Hornby School Students and Community Help Restore Helliwell’s Coastal Bluff Meadows
By Chris Junck, Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project Team
In 2015 restoration work began to reduce habitat and biodiversity loss in Helliwell Provincial Park’s coastal bluff meadows. Habitat restoration in the area includes selective removal of young Douglas-fir trees and seedlings, weeding out invasive plants, replanting and seeding with native meadow plants, and the reintroduction of Taylor’s checkerspot caterpillars raised by Wildlife Preservation Canada staff at the Greater Vancouver Zoo.
In mid-October, 19 students from Hornby Island’s Community School joined school staff and parents, Hornby Island Natural History Centre stewards, and a team of biologists from BC Parks and the BC Conservation Foundation in Helliwell Provincial Park. The group removed hundreds of weeds and replaced them with 950 native plant plugs. The planted plugs included two types of grass (California brome and Roemer’s fescue), field chickweed and woolly sunflowers that were grown from seeds and nurtured through the hot summer by Hornby Island Natural History Centre volunteers.
It was the sixth consecutive year that the school participated in the coastal meadow habitat restoration project in Helliwell Provincial Park. The students had great attitudes, and enthusiastically worked at the planting and weeding. An excited student said, “I’ve come to do this three times. I want to come back to this planting patch next summer and see if there are butterflies on our plants!”
The annual plantings by students, volunteers, BC Parks staff and contractors are making a noticeable difference.
“It is getting harder to find bare sites that need plants. These sites are really coming along,” said BC Parks conservation specialist Erica McClaren
Neil Wilson of the Hornby Island Natural History Centre added, “Our community as a whole has contributed to the restoration by leaving bikes at the trailhead, walking only on delineated pathways, keeping dogs leashed, and providing essential support services.”
The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project Team and BC Parks thank the Cowichan Tribes, Halalt, Homalco, K’ómoks, Lake Cowichan, Lyackson, Penalakut, Qualicum, Snaw’Naw’As, Stz’uminus, Tla’amin, We Wai Kai, and We Wai Kum First Nations, for allowing us to restore ecosystems in their traditional territories. In addition to Hornby Island Natural History Centre members, the Community School students, staff and parents, several local volunteers and Satinflower Nurseries also contributed to the success of the habitat restoration project.
Hornby Island Natural History Centre volunteers grew 950 native plant plugs for the coastal meadow restoration project. Photo by Erica McClaren.
Additional photos by Bonnie Zand.
Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori)
- Also known as Edith’s checkerspot.
- Historical range was Hornby Island, southeastern Vancouver Island, Puget Trough and to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. In BC, they were once abundant at 10 sites in the Greater Victoria Area, one site each near Mill Bay and Comox, and sites on Hornby Island (including Helliwell Provincial Park).
- They were thought to have been extirpated (became locally extinct) from Canada by 2000 when no Taylor’s checkerspots could be found in their last known sites on Hornby Island despite intensive searches. However, new populations were discovered on Denman Island in 2005 and near Campbell River in 2018.
- It is federally listed as Endangered (COSEWIC, SARA Schedule 1), and is on the BC Red list of at-risk species.
- Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies need open sunny meadows where they can find suitable host plants (food for larvae and nectar producing flowers for adults), such as woolly sunflower, common camas, small-flowered blue-eyed Mary, wild strawberry, sea blush, and yarrow.
- Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation are major factors in the species’ decline. For example, the meadows along the coastal bluffs in Helliwell Provincial Park became less suitable for butterflies due to invasions of non-native plants and encroaching forests.
- Habitat enhancement work (weeding, selective limbing +/or removal of conifers, re-planting and seeding with native species) has been ongoing in Helliwell Provincial Park for several years.
The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project
The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project is an initiative of the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team’s Invertebrates at Risk Recovery Implementation Group and our partners. It is a collaborative effort to restore Taylor’s Checkerspot populations in British Columbia through habitat enhancement, captive butterfly rearing and release, monitoring, public outreach, and other activities.
Jennifer Heron (Chair), BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Vancouver, BC
Erika Bland & Andrew Fyson, Denman Island Conservancy Association, Denman Island, BC
Deborah Bishop, Denman Island, BC
Menita Prasad, Greater Vancouver Zoo, Aldergrove, BC
Eric Gross & Kella Sadler, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Delta, BC
Crispin Guppy, Entomologist, Whitehorse, YT
Molly Hudson, Mosaic Forests, Nanaimo, BC
Chris Junck, Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team, Victoria, BC
Nicole Kroeker, Parks Canada Agency, Victoria, BC
Suzie Lavallee, University of British Columbia Faculty of Forestry, Vancouver, BC
Patrick Lilley, Private Consultant, North Vancouver, BC
Kristen Miskelly, Saanich Native Plants, Victoria, BC
Derek Moore, Area Supervisor Von Donop Area, BC Parks, Black Creek, BC
Nick Page, Raincoast Applied Ecology, Vancouver, BC
Jessica Steiner, Andrea Gielens, Maja Hampson & Genevieve Rowe, Wildlife Preservation Canada, Toronto & Guelph, ON
Bonnie Zand, BC Conservation Foundation Fanny Bay, BC
BC Conservation Foundation
BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
BC Parks License Plate Fund
BC Wildlife Federation
Denman Conservancy Association
Environment Canada Habitat Stewardship Fund
Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team
Greater Vancouver Zoo
Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation
Hornby Island Community School
Hornby Island Natural History Centre
University of British Columbia
Wildlife Preservation Canada
For more information about the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project, visit: https://goert.ca/activities/taylors-checkerspot/
Project Lead/GOERT Invertebrates at Risk RIG Chair
Invertebrate Conservation Specialist
BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Public Outreach Coordinator
Taylor’s Checkerspot Recovery Project Team
* More photos available by request