Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Moralea Milne for Metchosin Council 2014

For the past 6 years I have worked to serve the people of Metchosin to the best of my ability and I want to thank you for that honour and privilege. You have had a council that has been highly functional, we have been civil, respectful and, I believe, representative of our entire, diverse community. It’s been a pleasure to sit on this council.
Twenty-five years ago, when I first drove into Metchosin and my future home, I was immediately captivated by the rural ambiance, the winding roads and the scenic beauty of this municipality. Since then I have raised my children, laid my husband to rest and found a true home and sense of community here.

I arrived here without any knowledge or inclination towards the landscape and environment that would eventually shape my entire value system. As you can see from the articles I have written and placed on my blog, I have embraced our cultural, social and natural communities.

My vision of Metchosin into the future is one that closely mirrors our OCP, still a relevant and excellent document after almost 30 years. We are a municipality, that despite being surrounded by urban development, remains determinedly green and rural. I see us as a community that is a model to others on how to control costs and live within our means, and that we demonstrate that there are other measures of success besides growth.

For twelve years I owned a successful retail business, employing twenty staff and producing about $1,000,000 in annual revenues. I believe in fiscal prudence; budgets have to be managed conservatively, especially in these uncertain times. 

Previous councils have ensured that Metchosin has an enviable financial standing. As Chair of Finance I have built on the sound financial practices of past councils to ensure that our finances have remained in the black with very low tax increases.

I want to assure everyone that Metchosin’s finances are in very good order, probably some of the best in the province. We have a healthy reserve, we are in the black, we have NO DEBT, our tax increases are within the cost of living increases. Despite having one of the higher residential assessments in the CRD, we have one of the lowest residential taxes. 

In this term I have initiated a Long Term Financial Sustainability Plan that has enshrined many of our practices into policies that will maintain our long history of financial prudence. As part of the plan we have developed a number of policies: 
  • Reserves and Surplus Policy that allows us to plan for long term infrastructure, operating, and capital costs, without incurring debt, 
  • Debt Policy which adheres to a 'pay-as-you-go', 'no debt financing' philosophy, 
  • Structural Balance Policy which states that ongoing operating costs will be covered by ongoing revenue sources and not by non-recurring resources such as asset sales or reserves, 
  • Policy on Assistance to Community Groups, to bring consistency and fairness to the treatment of those groups seeking Council's financial and non-financial assistance..

We manage the maintenance of our infrastructure so that it is affordable and remains in good repair, decreasing the need for more costly upgrades.

As far as the police tax goes, we might, at some point in the future, be mandated into a new funding formula if our population goes over 5,000.

At that point, we, as a municipality, will be responsible for additional costs. But, as a taxpayer, you are already responsible for much of those costs. On your overall tax bill, you pay the province, on average, $120/yr for a police tax, that the province then pays to the RCMP. If our cost formula changes, you would still be paying that $120/yr, but it would be paid to the municipality, who then pass it on to the province, for the RCMP. 

Think of it like this...You have two children who start university. One chooses UVic and the other chooses SFU, you pay $100 tuition to each school (we wish!), for a total of $200. The next year, both children decide to attend UVic. So now, you don't pay anything to SFU, but you have increased your spending at UVic (aka tax increase) by 100%. But you are still only spending $200. That's a very simplified version of what will happen. Of course, the RCMP contract is in negotiation with the province right now and we have no say in the final contract and we will still have to work out a formula with the Westshore, but we are diligently looking at ways to keep the police tax sustainable.

So, our municipal taxes will increase, maybe by as a much as 10 or 11%, just for police costs, but your tax bill will be offset by a decrease in the elimination of what you now pay directly to the province. We also have $1.1 million in a police tax reserve that will ease us into any other costs that might be associated with these changes.

