people like you. Please support local turtle stewardship with a gift at

Photo of Western Painted Turtles on a log by Kristiina Ovaska.



Read more: Invasive Red-Eared Slider Turtles: A greater threat than first suspected

Fire at Mount Quimper Conservation Covenant

Mount Quimper Fire Jun 2017 from aboveAround 1:00 pm on Tuesday, July 4th, Sooke Firefighters, the Capital Regional District (CRD) and Ministry of Forestry were called to the scene of a forest fire on Mt. Manuel Quimper. Mt. Manuel Quimper is part of the Sooke Hills Conservation Covenants co-held by Habitat Acquisition Trust and The Land Conservancy. These lands are owned by the CRD. 

Thanks to fire suppression by Sooke Fire and Rescue, the fire never never reached a hectare in size. However, some of the trees were chain-sawed and pink fire-retardent covered the area. The fire was located around the Manzanita Trail, which is a Mountain Biking trail in the Mount Quimper area of the Sooke Hills Sea-to-Sea park. 

Mount Quimper Fire Jun 2017This incident is a clear reminder of how flammable the ecosystems of our area are at this time of year, and to practice extreme fire caution when out and about. The fire's proximity to the existing trail and lack of lightning in the area at the time suggests that this fire is human caused. Open fires are currently banned across British Columbia, at the time of writing, and the province remains in a state of emergency due to wildlfires. We would also like to remind park visitors that CRD by-law prohibits smoking in public parks. 

Mount Quimper Fire Jun 2017 2The fire at Mount Quimper impacted both a thickly forest area and aopen rock outrcop meadows, where the thick mossy layers will take a long time to recover. As a result of the fire, there are anumber of charred, dead trees left still standing. If visiting this area of the park, be aware of the possible danger presented by standing dead trees.

Thank you to everyone visiting this area responsibly and supporting your local land trust in the protection of your community's natural areas. 

More on the Sooke Hills Conservation Covenants here.


Read more: Fire at Mount Quimper Conservation Covenant

Volunteer Spotlight on Jemma Green

Jemma Green resize

This month we are recognizing volunteer Jemma Green! Jemma consistently puts her passion for nature into her volunteering with Habitat Acquisition Trust in so many wondrous ways and we want to celebrate that here.

We'd like to thank Jemma for being a Bat Team Leader and an Outreach Tabler with us, sharing her knowledge and interests with others in the community. Last year Jemma went above and beyond, surprising us by baking adorable bat cookies. Her husband sold these cookies at a bake sale and they gave the funds to HAT as a donation. What a nice treat for our bats and the Community Bat Program

Jemma shares a little bit about her volunteer experience with us, "I first got involved with HAT when I moved to Vancouver Island from Vancouver. I have always been passionate about volunteer work with wildlife and natural areas, but it was HAT's dedication to ecological restoration and wildlife research in their own back yard that set them apart for me."

"It is HAT's consistent vision of educating and engaging the public and private landowners to improve our collective relationship with the natural world that keeps me inspired as a volunteer."

bat cookies for bake sale by Jemma Green and her husband at MEC 2016"One of my favorite experiences volunteering with HAT came during my first summer as a bat counter, under starry summer skies. I saw first hand how bats and people can successfully co-exist in the same habitat (and even in the same structure!). This program is just one example of the many ways people can be stewards of their own little part of the world and what a difference that can make."

Habitat Acquisition Trust is able to operate in large part due to the incredible donations of time and energy hundreds of people like Jemma offer. Thank you to each and every one of the HAT volunteer team. 


Read more: Volunteer Spotlight on Jemma Green

Homer-McCrea Conservation Covenant Steeped in Sooke Family History and Biodiversity

Goodman Creek Homer McCrea CovenantOn a mild and warm day in May this year, Land Acquisition Coordinator Barb von Sacken led a Conservation Covenant monitoring team to visit the Homer-McCrea natural lands, protected by a conservation covenant. Barb was joined by Karen Yearsley (Volunteer, retired biologist and former HAT Board Member), Jordana Herron (Summer HAT intern), and Alanah Nasadyk (Community and Development Coordinator). There, the team was quite taken with the biodiversity of the covenant and the heartfelt family stories of land protection they were met with.

The Homer-McCrea covenant is 24.2 acres (9.8 hectares) of mature second-growth forest in Sooke, owned by the Homer family and stewarded in conjunction with Habitat Acquisition Trust. This property provides continuous upland habitat to the nearby Sooke Potholes and Sea-to-Sea Green-Blue Belt, while including a lush riparian zone alongside Goodman Creek.

Before they set off to hike the thick, green undergrowth and mossy outcrop dappled landscape, the HAT team had the pleasure of meeting the people, who with caring and foresight steward this natural area: Patti Homer and her son Paul Homer.

