Editorial: Heritage protection must extend to nature

Local efforts to preserve threatened ecosystems are vital

When we talk about heritage, discussion often calls to mind century-old homes or items of cultural significance.

But what of our natural heritage?

Here in Oak Bay, the 32-hectare Uplands Park boasts one of the highest concentrations of rare and endangered plants in Canada.

Not only does the park contain the remnants of a rare Garry oak ecosystem, but also maritime meadows and vernal pools, which used to cover a much greater area in the region. In fact, more than 95 per cent of this habitat has been lost over the last century.

Botanist Wylie Thomas, who leads Uplands’ reclamation, notes that 21 rare and endangered plants – some found in just one or two other locations in Canada – are found in the park’s meadows and pools. At least five rare plant species have been lost in the last 20 years, and others are in decline. Three rare butterflies have also disappeared since the 1950s.

The problem? Urbanization has encroached on these spaces, leaving few intact. Add to that aggressive non-native trees and shrubs like Scotch broom and carpet burweed that favour the same growing conditions and choke out the native species.

The park also attracts many human and canine users who can damage some of the delicate plants when straying off the paths.

Local government and staff, with enthusiastic volunteers led by the Friends of Uplands Park, have waged an ongoing war with the invaders, augmented by signage and protection for specific areas. Their battle continues, with another attack planned for March 27. No experience is needed, and training and tools are provided.

Come join the fight, and help protect a valuable piece of our natural heritage.