Sooke area residents urged to be nature’s ‘good neighbour’

Better care of the area needed as human expansion continues deeper into the woods.

The babbling of a healthy creek as the water flows over rocks through robust trees, ferns and skunk cabbage is a familiar sound to Sooke residents.

Not far away, new subdivisions and homes have taken root with rows of budding families finding a place to call home.

With many of these changes to the lands around local creeks and estuaries in the Sooke region, the future of water courses could be bleak, says Paige Erickson-McGee, stewardship coordinator with Habitat Acquisition Trust.

“The communities in and around Sooke are gifted with such superb intact natural areas, and the fate of the creeks could be very different if local residents understand the value of what they have, and what they could be losing in the long run,” she said.

That is why HAT is focusing their Good Neighbors Stewardship program this year on Ayum and Veitch Creek watersheds, as well as the surrounding neighbourhoods.

HAT is offering assistance to qualified and interested landowners to support and enhance natural features on their land, while maintaining current land use such as farming or recreation.

“Residents can learn how to control invasive species, provide habitat for birds, or create a garden that needs little to no water even in the dry summer months” McGee says.

“Whether you live by a stream or estuary, we all contribute to what flows into them and can help be responsible for their well-being.”

The goal is to increase water quality and connecting natural areas like parks with habitat corridors through naturescaping (landscaped backyards and maintaining forests.) These corridors allow wildlife to travel through the community without disturbing the living space of residents.

McGee notes one of the most common threats to the creek is the increase of impervious surface – roofs, asphalt roads, paved parking lots – these force the flow of water filled with metals, oils, and fertilizers into the creeks.

“Without plants to filter out the pollutants before they enter the creek, there is a large pollutant load that can negatively affect our salmon,” she says.

Dave Polster, biologist and plant ecologist with more than 30 years of experience in vegetation studies, reclamation and invasive species management, explains that healthy streams are not just for fish either.

“Healthy riparian areas provide a multitude of benefits from holding the streambanks in place to providing habitat for birds and leaf litter and insect fall for the stream,” he says.

Retaining Ayum Creek as a healthy stream not only provides habitat to 107 native plants and 80 bird species but also maintains many ecosystem services that benefit humans, Polster notes.

For more info, visit the HAT booth at Sooke Night Market at the Sooke Museum July 14, or the Sooke Market on Aug. 6.

For more information, please go online to hat.bc.ca, call 250 995-2428 or email hatmail@hat.bc.ca.