RDN advocating for protection of habitat of endangered flower

RDN advocating for protection of habitat of endangered flower
Braden J. Judson, iNaturalist
Hosackia pinnata is listed as endangered on the federal species at risk registry.

A rare flower in the pea family is only known at six sites in Canada, including one on Gabriola Island. With one site spanning the Regional District of Nanaimo and City of Nanaimo currently at risk of development, the Gabriola location could become even more unique and important for the species.

At their March 26 board meeting, RDN directors unanimously voted in support of motions requesting the B.C. and federal governments work with the regional district, the City of Nanaimo, Snuneymuxw First Nation and Nanaimo and Area Land Trust (NALT) to protect the area known as Harewood Plains, a rare ecosystem of Garry oak meadow with ephemeral vernal pools, and the site of federally listed species at risk, including anywhere from 85 to 98 per cent of the known populations of Hosackia pinnata – bog bird’s-foot trefoil – a low-growing herb with yellow and white flowers. It is found in open wet meadows, along creeks, in wet ditches and seepages, where water flows from underground to the surface.

In Harewood Plains, a large part of Hosackia pinnata’s mapped critical habitat is in an area of the City of Nanaimo that is currently the subject of a housing subdivision development permit application. The portion of the plains in Electoral Area C of the RDN is owned by Mosaic forestry company.

READ PREVIOUS: City of Nanaimo calls on other governments to preserve Harewood Plains

The 2004 report on Hosackia pinnata from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), a scientific body which assesses species at risk of extinction, notes the Gabriola site appears to be the only population where growth in the perennial legume’s population has been recorded, growing from a single individual in 1996 to between 65 and 70 individuals in 2003. The site is privately owned, zoned large rural residential, and is on the south island near Peterson and Perry Road.

Erica Wheeler, species at risk coordinator for Islands Trust Conservancy, said the conservancy isn’t currently conducting any work related to the species on Gabriola since it is not located on lands that they manage. The conservancy does support the protection of its habitat, however.

Following a presentation by NALT executive director Paul Chapman, RDN directors expressed support for protecting Harewood Plains. Electoral Area G Director Lehann Wallace encouraged NALT and community partners to seek funding partners outside of local government for purchasing the land, saying resources are tight at the RDN given infrastructure funding needs such as Nanaimo Regional General Hospital upgrades.

Electoral Area A Director Jessica Stanley said Harewood Plains represented an opportunity to approach land development differently and protect ecologically sensitive areas.

“Although we’re in a time of financial constraint … we’re in a unique position relative to the mainland,” Stanley said. “We have undeveloped areas.… We have a choice which is to do things differently than has been done elsewhere.”

By Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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