ISSN 1188-603X

No. CDVII April 1, 2009 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2



On March 11, 2009, former President Bill Clinton was interviewed by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN’s Larry King Live. The topic was embryonic stem cell research. Here are the President’s comments:

"If it’s obvious that we’re not taking embryos that can — that under any conceivable scenario would be used for a process that would allow them to be fertilized and become little babies..."

"...he (President Obama) has apparently decided to leave to the relevant professional committees the definition of which frozen embryos are basically going to be discarded, because they’re not going to be fertilized..."

"I believe the American people believe it’s a pro-life decision to use an embryo that’s frozen and never going to be fertilized..."

"...those committees need to be really careful to make sure if they don’t want a big storm to be stirred up here, that any of the embryos that are used clearly have been placed beyond the pale of being fertilized before their use..."

"There are a large number of embryos that we know are never going to be fertilized, where the people who are in control of them have made that clear. The research ought to be confined to those."

"But there are values involved that we all ought to feel free to discuss in all scientific research. And that is the one thing that I think these committees need to make it clear that they’re not going to fool with any embryos where there’s any possibility, even if it’s somewhat remote, that they could be fertilized and become human beings."


From: Hugh Smith [], originally posted in BAMS-L list, Sunday, January 4, 2009, 4:56 PM

For the accompanied photos see:

Saturday morning Jim Childers, Richard Lyons and I headed for Plumas and Tahoe National Forest, to do some mushroom hunting of course, but also to check out some new areas while the snow remains at about 3000 feet.

We left Yuba City at 7 a.m. so we could get up there, have several hours to hunt and return to Yuba City for a still useful day at home. On the way up the grade out of Dobbins I hit a patch of black ice. I believe we were doing about 40 miles per hour. Neither Jim nor Richard thought I was going too fast for conditions. Neither did the police.

In 1 second we had lost all traction and were headed off the road. We cut a 12 inch diameter tree off at the ground and were finally stopped by clipping off many smaller trees. The noise was horrendous as the air bags went off and we crunched trees and rocks. Immediately we began rolling down the steep embankment built up 50 feet long ago for this section of road. The embankment was covered with small trees. It looks as though we rolled 3 1/2 times before landing on the roof. I felt like I was in a barrel or a carnival ride. It was very dim and there were all sorts of things flying around. None of us could tell which way was up or down during the event. I never really could see outside. I was in a dark barrel, tumbling. Things that were in the front of the car were now in the back.

Crawling out of the car, I found some mushrooms while lying around on the thick duff (Fig. 1). I picked one. I thought at first it might be a Candy Cap. But no, it was maybe a Collybia. It had a very pleasant smell. I felt fine. We found some other mushrooms while we waited for the tow truck too. Lactarius, Mycena. We did NOT find a good new place to hunt! When we returned to Yuba City, we found more mushrooms, Tulostoma, Coprinus, Paxillus...

Without seatbelts, we would not have survived. Cf. Fig. 2. When we came to a stop, I said, "Richard, are you OK? Jim, are you alright?" They both responded promptly. They were OK. Jim, who was in the front passenger seat, where most of the trees hit, was fine. Richard, who was in the rear passenger side, had bruised ribs. My right arm and wrist were quite sore. We appeared to be fine. We disconnected our seatbelts and fell from an upside down position and crawled out. Most of the windows were broken out and there was stuff everywhere.

The lesson learned here, or reminded of again: always wear your seatbelt. Chances are, you will live to hunt another day.

Figures (in PDF)


From: Adolf Ceska [Adapted from Ceska (2008)]

For the accompanied photos see:

In the system of protected areas in British Columbia, Ecological Reserves represent the category with the strictest protection. The rules for establishing an Ecological Reserve and for its management are given in the Ecological Reserve Act. This Act specifies that Ecological Reserves can be established only on Crown land and the area must “be immediately withdrawn and reserved from any further disposition that might otherwise be granted under any Act or law in force in British Columbia”. Due to the limitations of this process, the boundaries often miss the ecological phenomena the reserve should protect, or the areas worth protecting occur at the very boundary of the protected area.

Katherine Tye (Vedder Crossing) Ecological Reserve # 116 can be given as an example. The reserve land was in part donated and in part sold by Mrs. Katherine Tye to the Nature Trust of British Columbia, and is now leased to the crown on a 99-year term to preserve and/or develop it “as a site of ecological interest for the use, enjoyment and benefit of the people of British Columbia”. The Ecological Reserve should protect the rare Phantom orchid (Cephalanthera austiniae [Gray] Heller) that occurs on the site. However, the largest portion of the Phantom orchid population there occurs at the very boundary, if not outside of the Ecological Reserve.