Someone mentioned that we should have accumulated 4.5 million in the police reserve account. Well, it seems financially remiss to me to let 3.5 million more than you need sit in a bank account, collecting very little interest, when the money can be used to pay down our infrastructure deficit. In the last 7 years council has used that money to rebuild two new bridges (Bilston and Morrow), purchase 2 fire engines, an ATV, a new rescue vehicle, upgrade the community house, build a works yard, repave the majority of our roads to a high standard, upgrade street lights to a Night Sky friendly and more cost effective alternative, purchase a new district truck and other equipment to help maintain our roads infrastructure.

We are looking after the District’s infrastructure so that won’t come back and haunt us, like it has for many communities.

Now for a rant....

In 2011 the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) has recently reported that Metchosin is in some sort of spending free fall, with a 111% increase in per capita spending from 2000-2009, even though they also report we have the lowest per capita spending on Vancouver Island and that we are better than all but two other municipalities in all of BC. We are rated 151 out of 153, with 1 being the worst ranking. I think they have a flawed report with wildly different amounts reported. Page 10 lists Metchosin's 2009 operating spending per capita at $626.00, while on page 26, it states the same 2009 operating spending per capita at $535.00. In any case, I would dispute those numbers, as they don't seem to take into account the construction of the Morrow Bridge, which is not an operating cost, nor the money we put into capital reserves.

The CFIB has an agenda to get commercial tax rates lowered and whatever you think about that concept, you should know that lowering commercial rates would significantly increase residential tax rates, to make up for the shortfall their reduction would cost. In Metchosin, the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILTs) that the federal government pays to us for the use of DND lands and William Head Institute are based on the commercial tax rate. The PILT's account for about 30% of our tax base, so any decrease in them will mean an increase in residential taxes or other equally serious implications on the nature of Metchosin and our rural status.

One of their flawed strategies for looking at increases in per capita spending is that they acknowledge but don't take into account the differential that you experience when you are a small municipality with a relatively small budget, compared to a larger municipality. An example of this kind of flawed reporting is to consider a company paying someone $1/day and then give a $1 increase to $2/day, another company is pays someone $100/day and they also give an increase of $1 to $101/day. In the first case there is a 100% increase in spending and in the second case there is a 1% increase. But both companies have only spent $1. When you are working with relatively small numbers, percentages can be wildly affected by even very small increases.

So despite our low taxes, substantial reserves, no debt, and lowest spending per capita, we are still ranked as a huge offender in looking after our residents' finances. With business sense like this, it's no wonder so many businesses fail.

Listening to the Village businesses, we have started on a bike shelter, to make the village centre more cyclist friendly. We have also been adding some pavement to road shoulders, where possible, to increase cyclists' comfort in using our roads. This is an expensive undertaking and will be done when paving projects dictate possibilities.


In 1999 I decided to move my interests from business to the environment and in 2002 I graduated from the University of Victoria's "Restoration of Natural Systems" diploma program in environmental restoration and have since worked and volunteered in this field.

You elected me knowing my passion for preserving the environment and the processes that protect and foster our clean air and water and supply habitat for our native species. It will come as no surprise that I still hold those beliefs above all others. Any decision I make has been, and always will be, filtered for its effect on the environment. I am deeply concerned that our senior levels of government seem to be ignoring the potentially devastating consequences of climate change and I would like to see Metchosin viewed as a leader in the CRD. We have managed to maintain much of our forested landscape, which acts as a carbon sink by storing C02 emissions, and through the good stewardship of many residents, our creeks and shoreline are basically clean and able to support the demands we place on them. I have initiated the Sustainability Report, providing a structure which enables us to adapt to climate change and increasing fuel costs; the Parks Report, assigning an ecological value to potential parkland; the Veitch Creek Report, which shows a baseline picture of disturbances affecting the creek and landowners; a Shoreline Report that highlights the benefits of, and risks to, our shoreline, a Saving Our Shorelines brochure that is intended to provide some voluntary steps that can be taken to preserve our vibrant and abundant marine ecosystems and a report on Tree Management. I also brought forward a policy to protect our night skies and as a council we have endorsed the solar hot water ready program.


