Estuary preservation a good sign

PORT HARDY — Government, Ducks Unlimited unveil wildlife interpretive sign to mark Quatse Estuary Wildlife Management area

Representatives from government and non-government organizations unveiled a new wildlife interpretation sign at the Quatse Estuary Wildlife Management Area Friday.

The 157-hectare area, just south and east of Port Hardy, was established in April of 2013 by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

“Whenever we can protect a critical piece of critical habitat for future generations it is always a good news story,” said Brad Amer, manager of provincial operations for Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Only three per cent of the Vancouver Island landscape is estuary, said Ron Diederichs, section head for ecosystems with the Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.

“While we are a resource-based community, we are also keenly aware of our responsibility to protect the environment and conserve irreplaceable wildlife habitat like the Quatse River Estuary,” said District of Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood.

“So to the folks at Ducks Unlimited and its partners, I would like to thank you for the amazing work you’ve done in creating the Quatse Estuary Wildlife Management Area and reiterate once again that in Port Hardy you have a partner and a steadfast supporter,” Bood said.

The wildlife management area is made up of the Glen Lyon, Quatse and Quatsese River estuaries. It consists of estuarine/tidal marsh habitat, riparian river corridors and floodplain. All seven Pacific salmon species depend on the Quatse River Estuary at some point in their life cycle. The estuary, an area where rivers meet the sea, is also part of the Pacific Flyway corridor and provides critical wintering habitat for over 60 species of waterfowl and other waterbirds.  Year round, the estuary and adjacent highlands provide habitat to over 100 bird species. Common bird and waterfowl species include Northern Shovellers, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, American Widgeon, Harlequin Duck, Trumpeter Swans, Hooded Mergansers, Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons.

As they migrate, birds “need to fuel up,” said Ducks Unlimited Head of Conservation – BC Coast, and biologist Dan Buffett. “We need these little fuel stations all along the BC coast,” Buffett said.

Several partners assist the province with the background work required to recommend sites for designation including Ducks Unlimited Canada, The Nature Trust of BC, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada. The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation also contributes funding to help with designations and for day-to-day management of the sites after they are designated.

Going forward, the BC ministry will manage the area through a partnership of organizations called the Vancouver Island Land Management Program, which consists of the Province of British Columbia, Environment Canada, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Trust of British Columbia and Nature Conservancy Canada. Along with funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, these partners secure and conserve wetlands and other habitats on Vancouver Island.

There are walking trails and viewing platforms within the Quatse River Wildlife Management Area.

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