Comment: EDPA initiative not based on sound knowledge

I am a retired registered professional biologist with more than 30 years’ experience in land-use planning, habitat protection and habitat inventory. I disagree with the University of Victoria staff saying Saanch is on the right track (“Garry oak ecosystems — Saanich on right track,” comment, Feb. 16) and that we must keep every “cog and wheel in the ecosystem.”

Unfortunately, the cogs and wheels were mostly gone many decades ago and only a few real areas of Garry oak ecosystems remain. I am afraid Saanich is not only off the track on this one, but rolled in the ditch.

article continues below

The mapping used for environmental development permit areas is inappropriate because of the way the information is being used. Basically, small-scale information is being applied on a large scale. This means that the mapping detail is not representative of the reality on the ground. Saanich should have inventoried at a more detailed level to rate the quality, not just the general type of ecosystem as seen on aerial photos.

I am also concerned that the EDPA initiative is not based on sound ecological knowledge. For example, there seems to be an assumption that Garry oak ecosystems will eventually re-establish under standing trees simply by leaving the site undisturbed.

This ignores the fact that the classic “Garry oak meadows,” reported by the first Europeans in the area as “lakes” of blue camas and other spring flowers surrounded by scattered oak trees, were a product of a deliberate farming by the indigenous people. These meadows were maintained by burning to reverse vegetative succession, and digging and moving camas bulbs and competing plants. Without this farming (especially burning), most meadows would have been overtaken by snowberry, Indian plum and Douglas fir trees.

Although my home property is not in the EDPA, I have maintained one corner of it containing oak trees. When I purchased the property in 1974, some of the oak area was managed and covered with exotics such as snowdrops, tulips, daffodils, laburnum and other introduced species. Non-managed areas were choked with blackberry, broom, morning glory and ivy.

I have been removing the introduced species since 1974, and the only native species to re-establish are snowberry, Indian plum and some mosses and grasses. None of the other typical Garry oak meadow species, such as camas, satin flower and spring gold, have re-established, except when I planted them. 

The EDPA has become a distraction that is threatening to derail efforts from those few areas left worth saving.

Bruce Pendergast is a retired biologist who lives in Saanich.

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist