In August 2021, Rivershed launched the Foodlands Corridor Restoration Program and began work on the first pilot restoration site along the sc̓e:ɬxʷəy̓əm (Salmon River)* in Langley, in the shared territory of the Kwantlen, Katzie, Semiahmoo and Matsqui Nations. Two years later, the transformative impact of Foodlands is evident. Seven parcels along the river have undergone restoration, yielding tangible results – plants are thriving, Kwóxweth/kʷəxʷəθ (coho)* are using the specially crafted off-channel habitat, the at-risk little brown bat is foraging throughout the corridor, and a diverse array of birds, including belted kingfishers, have become a common sight in the area.
The Foodlands team, which includes collaborators səýeḿ Qwantlen, Langley Environmental Partners Society, Kerr Wood Leidal, Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance, and multiple landholders along the sc̓e:ɬxʷəy̓əm are ecstatic to witness the positive impacts of restoration efforts. As Foodlands visionary and project consultant, Lara Volgyesi, often says, “If you build it, they will come.” This captures the team’s belief that Foodlands can, and is, having a positive impact on the health and vitality of the sc̓e:ɬxʷəy̓əm corridor.
The success of the restoration work along the sc̓e:ɬxʷəy̓əm corridor has given us the opportunity to share the Foodlands program’s efforts with the community. This fall, Rivershed hosted two site tours to open the restored sites for land-based learning and research opportunities. We are incredibly grateful to Sesmelot – Fern Gabriel and Kelly Yates from the Kwantlen Nation for joining us and leading these tours. Fern, a language learner, generously shared her knowledge and stories during the site tours and has been the source of many Halq’eméylem and hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ translations for places, plants, and animals in the sc̓e:ɬxʷəy̓əm corridor. Kelly, a Kwantlen Elder, has been involved in all aspects of the sc̓e:ɬxʷəy̓əm project, from planning and construction to planting, maintenance, and monitoring.
On October 14th, we were joined by the Fraser Basin Council’s Co-Creating a Sustainable BC youth group. The youth were looking to understand the connections between human health and ecosystem health and were eager to participate in hands-on activities. We spent the afternoon engaged in experiential learning activities such as planting Chewõ:lhp/cəw̓i:ɬp (black cottonwood), Th’exwíyelhp/t̕ᶿəxʷiyəɬp (red-osier dogwood), and Xéltsepelhp/χeleʔəɬp (willow), installing beaver caging, learning plant identification techniques through scientific journaling, and practicing Halq’eméylem and hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓. We emphasized a core principle of Foodlands: that cross-cultural learning together on the land helps support a food system that is sustainable, just, and inclusive.
On October 18th, researchers from the University of British Columbia involved in the Agricultural Climate Action Research Network toured a Foodlands site to learn more about the work being done. We showed them the initial bank stabilization work, which used soft engineering techniques such as regrading the slope of the bank, driving in posts to secure large woody debris, and planting fast-growing trees and shrubs along the riparian zone. This work has proven resilient, even in the face of multiple atmospheric river events in 2021 and 2022. Given the increasing frequency of extreme weather events due to climate change, riparian restoration projects such as these contribute to resilience against floods, fires, and droughts.
Restoration, in our view, represents a commitment to forming a relationship with the land. Beyond the “completion” of construction and planting, restored habitats are healthiest when they are continually stewarded by the community. In October, Rivershed, Langley Environmental Partners Society and Kwantlen Land Guardians were on-site to plant Chewõ:lhp/cəw̓i:ɬp (black cottonwood), Xéltsepelhp/χeleʔəɬp (willow), Th’exwíyelhp/t̕ᶿəxʷiyəɬp (red-osier dogwood), and bigleaf maple. Chewõ:lhp/cəw̓i:ɬp is a fast-growing species that will quickly develop a robust root system to stabilize the riverbank and grow a dense canopy that will provide cover for wildlife, maintain cooler water temperatures in the off-channel habitat, and shade out invasive reed canary grass. Bigleaf maple was planted to restore habitat for the at-risk wəq̓ə́q (Oregon forest snail), which requires moist habitats with dense cover and is commonly found in habitats with bigleaf maple and stinging nettle.
The Foodlands team, in collaboration with LEPS and Kwantlen Land Guardians, will continue to maintain and monitor the sc̓e:ɬxʷəy̓əm Corridor to observe and maximize the benefits of restoration efforts. We extend our appreciation to Kerr Wood Leidal and Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance for carrying out bi-annual effectiveness monitoring which is critical to understanding the long-term impacts of the project.
Looking ahead to 2024, the Foodlands sc̓e:ɬxʷəy̓əm Corridor will continue to grow, adding another bank stabilization project and enhancing marsh connectivity on a new property. We look forward to sharing these developments with the community once they are complete.
*Capitalized translations are Halq’eméylem (the Upriver dialect of the broader language of Halkomelem), and the lower case words are hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (the Downriver dialect). Halkomelem translation provided by knowledge keepers and speakers from the Kwantlen and Katzie Nations.
As we work towards our 2030 goal to connect a movement to protect 30% and restore 2.4% of the Fraser Watershed, your support for programs like Foodlands is crucial. Join us and together, we can create a healthier future for the Fraser and rewrite the story of the watershed to one of resilience, protection and recovery.
This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change. Additional support provided by the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Community Salmon Program, Dr. Bronner’s and the Healthy Watersheds Initiative; a program that was funded by the Government of British Columbia and delivered by Real Estate Foundation of BC in partnership with Watersheds BC.