It is the root from which this community sprang; from early times First Nations people used Metchosin meadows for their important camas harvests. In this era of global climate change, uncertain financial markets, food safety scares and unstable oil prices, it is prudent to maintain our farming heritage. Cheap imported produce is not something we should take for granted and developing our local food sources should be encouraged.

Many of us have driven down Taylor Road in the spring just to watch the lambs racing around the field, kicking and twisting in the air in their exuberance. We also thoroughly enjoy the lamb and salmon bar-b-que after a long, pleasant Metchosin Day. However, there is a step between the lambs at Taylor Road and the dinner at Metchosin Day and that step involves the death and processing of those lambs. If we want to continue to enjoy the springtime sights and the delicious meals of local lamb, beef, pork and chicken, then we will need to come to terms with the need for a new abattoir in Metchosin. For many years I lived on Rocky Point Road, barely a block from the Winfall Road abattoir and I never once realised it was there. In that highly regulated industry, every precaution is taken to ensure environmental standards are met and exceeded. Having an abattoir in Metchosin also greatly reduces the stress on the animals being sent on their last journey, giving them a more humane end.

Another aspect to food security is the protection of Metchosin's shoreline. Many forage fish, who make up a critical portion of salmonids' diets rely on pristine sand and gravel beaches for their breeding grounds. If we want to be able to fish sustainably, then shoreline protection is vitally important.

Beecher Bay/Scia'New and Metchosin Council

Beecher Bay/Scia'New and Metchosin

As Council Liaison with our neighbours and friends of Beecher Bay, I initiated council to council forums and was successful in having our two communities sign a Memorandum of Understanding that acknowledges our sincere desire to work together in harmony, for mutual benefit. We continue to meet and share our plans and concerns.

Memorandum of Understanding

Working with Councillor Mitchell, we were able to effectively lobby to have the Velodrome reopened and I will continue to work for the long term viability of Westshore Parks and Recreation, one of our regions finest assets. As Chair of the Policy Committee I have directed the development of a Board Policy Manual, so that board members all understand their duties, and responsibilities and a policy on Operational Sustainability by:
  1. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
  2. Reducing energy use
  3. Reducing waste generated;
  4. Improving water efficiency; and
  5. Greening the supply chain (i.e., asset and material management).

Detached Secondary Suites

As Council, we have followed the results of the referendum and allowed either a secondary suite within a home OR a detached secondary suite.

Seniors and the Differently Abled

Many seniors struggle with isolation, depression and financial security. I believe we should find ways to allow residents, not just seniors, but any resident with special needs, etc., to stay in their homes and to that end I have supported the establishment and financing of the new Seniors Information Resource Centre (SIRC).   Remaining independent and active is a critical component of maintaining the health needed to remain in your home, in your community.

Arts and Culture:

I support the arts and cultural activities in Metchosin. The Community House, the Community Hall, the new Metchosin Arts and Cultural Centre Association (MACCA) and the Metchosin Museum are important pillars in our community, bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and with many different talents and qualities that they can share with others.

I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I believe in the power of consultation and brainstorming. Getting a group of concerned citizens sitting around a table can produce new ideas and innovative solutions, it can also help develop a strong sense of shared community values.

There comes a point when tough decisions have to be made, when you've consulted and brainstormed and listened and it comes down to using your judgment to make a decision that is best for the whole community. That's what you will elect me to do.

Thank you for the past 6 years, they have been highly instructive, endlessly fascinating and, I hope you believe I have served you well and that I might have your vote once again.

