Study to determine restoration for Moberly Marsh underway

The Moberly Marsh has undergone changes to its landscape over many decades, and now groups are coming together to discuss a restoration project.

The restoration project could have many benefits, from introducing fish back into the ecosystem, to fostering habitats of waterfowl, shore birds, and recreational opportunities. Original changes to the marsh were likely made to benefit farmers who lived in the area. Farmers in the area still have controls for water levels on their own properties.

BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) wildlife biologist Tom Biebighauser spoke with wildlife enthusiasts from Parks Canada, the Shuswap Indian Band, local farmers, Golden District Rod and Gun Club members, and biologists at the Golden District Rod and Gun Club on Monday morning about his investigation into the marsh.

For three days prior, Biebighauser walked around the marsh and looked into aerial photos of the landscape to gather information about changes that have been made in the marsh over the years. His findings concluded that dams have been built, that are seemingly not working, and ditches have been dug to prevent water from escaping the marsh. In his years as a wildlife biologist, Biebighauser has worked on 1,200 dams and wetlands in restoration projects.

“The dams that were constructed in Moberly Marsh are not holding water as planned,” Biebighauser said, adding that it could be because they were built on sandy foundations, which could allow water to flow underneath.

Over the course of many changes to the marsh, a different type of ecosystem has evolved. The trees and areas in the wetlands have become the home of songbirds, birds of prey, and a variety of other species that wouldn’t normally be found in a functioning wetland.

“There is science out there that can help us along to get that habitat back,” said Shuswap Indian Band councillor Mark Thomas.

Right now, the idea to restore the Moberly Marsh is only in the information-gathering stage. The Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, BCWF, and the BC Parks Licence Plate Program have all contributed funding toward potentially restoring the marsh. Much of the marsh is in the Burges James Gadsden Provincial Park, which is also a Ducks Unlimited Conservation project area. Ducks Unlimited installed the dyking system in the 1970s, explained Parks Canada’s Chris McLean

For the remainder of the week, Biebighauser will continue to walk through the marsh to discover its landscape and take not of the changes that have been made to the surrounding area.

A number of changes could be proposed to the marsh, once user groups decide on their top priorities for the area.

“This is a huge once in a lifetime opportunity to restore Moberly Marsh,” Biebighauser said.

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