Patti Homer kindly shared the story of how the Homer-McCrea Covenant came to be. Goodman Creek marks one edge of the covenant, which is also on the East face of Mount Christopher Goodman. Both features are named after the original pioneers that came to clear the land and farm around 1900. Unsuccessful in farming and near starvation, the Goodmans left and the property went back to the Crown. For those who are curious a visit to the Sooke Region Museum may provide more information on this pioneer family.

Patti Homer Covenant Landowner Homer McCrea Resized

The next person to purchase the property was Mr. Jameson. As the land passed hands through the family, it eventually came under the ownership of Mr. Jameson’s grandson Chris McCrea, for whom the covenant is partially named. Chris McCrea was originally in the logging industry. In fact, the property was logged in the 1930s. But like many people working close to nature, he grew to feel a deep connection to the land and he felt it should be protected.

In his later years, Chris McCrea offered Patti Homer the chance to purchase some of his land inexpensively, if she agreed to protect and not log it. Patti told the HAT team, she thought this meant an acre or two. When she met with Chris and found out that he meant 40 acres, she said, “I sat down at the creek and just cried.” Truly, the natural area that is now Homer-McCrea covenant has the power to stir the emotions of even those that visit briefly.

Nowadays, Patti and her son have built homes and live on the portion of land outside the covenant area, keeping a close eye on it. Patti is proud of her family’s connection to the land. “The grandchildren came and I went for a walk with them. It made me feel good to see how comfortable they were in the forest.” Patti told the HAT team the grandchildren Brittany and Zach will inherit the land eventually. She is confident they will make a wonderful new generation of stewards noting “they really feel a responsibility to the property, they already think of this place as theirs.” This sense of responsibility includes concern when they see signs of trespassing and the harm that this can do to the land.

Trespassing is a problem on the covenant, with trails on adjacent crown land meandering into the protected area. Though there is some “no trespassing” signage, HAT hopes that better placement will deter trespassing by raising awareness of the sensitive nature and protected status of the property. Many people enjoying nearby park and crown land, and may not even be aware that this space is off limits for the replenishment of the nature that we all so clearly enjoy. Fencing is not an option as one of the great values of this protected habitat is that it is so well-connected to the rest of the Sooke wilderness for allowing for the unrestricted movement of wildlife.

Looking back at the numerous standing, dead wildlife trees with their rugged bark and cavities for nesting, the landscape gives off a feeling that there are many places inhabited by denizens of the woods. Patti says, “It’s an incredible piece of property, I’m really proud of it”, sharing that cougars and bears pass through regularly, and the wolves of the Sooke Hills wilderness can be heard from her neighbours’ property. There is even a wetland with amphibians, just outside the covenant boundaries.

Before the HAT team headed off into the trees to assess the covenant, Patti posed for a photo in front of a stately Douglas Fir and explained,

“When I was building the house I would get a lot of people giving me advice. They would say, ‘oh, you’ve got to take that tree down, it’s going to hit your house.’ I would say, ‘in my lifetime I can build another house, but I could never grow another tree like that.’"

Homer McCrea Covenant Farthest West Garry OakThe purpose of Habitat Acquisition Trust’s annual covenant monitoring visits is to ensure ongoing assessement of the condition of the covenant and that the terms protecting the covenant are being upheld. Ideally this includes hearing from and where possible spending time with the landowners, who are the most important and knowledgeable stewards of these areas. As the team made their way through the Homer-McCrea covenant, they photographed and took GPS points at areas of interest or concern. One of the concerns documented on the trip, the encroachment of invasive Scotch Broom and English Holly plants, is a problem we look forward to nipping in the bud soon. Keep an eye out on the calendar and volunteer Enewsletter for future events removing invasive plants there.

As the HAT covenant monitors crossed Goodman Creek, they passed through a delightful variety of habitats from lichen and wildflower covered meadows to wet and cedar-filled dips in the terrain, and so much in between.

At the farthest end of the covenant the team came across a lone Garry Oak tree. There is also an oak standing next to Goodman Creek. These Garry Oaks are known as the furthest west in their range. This is significant considering that changes in climate can cause ranges of species to creep. With projected warming, dry Garry oak ecosystems tolerant of hotter climates could play an important role in nature’s ability to respond to such rapid changes. Garry Oak ecosystems on the edge of Douglas Fir forest also indicate a historical presence of fire, that with recent suppression no longer keeps the area open enough for many oaks and their floral and faunal associates to thrive.

Follow the rest of our adventurous day monitoring the Homer-McCrea covenant in photos here!

Homer McCrea Covenant Photo wall

This covenant does not yet have an endowment fund; donations to its long-term protection as a natural area are warmly welcomed. Make your gift here today:


Read more: Homer-McCrea Conservation Covenant Steeped in Sooke Family History and Biodiversity

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