By Chris Junck, Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project Team
Historically, First Nations used fire as a tool to maintain important plants and other species associated with open Garry oak woodlands and meadows. In the absence of First Nation’s land management practices, and decades of fire suppression in the area, the fuel hazard has increased within the park with the number of dead and dying shore pine along the coastline trail east towards St. Johns Point.
This fall, BC Parks is embarking on a multi-year project to meet fuel management and ecological restoration objectives in Helliwell. The project is guided by the Helliwell Provincial Park Ecosystem Based Plan (2001) and Helliwell Provincial Park Wildfire Threat Assessment and Fuel Management Prescription (2021). It was introduced to representatives of the Hornby Island Provincial Parks Committee, Conservancy Hornby Island and Hornby Island Natural History Centre during a public information session in October. “We’re taking a slow and gradual approach to ensure park values are maintained and will focus on high wildfire risk areas first”, said BC Parks senior ranger Heather Steere.
The proposed sites for selectively reducing fire fuels in 2021-22 are scattered throughout the areas within the red boundary lines on the map.
Heather Steere and conservation specialist Erica McClaren described other components of the plan:
- Focus will be on reducing fine fuels and ladder fuels, while enhancing ecological values.
- Selective, multi-year manual thinning and limbing of Douglas-fir and shore pine.
- Iconic trees, Garry oak, juniper and arbutus trees will not be negatively impacted.
- On site pile burning will be used to dispose of thinning debris along the coastal bluff trail area.
- Continuous management of invasive species throughout the park.
- Replanting and seeding of burn piles using native species.
- This work will support and enhance the Garry oak and arbutus ecosystem.
Heather Steere invited the public to provide BC Parks with a list of locations within Helliwell that are significant for the community, and locals have flagged these areas to prevent unintentional damage during the project. A contractor has been hired and plans to begin limbing and thinning in mid-December and January with work completed by mid-February at the latest.
The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project Team and BC Parks thank the Cowichan Tribes, Halalt, Homalco, K’ómoks, Lake Cowichan, Lyackson, Penelakut, 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. Thanks to Ilze Raudzins, Tina Wai, Neil Wilson, Rebecca Benjamin-Carey, and Serena Laskin for their insightful comments and questions during the October information session in Helliwell Provincial Park.
To find out more about fuel management or other aspects of the Helliwell Provincial Park Ecosystem Based Plan, visit https://a100.gov.bc.ca/pub/acat/public/viewReport.do?reportId=17734
Photos by Chris Junck unless otherwise noted.
BC Parks area supervisor Derek Moore described the coastal bluff Garry oak ecosystem restoration work that has been carried out in Helliwell Provincial Park in recent years.
Erica McClaren, BC Parks conservation specialist, told the group about the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly recovery project activities and a hydrology study that took place in the park in 2021.
BC Parks senior ranger Heather Steere discussed the various potential wildfire risks and the need to reduce the fuel load in the target areas while enhancing the ecological values.
Local community members contributed valuable comments about the fuel management plan during the public information session.
During a tour of the potential target fuel management sites, Heather Steere identified the kinds of fuels that need to be reduced and areas where ecological values will be enhanced. Photo by Erica McClaren.
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, Satinflower Nurseries, 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
Senior Park Ranger