Trial Island Ecological Reserve # 132 hit an interesting obstacle when the part of the proposed site included four C-FAX Radio transmitting towers. Although the footprint of the towers is rather negligible, the area of the Crown land leased to the C-FAX Radio Station had to be excluded from ER # 132. The other alternative would have been to cancel the lease and take down the towers. To take the leased area out of the proposed ecological reserve appeared to be the less absurd solution. A large population of Macoun’s meadowfoam (Limnanthes macounii Trel.) and the site of the rare Victoria’s paintbrush (Castilleja victoriae Fairnbarns & Egger) were excluded from this Ecological Reserve. Both species are local endemics with declining populations. Victoria’s paintbrush was described only recently (Fairbarns & Egger, 2007), and with its several historic populations extirpated and only three extant populations worldwide, it is certainly the rarest plant in Canada and Washington State. Nevertheless, its site on Trial Island is in the area that had to be excluded because of the radio transmission towers. Even today the area with the C-FAX Radio transmission towers retains an “Institutional” designation in the Official Community Plan for the District of Oak Bay:

Boundaries of most Ecological Reserves in British Columbia are thus the result of a compromise. They depend on the availability of the “otherwise uncommitted” Crown land (cf. Katherine Tye ER # 116 and Trial Island ER # 132), and the survival of species to be protected is not the most important consideration when selecting the ER boundary.

Given this situation, it is rather idealistic to talk about the need of certain buffers, the areas that would run alongside the ER boundaries and protect ERs from impacts of activity on neighbouring lands.

The following examples illustrate some buffers issues in the existing management of British Columbia Ecological Reserves.

Case Study No. 1 – Mount Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve – ER # 112

I remember a nice population of White-head aster (Seriocarpus rigidus Lindley, alias Aster curtus Torr. & Gray) that was at the very entrance to the Mt. Tzouhalem ER in Duncan. That population disappeared shortly after the “lower” entrance to the reserve was established. But here is what the Mt. Tzouhalem ER boundary looks like now: The sign “Ecological Reserve” is still on the oak at the margin of the artificial cliff. The role of the fence has drastically changed. Before the house was built, the fence was erected to keep the intruders from entering the reserve; now it serves to protect the ER intruders from falling into the abyss.

Case Study No. 2. Field’s Lease Ecological Reserve – ER # 33

The same situation as in the Case No. 1, except that the neighbours did not blast the rock up to the ER boundary in order to fit their house in. Only a chicken wire fence is marking the boundary between the reserve and the house. This results in much more introduced plants in this corner than in the rest of the Field’s Lease ER.

Case Study No. 3. Haynes’ Lease Ecological Reserve – ER # 100

There is only a narrow field road that divides the Burrowing Owl Winery from the Haynes Lease ER: The last burrowing owl was seen in British Columbia, just here in Osoyoos, in 1996. It is commendable that the burrowing owl still lives in the Okanagan Valley in name (only), but we should be concerned about the ecological impact of vineyard watering on the ecological reserve. It is hard to predict what impact the vineyard operations or vineyard watering will have on the Haynes’ Lease Ecological Reserve, but it will not likely be positive.

Case Study No. 4. Trout Creek Ecological Reserve – ER # 7

There is a sharp contrast between the heavily used area, the golf course, and this ecological reserve. A simple fence separates the golf course from the protected area. The fence is easy to negotiate with the help of a few wooden steps: the steps apparently serve the golfers to retrieve their lost balls. The transition between the natural area and the golf course is sharp; however, one cannot see any negative impact of the golf course on the neighbouring reserve. In this case, the golf course functions as a large buffer area to this ecological reserve.

Conclusion, or an attempt thereof

I have brought up several issues, but am not able to offer any solutions to the problems. I hope that my grumbling will inspire the readers to think about this problem and promote the establishment of buffer zones in particular cases of ecological reserves they know. Do we need more than a dirt road between the reserves and the development of the surrounding land? In some cases yes, in some cases no. We have to think about this with each individual case in mind.

I also like the broader flexibility of the Manitoba Ecological Reserves that does not restrict the creation of the ecological reserves to Crown land only. In British Columbia, the provincial governments have been happily giving away Crown land without any ecological considerations, and the chances to establish new ecological reserves with natural boundaries are getting even smaller. Will we eventually end up with ecological reserves that are not worth preserving?


Ceska, A. 2007.
Ecological Reserves and Their Buffer Zones. The Log Winter 2007: 9-11.
Fairbarns, M. & J. M. Egger. 2007.
Castilleja victoriae (Orobanchaceae): a New Rare Species from Southeastern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, and the Adjacent San Juan Islands, Washington, U.S.A. Madroño 54(4):334-342.
Figures (in PDF)

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