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British western region ( columbia )

volume 32, number 1, 2011

“Breaking” tradition, DUC supports trial agriculture program


Partnerships with vegetable, grain and grass producers are integral to Ducks Unlimited Canada’s (DUC) Fraser River Delta program because of the needs of migrating and wintering waterfowl for sufficient food and habitat. In 2009, the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Delta farmers began a pilot project to develop best management practices (BMPs) and improve the understanding between crop rotations, “break” crops and fertilizer inputs. Break crops (i.e. grains such as barley) are planted in rotation with the traditional cash crop of vegetables such as potatoes, peas and beans, and they provide farmers with another winter management option, beyond cover or a corn relay crop. Cereal break crops require low inputs and can be underseeded or relay cropped with clover. The emerging clover provides a food source for waterfowl and also a green manure suitable for blending into the soil in the following spring. Break crops also provide producers with an added option, especially in light of rising cereal prices and the continued loss of vegetable processor facilities. “Since grain is not the main cash crop, most farmers are looking for crops that can be managed with minimal fertilizer and/or no pesticide use,” explains Dr. Wayne Temple, UBC research associate. “With so few disease- and weather-resistant varieties available for the West Coast, farmers are challenged to find ones that can perform well and yet withstand some of the impacts

of waterfowl grazing. Our goal is to help identify varieties that can succeed.” With this in mind, UBC approached DUC. “I have to credit the staff at UBC’s agriculture department for building this program,” says Dan Buffett, DUC biologist. “While the remnant cereals provide food for waterfowl and help sustain farms, the relay crop option provides an extra waterfowl food bonus.” Initiated in 2009, the three-year pilot project was designed to include nutrient soil sampling and small plot cereal variety trials, determine recommended best management practices, and undertake increased program awareness. Its success has already exceeded expectations. In 2010, several producers used the information to plant nearly 100 acres of break crops with clover. Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust’s (DF&WT) David Bradbeer was pleased to see farmers seeding clover with their grain crops, which makes them eligible to enrol their clover in the Winter Cover Crop Stewardship Program, an initiative supported by DUC. According to Bradbeer, “This winter, we will be measuring waterfowl use of the clover with plans to double the acreage of clover in next year’s program.” This project is a partnership between UBC, Delta Farmers’ Institute, DF&WT and DUC and is funded over three years by Canada-B.C. Agricultural Environment Partnership Initiative, Certified Organic Associations of B.C., Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C. and DUC. S

Hillabys bridge Brown Meadow wetland values


Rarely do Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) staff get the opportunity to do a project with a landowner who is more knowledgeable on an issue related to water. But such was the case last summer when the Brown Meadow project was completed near Horsefly, in B.C.’s Cariboo-Chilcotin region. Owners Judy and Bruce Hillaby were both fisheries biologists who recognized the need for improvements of the stream crossing in the meadow to protect wetland habitat. “The need was apparent after we moved in and truly realized the wealth of the natural resources there – the abundance of the birds, the abundance of the fish,” Judy says. “When you’ve lived there a while you see the seasonal changes, the different species coming and going, you observe things more closely. Then we realized that when we looked a little closer at the area around the culverts, it was a dead zone.” High springtime flows in 2009 had flooded where their driveway crossed the creek, washing out two culverts and causing gravel and sediment to erode downstream into the lower meadow. For a few years, the Hillabys had recognized the inadequacy of the crossing, and were well aware of the negative impacts such erosion has on downstream water quality and fish habitat. They knew that the culverts needed to be removed and replaced with a bridge that would allow fish migration and the stream bed to stabilize. However, their problem remained – the required solution was well out of the range of affordability, with an estimated price tag of over $30,000. When Judy called the closest DUC office in Williams Lake, one of the first things the staff identified was the availability of B.C. Agriculture Research and Development Corporation’s (ARDCORP) Environmental Farm Plan Beneficial Management Practices funding to assist agricultural landowners like the Hillabys with projects that benefit riparian habitats. And when DUC staff visited the site, they noticed other improvements were needed on the property to maintain the wetlands. The meadow wasn’t fenced, so cattle grazing on the adjacent Crown range were able to freely graze the meadow. And past haying had removed the shrub cover that would have skirted the stream banks.

By late last summer, DUC had negotiated an agreement with the Hillabys that would provide partial funding to help with fencing the upper meadow and building the bridge, if the Hillabys would carry out the construction work, agree to delay haying of Brown Meadow and increase cutting setbacks along the creek. To many landowners the bridge construction project would be a daunting task, but, says Judy Hillaby, “It wasn’t difficult because it wasn’t done on our own. We had critical help from Ducks. The work they did to assess the water availability in the watershed and come up with concepts for the bridge were helpful. And we also worked with several skilled neighbours: one could build the bridge, a second was able to do the machine work required, and a third got us just the right gravel and drain rock that was needed at the site. With that kind of help it was easy!” Of the funding received from ARDCORP and DUC, Judy says, “It was critical. Without it, the stream crossing improvement might have eventually been done on the cheap, but it wouldn’t have served the wildlife values as well, and we know better. “We’re delighted, absolutely delighted with the partnership that was forged with DUC. And especially we’re delighted DUC gave us the freedom to do what we thought was best for the site.” S Hillabys with the help of DUC, built a bridge and fence to protect wet meadow from erosion and overgrazing by livestock.

western region (british columbia)

