|BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS|
|No. 327 April 15, email@example.com||Victoria, B.C.|
Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) ecosystems and their associated ecosystems are one of the most endangered ecosystems in western North America. Their range extends from approximately Campbell River, British Columbia on Vancouver Island's eastern shores in a southward fashion along the sub-Mediterranean rain-shadow habitats of south- eastern Vancouver Island and the adjacent Gulf Islands through the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound and down through the Willamette Valley in Oregon approximately as far south as Eugene. From here the Garry oaks mix with other oak species, (e.g. Kellogg's oak, Quercus kelloggii) and extend well into California as the northern half of a chain of oak habitats extending through Central America.
Widespread habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species and the effects of fire suppression have largely been responsible for all known plant associates of Garry oak being listed as "critically imperiled". Throughout the Georgia Basin-Puget Trough-Willamette Valley Ecoregion, Garry oak ecosystems have been restricted to approximately 2% of their 1850's distribution. In Canada over 117 species at risk are associated with these Pacific oak habitats. The conservation challenge facing Garry oak ecosystems is extreme, as 75% of the populations of BC, Washington and Oregon live in this ecoregion, which is over 80% privately owned, and 40% either urbanized or tilled. The remaining 60% of the ecoregion is largely being subjected to industrial forestry, with less than 3% of the area protected in parks.
The valley-bottom, deep soil Garry oak savannah ecosystem types are particularly endangered, literally balancing on the edge of extinction. These areas in particular were immediately valued by early European settlers to the region, who were looking for arable land for livestock, and agricultural land that required less effort to clear than coastal forests. During the period between 1850 and the 1890's, the majority of this deep-soil habitat was converted to agricultural uses and seeded with European pasture grasses (see Conservation Biology, April 2004 for a literature review of pre-contact Garry oak plant associations).
In the Cowichan Valley, one such pioneering family, the Elkingtons, purchased and farmed over 600 acres of oak savannah for the production of butter, cream and other dairy products. The Elkingtons were also ship builders and mariners, and are credited as being the first people to export these products to the newly established Fort Victoria from the Maple Bay area.
However typical their settlement pattern may have been, one thing was unique about the Elkingtons relative to their contemporaries; the Elkingtons kept one portion of their land in its natural condition, which they referred to as Oak Park. In the centre of this area they built a second home, having lost their first one in an accidental fire reportedly started when a Chinese farm worker knocked over his oil lamp. This second home was built in 1894/95 and on January 7, 1899 a son Gerald was born in the master bedroom upstairs.
Gerald enjoyed a very happy childhood at Oak Park, and grew to appreciate the natural world. He once won a school contest for collecting the largest number of wildflower specimens which he pressed and kept in a book. He also learned a great deal about the birds, and other animals which inhabited Oak Park and the surrounding lands and waters near Mt. Tzuhalem, Maple Mountain and the Maple Bay area.
In his late teens, Gerald moved away to attend McGill University, interrupted by a time in the forces during WWI. Upon returning, he completed his training as an electrical engineer, and worked for General Electric for some time in the U.S., before moving to Fernie in south-eastern British Columbia, and taking up a position with a power corporation in the Kootenays. Here he raised his family (sons Peter, Bill and Dick and daughter Awdrie) with his wife Peggy, enjoying a lifestyle of fishing, hunting and boating in the lakes and rivers of the Canadian Rockies.
After his parents passed away, Oak Park was rented out for a short time, until one day Gerald returned to visit, and found his family's house rundown and in bad repair. He immediately evicted the renters and boarded up the house. It sat this way for some time, until he and Peggy moved back into the house at Oak Park from Fernie in 1966.
Gerald again demonstrated his caring nature for the land, by maintaining Oak Park in it's natural condition, removing the invasive Scotch broom as he was able and allowing the native flora to flourish largely undisturbed. Many years passed. Peggy sadly passed away at the age of 94, but Gerald was able to carry on. In 1999 Gerald celebrated his 100th birthday. By this time, he had a staff of caretakers looking after him so that he was able to remain living at Oak Park.
No doubt these costs were escalating, and the Elkington family decided they had to sell Oak Park. Gerald's sons were interested in seeing the property subdivided and developed to maximize their return, which must have been a heartbreaking situation for Gerald, who wanted nothing more than for one of his children to carry on the family legacy and continue living in the house.
Clearly this was not going to happen, and the property went on the market. A local developer became very interested in the property and made plans for a subdivision. Lots were surveyed, and flagging tape went up all over Oak Park. Fortunately, local Maple Bay residents had come to love Oak Park, and its magnificent displays of native wildflowers each spring.
