Volunteers Help to Restore Bald Range Grassland

The birds and beasts who rely on the Bald Range pocket grassland off Bear Main Forest Service Road in West Kelowna thank all the volunteers who turned out Oct. 25 to work on restoring that grassland and reduce the threat of wildfire there.
It was exhilarating to see members of the Central Okanagan Naturalists Club, the Peachland Sportsmen’s Association, Oceola Fish and Game Club and Okanagan Trail Riders’ Association, along with Bartlett Tree Services and grasslands ecologist Don Gayton working together for a common cause.
It is from such multi-layered cooperation that great things can be accomplished.
That little patch of native grassland is under considerable pressure from many sides, so any steps we can take will help it back on the road to a healthy recovery.
 Bald Range Workers
Sherrell Davidson and Lindy Digby from the Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club remove dead needles from around a veteran old pine at the edge of the Bald Range grasslands to protect it from wildfire during a volunteer work party there Sat., Oct. 25.
It is believed that it was a stop on the historic Hudson’s Bay Fur Brigade Trail where they could graze the animals before continuing on through forestland along Okanagan Lake.
Since then, it has become infested with non-native invasive species such as St. John’s Wort and Sulphur Cinquefoil, against which there are few weapons.
The face of the sloped grassland features gullies carved down the hillside by dirt bikers’ trails which attracted runoff that eroded those trails into ditches.
Grazing range cows have brought in the seeds of other invasive species like thistle and some knapweed.
But today, the grassland has been fenced off, controlling its use by both dirt bikers and range cows, but not deterring native ungulates, small mammals and birds from continuing to make beneficial use of the habitat, which is particularly rich in biodiversity adjacent to forest.
For the last two years, aided by a small grant from the Public Conservative Assistance Fund of the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, made to the PSA, volunteers from around the region have worked to build check dams in those ditches and gullies to slow down the water and collect debris to begin to fill them in.
They have begun removing the small trees that are beginning to encroach on the grassland, and they have worked to remove the dead lower limbs of the few veteran pines that dot the area to protect them from wildfire should one occur.
As well, they have begun to rake away the decades of dead needles at the base of those trees as wildfire protection and used them to cover some of the worst infestations of invasives to try and smother them.
Gayton has identified a couple of plots of experimental ‘smothering’ so he can monitor its success at reducing the patches of weeds.
Anyone interested in being notified of future work parties in that area can contact me at:
—judie steeves

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