My Council Service:

Chair of Finance and Environment               5 years
Chair of Parks and Trails                              1 year
Council Liaison with MEASC (Environmental Advisory Committee) 6 years
Council Liaison with Beecher Bay/Scia'New 6 years
Library Board 6 years
Library Finance Committee (Chair)
Arts Committee 6 years
Westshore Parks and Recreation (WSPRS) Board 5 years
WSPRS Strategic Planning Committee
WSPRS Capital Planning Committee
WSPRS Finance Committee
WSPRS Policy Committee (Chair)

My Community Service:
Member of Metchosin Environmental Advisory Select Committee (MEASC) for 14 years
Pod leader while living on William Head Road
Current warden and leader of broom removal group at Devonian Regional Park for 12 years.

Author of dozens of articles for the Muse on Metchosin's natural history and other community related issues. You can read many of them on this blog.
Planted and maintain the municipal and community house gardens.
Member of the Green and Blue Spaces Strategy Committee for 3 years.
Former treasurer for the Association for the Protection of a Rural Metchosin for 3 years.
Former author and publisher of the Native Plant Study Group newsletter for 4 years (
Former Director of the Native Plant Society of BC
Former Member of the Native Plant Propagation Steering Committee of GOERT
I have organised:
Talk and Walk events (70!)
Fireproof Metchosin Day

MEASC Metchosin Day booth where we give away hundreds of native plant seedlings

Firehall Auxiliary
Orphan Garden Rescue
Metchosin Friend of the Earth Award-2002

Metchosin Volunteer of the Year Award-2006
Acorn Award-2008 (
Endangered Sharp-tailed Snake
I Walk the Talk  
In 2004 my late husband, John Webb, and myself, in partnership with Habitat Acquisition Trust and The Land Conservancy, started working towards placing a conservation covenant on our property, to ensure the long term protection of the rare and threatened ecosystems and species that call Camas Hill home. In particular the federally recognised species at risk, the sharp-tailed snakes (Contia tenuis), that reside here. This was successfully completed in August of 2007.
For further discussion, please contact me at 478-3838 or

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Death Pipes

Lucky Vole
Some of the great delights of summer are road trips with my family, exploring new destinations or revisiting favourite haunts. This year my daughter Gala and I retraced our timeworn steps back to a long ago home in Rock Creek in the Southern Interior. A five-hour drive was stretched to ten hours as we poked along the highway, Gala looking in thrift stores, and me, stopping at likely butterfly sighting locations, both of us enjoying the other’s priorities.
It was at one of the butterfly stops (at Strawberry Flats in Manning Park) that Gala spotted what seemed like an innocuous white PVC pipe sticking up from the ground, surrounded by nectar laden wildflowers and a plethora of butterfly species.
However, it was not such an idyllic sight within the pipe. A terrified vole was intermittently running around and around or cowering in what passed for a corner in the round, smooth-sided, death trap. For that is what the pipe was, a hideous chamber of horrors, with multiple skulls and skeletons of former victims. ‘Gala to the Rescue’, she lifted the terrified creature out of pipe and after a moment of mutual admiration and a photo op, the now lucky vole found its way back into the bush. We filled the pipe with twigs and branches so that, hopefully, this could not happen again, at least in this location.
6" PVC death pipe, about 6 skulls are evident.