New cropping technique on B.C. Coast


British Columbia’s South Coast is home to a large farming community; over 80 per cent of the province’s dairy and vegetable operations are found in this region. Harvesting annual crops such as peas, potatoes or corn can leave the fields bare, making them vulnerable to erosion during the wet winter months. Seen as both a solution to erosion and benefit to wildlife, winter cover crops are grasses or grains that are planted after harvest and left throughout the winter season. A well established cover crop can provide multiple benefits to the farm and to local wildlife. It can reduce run-off and erosion, capture residual nutrients in the soil that would be lost over the winter, improve soil structure, and even provide a harvestable crop in the spring. For wildlife, cover-cropped fields provide resting areas and are an important food source for waterfowl like trumpeter swans, snow geese and American wigeon. Recognizing some of the limitations of planting cover crops after harvest, some producers have begun experimenting with relay cropping. This technique involves planting a second crop into the existing crop before the harvest. Examples include planting clover or soybeans into grain or planting ryegrass into corn. Silage corn is grown by most dairy operations in the Lower Mainland. With its late harvest date, it becomes difficult to establish a substantial cover crop before winter conditions. Relay cropping is an excellent option. Italian ryegrass is planted after the corn is established but before it is big enough to shade out the new ryegrass seeding. Once the corn canopy closes, the ryegrass will become dormant until the corn is harvested. At that point, the ryegrass is already established, so when it receives sunlight, it will continue to grow through the cool fall conditions. This type of

relay cropping has been done successfully in the Fraser Valley, Washington and Oregon, and research continues to be done at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Facility in Agassiz. Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) has recognized the value of winter cover crops and has partnered in several joint projects over the years. In Metro Vancouver, DUC along with partners such as the B.C. Waterfowl Society contribute to the Greenfields program, which is administered by the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust. Since 1990, Greenfields has resulted in approximately 2,000 acres of cover crops planted annually. As well, cover crops have been part of the Comox Valley Waterfowl Management Program since the early 1990s. This partnership program was established to find solutions to the impacts of increasing trumpeter swan populations on local fields. As part of this program, approximately 500 acres of cover crops are planted annually. DUC continues to look for new and improved ways to deliver programs. After contributing to some trial work on relay crops of Italian ryegrass in silage corn, DUC is now expanding and promoting the use of this technique as part of the Comox Valley Waterfowl Management Program. With additional funding provided by the Agriculture, Environment and Wildlife Fund (a component of the Agri-Food Futures Fund administered by the Canada-British Columbia Framework Agreement on Agriculture Risk Management) and Comox Valley Farmers’ Institute, DUC is working to expand the use of relay crops in the Comox Valley and will be conducting an evaluation to investigate the value of these crops as tools to mitigate further waterfowl damage on grass fields. S Researcher checks cover crop on a farmers’ field.

Celebrating the passion and life of conservationist Bill Otway


B.C. hunters, fishermen and the Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) family are mourning the loss of one of their own following the passing of Bill Otway in October. DUC is privileged to have been a recipient of Bill’s dedication and commitment as a volunteer and champion for wetland and waterfowl conservation for many years. From DUC’s earliest fundraising days in B.C., Bill was very involved with establishing the program, co-ordinating some of the satellite dinners outside of downtown Vancouver, including Coquitlam’s event. Under Bill’s leadership, and with the help of the stars from the Dallas TV series, the event raised about $350,000 for DUC’s conservation programs over the ensuing 14 years. In 1991, Bill was elected the B.C. provincial volunteer chair, which is effectively the “whip” for DUC’s grassroots volunteer organization and fundraising activities across the province. As B.C. chair, Bill also sat on the national board of directors and was appreciated for his candour, tenacity, formidable debating skills and most of all his passion for wildlife conservation. Fellow B.C. national director and past president George C. Reifel remarked, “Bill was able to put fundraising into context as an essential component to fund fish and wildlife conservation but understood clearly it is part of the journey and not the destination. For Bill, influencing public opinion and policy for conservation was the real destination.” A celebration of Bill’s life was held at a memorial reception on Nov. 14. Reifel spoke on DUC’s behalf. “The natural world has lost a tireless crusader who was never bashful about speaking his mind about a cause he believed in whenever he felt like it and without concern for whom it might offend. “May our friend Bill rest in peace, and may Carol and the Otway family take comfort in the fact he left this world a better place. He certainly has left some big shoes to fill.” S Bill Otway (centre) shares a laugh with long-time DUC employees Ian Barnett (left) and Ken Johnson (right).

British western region ( columbia )

The Flyway newsletter is published by Ducks Unlimited Canada Oak Hammock Marsh Conservation Centre P.O. Box 1160, Stonewall, Manitoba R0C 2Z0 tel (204)467-3000 fax (204)467-9028 toll-free 1(800)665-DUCK Please direct your inquiries to the following: Eastern Region Atlantic: Krista Elliott Quebec: Bernard Filion Ontario: Joanne Barbazza Western Region British Columbia: Wendy Thatcher Alberta: Anh Hoang Saskatchewan: Tom Jordens Manitoba: Karli Reimer Flyway production staff Editor: Duncan Morrison Assistant: Deb Menard Manager Creative Services: Lindsay Pikta-Marie Graphic Designers: Christa Edwards, Aquila Samson, Jeope Wolfe © Ducks Unlimited Canada, 2011 Printed in Canada on 100% recycled paper including 100% post-consumer fibres

Area Contacts Manager of Provincial Operations and Development Manager Les Bogdan, Surrey (604) 592-5000 Manager of Conservation Programs Brad Arner, Kamloops (250) 374-8307 Marketing and Communications Wendy Thatcher, Surrey (604) 592-5004 Fundraising Keith Macintosh

(306) 665-7155

publication agreement #40064849


A Ducks Unlimited Canada newsletter featuring conservation stories from across British Columbia

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