Ecology: Blackburn Lake — one of the island’s 8 freshwater lakes – is 3-4 hectares in size (similar to Ford Lake) and is critical to the health of the Cusheon Lake watershed. Over 70 percent of the water arriving to Cusheon Lake (which has been experiencing water quality challenges) flows through Blackburn Lake. This reserve includes about two-thirds of the lakeshore, three streams, considerable wetlands, some tree cover on the edges, and numerous open meadows. The property is a remarkable haven for 21 Species At Risk including: Little Brown Myotis, Townsend’s Big-eared Bat, Band-tailed Pigeon, Barn Swallow, Common Nighthawk, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Pygmy-owl, Black Swift, Northern Red-legged Frog, Pacific Sideband, Swamp Fingernailclam, Blue Dasher, Common Woodnymph, Propertius Duskywing, Green-sheathed Sedge, Ozette Coralroot, Peacock Vinyl, and Common Bladder-moss.
The reserve harbours over 100 species of birds (including many waterfowl), as well as mammals, amphibians, reptiles, gastropods and invertebrates. The property also features rare habitat for juvenile coho salmon and cutthroat trout.
September 2013 – After 14 months of intense effort, the Conservancy took title to the 32.6 acre lot at 265 Blackburn Road, encompassing about half the land around Blackburn Lake. Over 400 community contributors and volunteers supported the purchase campaign. A major grant from Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program for Species At Risk was a big boost, as well as grants from the Salt Spring Island Foundation and the Islands Trust Fund, plus more than $350,000 in individual contributions and considerable support from the Conservancy’s annual budget and land acquisition fund.
November 2014 – The Conservancy received a donation of a neighboring piece of land which increased the size of the Blackburn Lake Nature Reserve from 32.6 acres to 38.4 acres. This was a generous gift from an anonymous donor, made in remembrance of their spouse. This lovely upland forest and wetland area is crucial habitat for the reserve’s thriving population of the Northern Red-Legged Frog, as well as important habitat for other species. What a wonderful turn of events!
March 2015 – The reserve grows again! Through a special agreement with another neighbor, 7 acres were added to the nature reserve, resulting in a total of 45.6 acres. The new area includes lakeshore and the lake’s outgoing stream. The reserve now contains all the streams entering and leaving Blackburn Lake.
History – Farming and Golf Course
From 1850 onwards, the land was used for agriculture. Then it was a 9-hole organic golf course, until it became a nature reserve.
Conservancy Opens New Facility – June 2015
The energy-efficient facility is an incredible gift from a single anonymous donor – for public education, meeting space and offices. We also thank the many volunteers who contributed hundreds of hours to help with the construction.
The first wetlands restoration began in 2014. Tom Biebighauser, a restoration expert who has built over 1600 wetlands throughout North America, guided SSIC staff and volunteers in developing a plan for the entire reserve. This plan identified potential wetland restoration projects designed to increase the diversity of the grassy areas where few native species are currently found. These restoration projects will increase habitat for the native plants and animals which are already found on the reserve including the rare Northern Red-legged Frog and Little Brown Bat. Restoration will also help the land to filter water before it reaches the lake, as wetlands allow water to soak into the land and stop the soil from being washed downstream.
The first site chosen used to be a wetland that was probably drained and filled during the creation of the golf course. With funding provided by six different agencies, the first stage of restoration work was completed. The new wetland was dug and the spider web of buried drain pipes was lifted out. The pool was shaped with gradually sloped edges to prevent erosion and create a natural-looking depression. The wetland was covered with clay which was compacted to prevent the water from leaking out and all of the excavated topsoil was placed on top of the clay to help native plants grow. Downed logs were placed in the wetland to provide hiding places for frogs and resting sites for dragonflies. A small snag was stood upright at the edge of the wetland to provide a perch for birds. Seeds from native sedges and rushes were collected from plants growing nearby and scattered over the surface followed by heavy layers of barley straw to stop the thistles and other weeds from invading the bare soil. Also, hundreds of native shrubs and flowers were planted by dedicated volunteers.
Based on the experience and success of 2014, more wetland areas were completed closer to the lake in the autumns of 2015, 2016 and 2017. The same careful process was utilized and again many native plants were planted by dedicated volunteers.