Later, as we cycled the Kettle Valley Trail, we found another, even larger hellhole. This one was a wide, four or five foot diameter, cement well ring, maybe six to eight feet deep that was the final resting place for a large mammal. I’m not a forensic expert, so large mammal is as close as I can get to describing the remains of an animal that slowly starved to death within that cement tomb. This one we tried to fill with large branches and even a small tree that had fallen over.
We’re not the only ones who find these disturbing graveyards.
According to a paper put out by Audubon California, one fallen irrigation pipe (6in diameter x 10ft) in California was discovered to have over 200 dead birds plus other small animals within it. In Nevada it became such a known problem that they passed a law that called for the removal of all PVC mine markers. However it is not just uncovered well rings and PVC pipes that are a danger, any open top vertical pipe can be a death trap.
Do you have an unscreened chimney or vent on your roof or protruding from the side of your house? Birds cannot climb out of these, be they PVC, steel or rusting metal. Even pipes leaning against a wall for a few days can cause the death of a curious bird. And it is not just large diameter pipes, ones as narrow as 1.5 inches are implicated in this slaughter, even the steel pipe used for fence posts. This is a slow, silent, hideous, death that is preventable.
Please check your homes and around your yards to make sure that you are not contributing to the problem. I’ll be calling BC Parks, to make my voice heard about their uncapped pipes that must be found and capped or removed. And I urge everyone to keep your eyes open when hiking. Either uproot any uncapped pipes, or, if not possible, find a way to make them less dangerous by filling with twigs, sand, rocks and branches, or covering with whatever is heavy and at hand.
It is often difficult to believe we can make a difference in the myriad battles and injustices that we see around us. Reducing the mortality that death pipes can cause is a step we can all take. The wild creatures of the world will thank you.

The Rat Wars

Diary of a long and epic battle for control of my home.

Week One

1:30 am and the rat is making the rounds of my bedroom, through the inside of the walls. First I heard him (hope it is a him and not a pregnant female!) behind my bed, now it seems to be over by the window. Two days ago I spent most of the day trying to find where it (they?) are getting in. Walking around the house, it seemed so solid; I couldn't find a crack anywhere. So I figured I had better look under the deck. Sigh...really big sigh. There's only a few inches between most of the decking and the ground, not enough room to shimmy under and besides, there are lots and lots of spiders under there! So I decided to unscrew a few boards and see if I could pinpoint any of the vents.
I know about two of the vents; I had replaced a couple of boards a while ago and found them. Although they had seemed secure, I had added more steel mesh around them; where rats are concerned, you can't take too many precautions. So I pried those up again, to check they were still secure, and yes they were, then I tried to angle my head in to get a look and see if there were any other openings. Sure enough, I could just make out one that the propane line had been run along. The problem was that it was impossible for me to accurately estimate which 2x4 it was under. So, I made a guess and started trying to unscrew the board. Double sigh, the screws had been screwed in quite deep and the lumber had swollen over the screw heads. I had to literally carve out the heads before I could unscrew them. BUT most of them wouldn't unscrew even then, the square slots would strip before they came out. I eventually gave up (after three hrs) and found a shovel and a garden fork and used them as crowbars to pry up the lumber. Took me three boards to get close enough to the correct spot to be able to use a mirror and see what shape the screen was in. Sad news was that the screen had only been put in with a pressure fit and had fallen out. Now there was a hole big enough for a rabbit to fit in, let alone a rat. I've managed to get it sealed with some strong mesh, but am at a loss on how to remove the screws in the 2 x 4's so I can put the decking back down...And I have quite obviously sealed the rat into the house. Arghhh!!!!
I have three traps set in the basement; I hope it will find one of them irresistible. I hate setting rattraps, I'm always afraid I will snap the trap on my fingers. But rats in my house give me the creeps to such a huge degree that I am willing to risk broken fingers.

Week two

I am having a terrible time with "my" rat...Just went out and bought a variety of rat traps, hoping that something will work soon. I have found that several of the snap traps that I set out have been snapped, the peanut butter eaten and no rat body as evidence of success. Now I am looking for new strategies to catch this far too wily beast. I had a brainwave (huh!) last night and decided that if I left the bathroom window open in the basement, that the rat would see it as an opportunity to escape and find some food to eat. I even put a dish with peanut butter outside the window, hoping the scent would induce Ratty to forsake my home...Sigh...
This morning I found rat droppings upstairs for the first time. It must be moving through the walls and found the water lines or propane lines, drains or vent of something. I am resorting to using devices that I formerly considered too cruel, some plastic pads, impregnated with a thick, sticky, glue-like substance. Yes, my values have taken a hit with my losses in the Rat Wars...