One concerned resident, Barb Stone, contacted the Cowichan Community Land Trust (CCLT) and launched a campaign to save this last vestige of deep-soil oak habitat. Given that the value of the land had increased significantly from the $600 ($1/acre)which the Elkington's paid for it in the 1800's, the CCLT contacted the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to help secure the property. The local fund raising effort was hugely successful, raising approximately $150,000, but in total over $850,000 was needed to protect Oak Park. Fortunately, NCC was successful in raising the requisite funds from Federal and Provincial governments, private donors and corporations like Shell Canada, and in 1999 Oak Park was purchased by NCC for the purposes of biodiversity conservation.
Through the decades, the Elkington's had sold most of their original 600 acres, and by 1999 only Oak Park remained. It was 30 acres of Canada's most intact deep-soil Garry oak habitat. Botanists in the Conservation Data Centre (CDC) identified significant populations of the rare Aster curtus, Viola praemorsa and Triteleia howellii, in addition to extensive swards of more common Garry oak elements such as Camassia leichtlinii, Camassia quamash, Lomatium utriculatum, _Dodecatheon hendersonii, Erythronium oregonum, Collinsia grandiflora var. pusilla, Carex inops, Festuca roemeri, and many other species of native plants and animals. In fact, the CDC botanists noted that despite a legacy of fire suppression and invasive species introduction to the region, Oak Park expressed an unprecedented 60% native cover.
Despite having purchased the entire property from Gerald, including the house, NCC agreed to donate a life tenancy lease agreement to Gerald, that he might live out the rest of his days in the home he was born in. Regretfully we must report that after nearly 5 years of enjoying Gerald's company, he passed away in the house at Oak Park, on Feb. 7, 2004, at 105 years.
Gerald was fond of recalling the sound of horse and buggy along Maple Bay Road, the sight of Purple Martins and Western bluebirds swooping through the oaks, and commenting on how slowly the oaks grow.
Somewhat fittingly, Gerald's urn was interred at St. Peter's Anglican Church just down the street, alongside his wife, and parents, in a graveyard that itself dominated by Garry oaks, and has similarly avoided the plough. In this new place Gerald will always be surrounded by the wildflowers he loved and cared for so much.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada will miss having Gerald around, and will continue protect, steward and restore Oak Park (now known as the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve) in his honour. We are all indebted to him for his careful stewardship of this rare ecological jewel.
When: July 23, 24 and 25, 2004
Where: Priest River Experimental Forest near Priest Lake, Idaho
"Identifying the real tree huggers: epiphytic crustose lichens", will be the topic of a three-day workshop to be held by Toby Spribille on July 23, 24 and 25, 2004 at the Priest River Experimental Forest near Priest Lake, Idaho. The workshop is being sponsored by the Kinnikinnick Chapter of the Idaho Native Plant Society. The emphasis of the course will be the recognition of important and common crust genera on trees and snags, but participants will also have a look at crusts on rock and soil. The program includes:
Workshop participants will obtain a script that will contain NEW keys to inland epiphytic crustose lichens.
The program includes short field trips Friday and Saturday and one all- day field excursion Sunday, probably to the edge of the Salmo-Priest Wilderness. Participants should bring field- going gear and paper collecting baggies, as well as a hand lens, and if at all possible also a light microscope. However, people who do not have a light microscope can also participate. Prior experience with macrolichens might be helpful but is not a prerequisite to participation.
Participation will be limited to 15 people. Registration will be $107 per person; this will include 3 nights lodging at the station. A reduced rate of $77 will be possible for people who arrange other accommodations. Registration will proceed on a first-come, first-served basis.
To register please send an e-mail to Toby at firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name, mailing and e-mail address and whether or not you can bring a light microscope.
Registration deadline is June 1, 2004.
We have just finished up two projects that have been a long time coming. The books are available online, and some hard copies are available for those who need them. The URL for the books are:
Riparian and Wetland Vegetation of Central and Eastern Oregon (http://oregonstate.edu/ornhic/crowe2004.pdf)
The eastern Oregon guide has photographs, valley cross-section illustrations, and is 483 pages long (without the stand tables). The PDF file has color images and maps (all in the introduction) that we have been forced to print in black and white. If anyone wants the stand tables, they add another 300 pages, but let us know.
Native Wetland Plant Associations of Northwestern Oregon (http://oregonstate.edu/ornhic/christy2004.pdf)
The northwestern Oregon guide has text and tables, and is 250 pages long.
Contact email@example.com if you would like a copy.