Helliwell habitat restoration and fuel management update

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By Chris Junck, Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project Team

Ecological restoration work that began in 2015 continues in Helliwell Provincial Park. With guidance from the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, BC Parks and the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project Team, habitat enhancement is achieved through a combination of conifer removal, pruning, weeding, and planting/seeding of native vegetation. A broad variety of species are used in the restoration, including common camas, woolly sunflower, harsh paintbrush, small blue-eyed Mary, and others that are important host plants for Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies. With support from Wildlife Preservation Canada, the Vancouver Zoo has raised and released the endangered butterflies annually in the restoration areas since 2020. Several other at-risk and uncommon coastal bluff species benefit from this project, such as dun skipper and propertius duskywing butterflies, western bumble bee, western screech-owl, bats, and numerous other animals and plants.

Vegetation monitoring has been conducted annually to assess restoration success through time. The latest surveys that occurred in early March 2024 indicate that there has been successful regeneration of meadow vegetation. However, native vegetation specifically beneficial to Taylor’s checkerspot is not recovering to its full potential. Do you ever wonder why there aren’t a sea of wildflowers in the Helliwell meadows? It’s because of invasive grass thatch build-up and grazing by deer on blooming wildflowers. 

Woodboring beetles have also affected the park’s ecology in recent years. Large numbers of shore pine along the bluff towards St. John’s Point have died or are dying due to beetle infestations. Additionally, there have been substantial blowdowns in some areas of the park. The resulting large number of dry branches, dead trunks, and dead fall is creating a potential fire hazard.

In 2020, BC Parks hired a consultant to conduct a fire fuel risk assessment and to write a fuel management prescription for Helliwell Provincial Park. Work on implementing the plan began in 2021 and has continued annually since then. Over these four subsequent years, forest fire fuel has been reduced around the parking lot and partway along the eastern portion of the bluff trail toward St. John’s Point. 

Fuel management work consists of cutting, limbing, piling, and burning dead and dying shore pine and invasive English holly. Most dead wood was removed, however, both standing and fallen logs providing wildlife benefits were retained. Although arbutus on site also had dead and dying limbs, dead wood from this species was left in place. The total material removed over these three years of treatments was just under 5,000 m3, or about the same as 500 tandem dump truck loads. 

All cut wood was hauled to 13 burn sites distributed along the bluff trail. Custom native plant seed mixtures prepared by Satinflower Nurseries were spread on the burn areas in early March each year. In previous years, burn sites and other restoration areas were also planted and seeded by volunteers from the Hornby Island Natural History Centre, Hornby Island Community School, Conservancy Hornby Island, Hornby Island Provincial Parks Committee, contractors, and BC Parks staff. 

According to Neil Wilson of the Hornby Island Natural History Centre, “The planting event with the Hornby Island Community School last fall was a great success.” He adds, “This was the seventh year they have participated in the restoration project in Helliwell and have planted around 25-30,000 plants. An amazing accomplishment!”

BC Parks and the project team thank 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. There has also been a lot of local assistance for the project from Helliwell Park neighbours in High Salal Ranch Strata and community volunteers. 

The recovery project has benefited from funding and in-kind contributions from the BC Parks Licence Plate Program, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Environment Canada Habitat Stewardship Fund, the B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and others.

The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project Team includes biological consultants and representatives from the B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, BC Parks, Denman Conservancy Association, Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team, Greater Vancouver Zoo, Mosaic Forest Management, Wildlife Preservation Canada, and others. 

Learn more about the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly: 

https: //goert.ca/activities/taylors-checkerspot/

and

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/plants-animals-ecosystems/species-ecosystems-at-risk/implementation/conservation-projects-partnerships/taylors-checkerspot

 

 

Photos  

Photo 1.

Caption 1. Botanist Kristen Miskelly conducted the annual assessment of Helliwell’s coastal bluff meadow restoration on March 2nd, 2024. Photo by James Miskelly. 

 

 

Photo 2.

 

 

 

Photo 3.

 

 

 

Caption for photos 2, 3: Before and after photos of a forest fire fuel reduction site near St. John’s Point. Photos by Bonnie Zand.

Photo 4.

 

 

 

Caption for photo 4. Sites where fire fuels were piled and burned were weeded prior to planting and seeding. Photo by Bonnie Zand.

Photo 5.

Caption 5. BC Parks conservation coordinator Stephanie Govier, Hornby Island Natural History Centre volunteer Bill Caywood, and Hornby Island Community School students replanted burn pile sites on October 14, 2023. Photo by Bonnie Zand.

Photo 6.

 

 

 

Caption 6. Over the last seven years, Neil Wilson and other Hornby Island Natural History Centre volunteers, and students from Hornby Island Community School helped to plant 25,000-30,000 native plants in Helliwell Provincial Park. Photo by Bonnie Zand.

Background Information

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 B.C., 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 led by Jennifer Heron of the BC Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship and is guided by the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team’s Invertebrates at Risk Recovery Implementation Group. 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. 

Team Members 

Jennifer Heron (Chair), B.C. Ministry of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship, Vancouver, B.C. 

Erika Bland and Andrew Fyson, Denman Island Conservancy Association, Denman Island, B.C. 

Deborah Bishop, Denman Island, B.C. 

Menita Prasad, Greater Vancouver Zoo, Aldergrove, B.C.

Eric Gross and Ross Vennesland, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Delta, B.C. 

Crispin Guppy, Entomologist, Whitehorse, Y.T. 

Molly Hudson and David Vey, Mosaic Forest Management, Nanaimo, B.C.

Chris Junck, Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team and B.C. Conservation Foundation, Victoria, B.C.

Suzie Lavallee, University of British Columbia Faculty of Forestry, Vancouver, B.C. 

Patrick Lilley, Private Consultant, North Vancouver, B.C. 

Erica McClaren and Stephanie Govier, BC Parks, Black Creek, B.C. 

Kristen Miskelly, Satinflower Nurseries, Victoria, B.C. 

Derek Moore, Area Supervisor Von Donop Area, BC Parks, Black Creek, B.C. 

Nick Page, Raincoast Applied Ecology, Vancouver, B.C. 

Hazel Wheeler and Andrea Gielens, Wildlife Preservation Canada, Guelph, ON. 

Bonnie Zand, B.C. Conservation Foundation, Fanny Bay, B.C.

Supporters 

B.C. Conservation Foundation

B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy

B.C. Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship

B. Parks

BC Parks License Plate Fund

Conservancy Hornby Island

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 Co-op

Hornby Island Natural History Centre

Hornby Island Provincial Parks Committee

Mosaic Forest Management

Sea Breeze Lodge

University of British Columbia

Wildlife Preservation Canada

For more information about the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project, visit: www.goert.ca/activities/taylors-checkerspot/

Or contact:

Project Lead/GOERT Invertebrates at Risk RIG Chair

Jennifer Heron

Provincial Invertebrate Conservation Specialist

B.C. Ministry of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship 

Office: 778-572-2273

Jennifer.Heron@gov.bc.ca

Public Outreach Coordinator 

Taylor’s Checkerspot Recovery Project Team

Chris Junck

chris_junck@hotmail.com    

* More photos available by request

BC Parks

Erica McClaren

Conservation Specialist

Office: 250-331-9922

Erica.mcclaren@gov.bc.ca 

TIG
Author: TIG