Week Three

Put out four sticky traps. These are fairly large pieces of flat plastic impregnated with a non-toxic sticky substance. The idea is that the critter will be enticed to the scent, step on them and suffer a fate much like those ancient dinosaurs in the La Brea tar pits...hah!
So, Ratty tries one out, but instead of sticking to the surface, it apparently waged an epic battle and managed to get away. Lots of glue on the carpet, lots of rat fur on the sticky substance, but again, no rat. This happened in my kitchen, which is giving me no comfort at all. I didn't hear the pitter-patter of rat feet in my walls last night, nor any sign that Ratty has returned on his hunt and seek mission. And, I might be imagining it, however I fear there just might be a faint 'eau de Ratty' in the air. I have someone coming over to work on the house today, so I will try to move the propane stove out from the wall and see if there is a lifeless rat body in an accessible spot. Not quite lifeless of course, as the minutiae of life, those bacteria and molds and insect larvae whose job it is to aid in decomposition, will be commencing their long and smelly process. This is precisely what I didn't want to happen...I might have to vacate.

Week Four

Ratty obviously survived ingesting the gluey substance; a few nights ago he ate through the drain hose going from the dishwasher, in his search for water. Sigh for me and sigh for the desperation of Ratty.
That night I had heard the gnawing of sharp little rat teeth coming from a kitchen cupboard. As it turned out, the drain from the kitchen sink had a hole large enough for the rat to squeeze through, where it made substantial inroads on chewing through the garbage container and the drain line. It disappeared when I opened the cupboard, but I had an idea to help Ratty leave my house, and leave me in peace, while saving its life.
I opened the cupboard door and laid a trail of apple pieces (local and organic!) heading to the sliding glass door, which I left open. I turned off the lights and sat motionless in a chair for two hours, staring at the door, hoping Ratty would take my offer of release to the outdoors. I sat there shivering in the bitter cold draft, listening to Ratty as he continued to gnaw in the cupboard. Sitting there, so I could hurriedly close the slider door when he finally left. Every time there was silence, I felt my hopes rise that he had finally sensed the open cupboard, the apple trail, and the open door to freedom. Sadly, that never happened.
Have you tried to repair a dishwasher? They are difficult to work around, shoved as they are into a snug space under a counter. In my case, the electrical cord was a smidgen too short to allow my handyman to slide the dishwasher all the way out from the wall and we were constrained to working in pretzel-like contorted positions as we tried to disassemble and replace the faulty hose. It took a number of tries until the hose was properly installed and the leaking water stopped. Unfortunately that was only after soaking through to the basement ceiling. All this is a bit ironic as I only use the dishwasher when there is a large family gathering, such as those chow-down holidays like Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.
The clothes washing machine is another matter. I use it at least once, maybe twice a week, and it is something I wouldn't want to live without. No sooner had the gyproc-destroying dishwasher been repaired then I discovered that Ratty, thirsty little creature that he was, had chewed through the drain hose in the washing machine. This proved much easier to access and relatively easy to fix, except that the part was difficult to find.

Week Five

I found Ratty's lifeless, eyes bulging, pathetic, emaciated, little body this morning. I find myself feeling sad for poor Ratty. It was obviously almost starved; I have never seen a thinner rat, which is why I imagine it succumbed to the temptation to outwit the snap trap. I'd found one of the traps snapped, but no rat, a couple of weeks ago, no doubt making it shy of going near them again. Now I can see that it had broken its wrist in that episode, I can barely think about how difficult its remaining life has been.
However my guilt and remorse at ending its Ratty reign of terror is equally tempered with relief that it can no longer inflict damage on my home and psyche!
Since then I've been closing every possible egress I can find, so I sincerely hope that neither another rat, mouse or other wild creature, nor myself, will have to go through this again. From taking up part of the deck and screening some open vents (no doubt where they have been gaining access), to sealing around the drains and various openings, to being very careful with food waste, life has been revolving around Ratty for far too long.
RIP Ratty....

