Cooperation Key to Helliwell Coastal Bluff Restoration Project
By Chris Junck, Taylor’s Checkerspot Recovery Project Team
Participants at a planting event in Helliwell Provincial Park in late October were undaunted by cold weather and COVID-19. They were determined to help restore part of the park’s coastal bluff ecosystem by replacing invasive weeds with native grass. It was a great cooperative effort involving 19 students, staff and volunteers from Hornby Island Community School, volunteers from the Hornby Natural History Society, a BC Parks volunteer and staff, and members of the Taylor’s Checkerspot Recovery Project Team. Working quickly, they managed to remove about 900 weeds and plant 700 native California Brome grass plugs in less than two hours! The plugs were grown from seeds sewn in small plastic trays by Hornby Natural History Centre volunteers.
"I'm totally impressed with the hard work and enthusiasm of the students”, said Taylor’s Checkerspot Recovery Project Team member Bonnie Zand. “They completely exceeded our expectations, and the native pollinators are sure to benefit from the habitat that they are helping to restore."
Neil Wilson, a member of the Hornby Natural History Centre, added, “I think all of the participants got a good positive feeling that day. This important restoration project is an integral component of Hornby Natural History Centre’s mandate to help actively educate people on the workings of nature. Our members are happy to see our efforts in propagating, nurturing and planting these native plants come to fruition.”
The coastal bluff ecosystem restoration project in Helliwell Provincial Park has been on-going since 2015. Under the direction of BC Parks, it involves community volunteers, contractors, and members of the Taylor’s Checkerspot Recovery Project Team. The project includes the gradual removal of Douglas-fir and Shore Pine that are encroaching on the meadow. The removal of these conifers can leave areas of bare soil that are susceptible to invasion by non-native species such as Canada and Bull Thistle, Hairy Cat’s Ear and Orchard Grass. Replacing the invasive plants with native species is an integral part of the restoration process.
A key goal of the restoration project is to enhance the habitat for pollinators, including recently reintroduced Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies. Nearly 800 caterpillars of the endangered species were released in the park’s meadows in the spring of 2020, and adult Taylor’s Checkerspots were seen flying in the park in May for the first time since the 1990s!
The Taylor’s Checkerspot Recovery Project Team wishes to thank all of the planting event participants: Judi Ayers and her students, Lisa Hamilton, Ondrea Rogers, Maleen Mund, Neil Wilson, Barb Biagi, Tina Wai, Bill Hamilton, Ruth Goldsmith, Erica McClaren, Heather Steere, and Bonnie Zand.
Photo by Barb Biagi.
Photo by Bonnie Zand.
Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori)
Also known as Edith’s Checkerspot.
- Historical range was Hornby Island, southeastern Vancouver Island, Puget Trough and to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. In BC, they were once abundant at 10 sites in the Greater Victoria Area, one site each near Mill Bay and Comox, and sites on Hornby Island (including Helliwell Provincial Park).
- They were thought to have been extirpated (became locally extinct) from Canada by 2000 when no Taylor’s Checkerspots could be found in their last known sites on Hornby Island despite intensive searches. However, new populations were discovered on Denman Island in 2005 and near Campbell River in 2018.
- It is federally listed as Endangered (COSEWIC, SARA Schedule 1), and is on the BC Red list of at-risk species.
- Taylor’s Checkerspot butterflies need open sunny meadows where they can find suitable host plants (food for larvae and nectar producing flowers for adults), such as Woolly Sunflower, Common Camas, Small-flowered Blue-eyed Mary, Wild Strawberry, Sea Blush, and Yarrow.
- Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation are major factors in the species’ decline. For example, the meadows along the coastal bluffs in Helliwell Provincial Park became less suitable for butterflies due to invasions of non-native plants and encroaching forests.
- Habitat enhancement work (weeding, selective limbing +/or removal of conifers, re-planting and seeding with native species) has been ongoing in Helliwell Provincial Park for several years.
The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project
The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project is an initiative of the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team’s Invertebrates at Risk Recovery Implementation Group. It is a collaborative effort to restore Taylor’s Checkerspot populations in British Columbia through habitat enhancement, captive butterfly rearing and release, monitoring, public outreach, and other activities.
Jennifer Heron (Chair), BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Vancouver, BC
Erika Bland & Andrew Fyson, Denman Island Conservancy Association, Denman Island, BC
Deborah Bishop, Denman Island, BC
Menita Prasad, Greater Vancouver Zoo, Aldergrove, BC
Eric Gross & Kella Sadler, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Delta, BC
Crispin Guppy, Entomologist, Whitehorse, YT
Molly Hudson, Mosaic Forests, Nanaimo, BC
Chris Junck, Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team, Victoria, BC
Nicole Kroeker, Parks Canada Agency, Victoria, BC
Suzie Lavallee, University of British Columbia Faculty of Forestry, Vancouver, BC
Patrick Lilley, Private Consultant, North Vancouver, BC
Erica McClaren, BC Parks, Black Creek, BC
Kristen Miskelly, Saanich Native Plants, Victoria, BC
Derek Moore, Area Supervisor Von Donop Area, BC Parks, Black Creek, BC
Nick Page, Raincoast Applied Ecology, Vancouver, BC
Jessica Steiner, Andrea Gielens, Maja Hampson & Genevieve Rowe, Wildlife Preservation Canada, Toronto & Guelph, ON
Bonnie Zand, BC Conservation Foundation Fanny Bay, BC
BC Conservation Foundation
BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
BC Parks License Plate Fund
Denman Conservancy Association
Environment Canada Habitat Stewardship Fund
Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team
Greater Vancouver Zoo
Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation
Hornby Island Community School
Hornby Island Natural History Centre
University of British Columbia
Wildlife Preservation Canada
For more information about the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project, visit: www.goert.ca/activities/taylors-checkerspot/
Project Lead/GOERT Invertebrates at Risk RIG Chair
Invertebrate Conservation Specialist
BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Public Outreach Coordinator
* More photos available by request