Friends of Churn Creek invite new members, those interested to AGM

Peter Opie photo Hikers society gaze at one of the many stunning views at the Churn Creek Protected Area. The society is hosting their AGM on Monday, April 30 at Scout Island and are inviting anyone interested to attend and join.

After a year of disruption, the Friends of Churn Creek are preparing for a new season.

With their AGM and potluck dinner set for April 30 at the Scout Island Nature Centre, the society is ready for what will hopefully be a more productive year than last, having had many of their 2017 plans suspended by wildfire.

“We’ve been doing quite a bit of ecosystem restoration lately,” said Friends of Churn Creek Protected Area Society president Peter Opie.

This year, they are focusing on sheep habitat.

“There’s an at-risk transient and migratory herd and the sheep numbers are really down,” said Opie. “They go from the Red Mountain area to Churn Creek every year and there are a few places they like, and one is called Sheep Flats. It’s a flat area above Churn Creek, so we’re doing some restoration there that will improve forage and reduce hiding cover for predators.”

The group, thanks to partnerships with B.C. Parks, the Cariboo Chilcotin Restoration Committee, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and volunteers, has been working for several years to reduce encroaching trees, trees that normally and somewhat ironically, would be cleared by wildfires to protect the grasslands.

“When the park was created it was trying to capture the grasslands,” said Opie.

“We want to capture this area as it is largely intact. That has been altered, the natural ecology has been disrupted by humans suppressing wildfires. Before, the [First Nations] people would burn regularly so overall, in all the grasslands around here, they are being encroached by Douglas-fir because of the disturbance of the natural regime.”

He said the fires would clear the understory and maintain open forest and grasslands to improve habitat, hunting and plants.

Now, he says, the Friends of Churn Creek have been cutting down Douglas-fir encroachment to protect the grasslands.

It’s part of a series of activities the society has undertaken in recent years, including the installation of a kiosk and an accessible interpretive trail.

This year, the society has two guided hikes planned: one will venture to High Lake to visit their ecosystem restoration project on June 24, and the second will be a visit to Sheep Flats on Sept. 23.

If you’d like to join, or see what the Friends of Churn Creek are up to, head to the AGM on April 30. The potluck dinner will begin at 6 p.m. at the Scout Island Nature Centre to be followed by the AGM, which will include a presentation on recent activities within the protected area. For more information, or if you are interested in becoming a director, e-mail Opie at peter&skye@telus.net.

“We are inviting anyone that may be interested to join our membership and attend the AGM,” said Opie.

“This area is precious. It’s really important. It’s important for people, it’s important for all the plants and animals, and it is significant because so many other native grasslands in North America have dwindled, been overgrazed or over populated and are full of invasive plants .”

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