Week 8

My house is heated in two ways, with a woodstove, and with an in-floor radiant heating system that has hot water pumped through the subfloor. In the basement the floor is cement but upstairs it is through some magic, penetrable substance that my husband had insisted would be just as good as cement for conducting heat......hmmm.
For the last two years the pump that sends the water through the upper floors has been broken and I have been happy and warm using my woodstove.
This Christmas, my son came home and started working on the many little household maintenance chores that have somewhat fallen by the wayside over the years. One of these was to replace the broken pump, which he did over the course of a weekend. It is not an enviable task to unsolder the various components, find and buy a new pump and then get the whole shebang back together, but he accomplished this with apparent ease and no cursing emanating from the basement. I was out of the house for the next part, but apparently the moment arrived to start up the repaired system, valves were turned, pump was primed and ready to go and heated water started moving through the upper floors again.
Unfortunately, it was at this point that water started leaking through the basement ceiling in a number of spots. Seems Ratty had left me with one more memory of its determination to find a source a drinking water while stranded in my house. It had eaten through the hose in several areas, hoping to slack its thirst. Now I will have to cut out sections of the basement ceiling, find and repair the hoses, replace the gyproc, mud, sand, and repaint the ceilings....
Those pangs of guilt and remorse....I'm over that.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Zombie Ants and the Weird, Weird World of Fungi!


There are people who claim that mushrooms can save the world, and others who say they farm the world, and you can truly start to believe that fungi are the superior species when you hear about Zombie Ants. These poor hardworking ants, just trying to do their best for the colony, are the unfortunate recipients of the spores of a certain fungus. The fungus settles into the ant host body, slowly killing the ant. But just before the final ant gasp, the fungus directs the ant to climb to the top of the nearest rock, leaf or branch. There it sends out its fruiting body, the mushroom, from the skull of the ant. Now it has an elevated platform from which to release its spores and send them out into the world. Ghoulish as that sounds, it might explain Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s erratic behaviour.
It was Metchosin’s great good fortune to have the entertaining Britt Bunyard, a world-renowned mycologist (mushroom expert) and editor of Fungi Magazine, give a fascinating presentation on the Weird, Weird, Weird World of Mushrooms at the November Talk and Walk. If you want a topic that appeals to a wide range of Metchosin residents, mushrooms are it! This was the eighth annual mushroom presentation and it rivals the infamous Sasquatch Talk (no Walk) for the number of interested people who attended (around ninety in both cases). It’s a testament to the allure of fungi to see that two-thirds of the attendees were under the age of thirty.
This year we started our first MycoBlitz, a continuation of the spring BioBlitz that has seen us record approximately 1,200 species within Metchosin’s borders. A MycoBlitz is an inventory of all the fungi species that can be found during a twenty-four hour period. About eighty keen mushroomers met with a number of experts to explore the Van der Meer property, Camp Thunderbird and Pearson College. The sorting and recording of the mushrooms was held at the Pearson College cafeteria (thanks Pearson College!) and many students were able to join in the excitement of the event. Although the final count is yet to be determined (mushrooms can be hard to identify), the estimate is an additional 200 species that can be added to the bioinventory. Certainly, a number of species were found that have not been recorded previously in Metchosin, and there are some that are still being examined that might be interesting new additions to the fungi of BC.
2013 is being hailed as the best year for fungi in the last fifteen; the diversity of species and the abundance has had the mushroom world swooning with pleasure, with many larders full to bursting with an excellent harvest of chanterelles and hedgehogs.
Thanks to the District of Metchosin, Pearson College, Metchosin Foundation, Camp Thunderbird, Camosun College, Andy MacKinnon, Kem Luther, Adolf and Oluna Ceska and Britt Bunyard for making the MycoBlitz a huge success. When completed a list of the fungi species recorded from the MycoBlitz will be found at

Wildlife Trees


At one time wildlife trees were called snags, and considered an unhealthy component of the forest, useful only as firewood or felled because of safety concerns. Over the years, our knowledge of forest ecology has increased and wildlife trees have undergone a transformation from the perception of them as sick and decadent, to the realization that they are an integral and important component of forest health. Over eighty wildlife species native to British Columbia depend on these trees for some portion of their lives.
What is a Wildlife Tree?
A wildlife tree is any standing, dead or live tree, with characteristics that provide habitat for wildlife.

Why Are Wildlife Trees Important?
Wildlife trees are essential contributors to ecological diversity. They provide food, shelter, nesting, roosting or denning sites, or hunting perches. When dead, they continue to play a critical role in providing habitat as they begin the long, slow process of nurturing a new cycle of plant and animal growth, providing nutrients to the forest floor.

What makes a Good Wildlife Tree?
A good wildlife tree has at least two of the following characteristics present:
§  Internal decay
§  Large crevices in bark
§  Large witches’ brooms,
§  Active or recent wildlife use such as woodpecker nest holes and fresh wood chips at the base of the tree,
§  Insect infestation,
§  Solid structure suitable for wildlife uses such as a bear den, hunting perch, large nest,
§  Tall, large diameter trees (>70 cm)
A broken branch, stem scar, frost crack, or other damage, which allows the decay process to begin, creates cavities. Heart rot softens the interior of the wood and primary cavity excavators, such as woodpeckers are then able to excavate and create holes.
Squirrels, salamanders, small owls and some ducks are secondary cavity users, they cannot excavate their own nest holes and must rely on natural cavities or those created and abandoned by woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and sapsuckers.
The bark of old trees can be deeply furrowed, providing habitat for insects, and food for woodpeckers and other bark gleaners. When a tree dies, and as the bark begins to loosen and peel away, the protected spaces under the bark provide roosting and nesting space for bats and brown creepers.
Trees with hollow trunks and sturdy shells are uncommon and provide shelter and safety for many species. They are even used as denning sites by black bears. Hollow trunks are formed by interior decay and can be unstable; they benefit by retaining a surrounding treed buffer zone that supplies some wind fastness, as well as enhancing the habitat value of the hollow tree.
Witches’ Brooms
Large, dense clusters of branches provide nesting and security areas for mammals such as squirrels and marten, and some birds.
Which Tree Species are the Best Wildlife Trees?
In the coastal forests of BC, large, long-lived species such as Douglas-fir, Grand Fir, Western Redcedar and Western Hemlock are preferred by wildlife for cavity construction, and nesting or denning. Larger diameter deciduous trees, particularly Cottonwood, Red Alder and Bigleaf Maple, can also become excellent wildlife trees.

Dead Wood and Firewood
After a tree has fallen, it can retain habitat values for centuries by providing moist breeding and egg laying sites for amphibians, drumming sites for grouse, habitat for myriad insect species, which in turn feed many creatures, nurse logs for plants, and by enriching and stabilizing soil. It is beneficial to leave the dead and rotting trees for wildlife habitat and ecological functions, rather than use as firewood.
A better firewood alternative is to use small to medium diameter trees such as red alder and Douglas-fir that are cut green and allowed to adequately cure for a season.

Check BEFORE You Cut
Look for obvious signs of wildlife use: nests, feeding or denning holes, wood chips around base of tree, claw marks or fur on bark, food caches, or bat or bird guano around or beneath the tree.

Wildlife trees are critically important to the biodiversity of our forests, please consider leaving them alone, unless they pose a threat to life and property.

With thanks to, and for further information, see:
Mike Fenger, Todd Manning, John Cooper, Stewart Guy and Peter Bradford, “Wildlife & Trees in British Columbia,” Lone Pine Publishing, 2006.
BC Ministry of Forests brochure: Stand Level Biodiversity