City, Ducks Unlimited buy sensitive wetlands near Buttertubs

NANAIMO – Sensitive wetland west of Nanaimo’s Buttertubs Marsh is now protected green space.

Richard Harding

Richard Harding

Sensitive wetland west of Nanaimo’s Buttertubs Marsh is now protected green space.

The City of Nanaimo and Ducks Unlimited Canada co-purchased 25 hectares and are creating a management plan to ensure ecosystems are protected for species at-risk and other animals that live in the area.

The property is west of Buttertubs Marsh and east of the parkway, and is commonly referred to as the west marsh.

The land was appraised at $1.1 million and was purchased from a private owner. The city contributed $430,000, Ducks Unlimited contributed $400,000 and the remaining $300,000 was secured through the federal government’s Ecological Gifts Program.

It’s the first property co-managed by the city and Ducks Unlimited.

“The main part is to maintain the ecological integrity but add into that public use,” said Brad Arner, Ducks Unlimited’s manager of provincial operations. “It’s a great addition to the area and to have that side … it’s really a gem and bonus for the city.”

Arner said amphibians will benefit the most from the protection. It will help species such as the western painted turtle and red-legged frogs, but will also benefit birds and is an off-stream habitat area for trout and salmon, in particular Coho salmon.

Richard Harding, City of Nanaimo director of parks, recreation and culture, said the partners will explore how to improve links with the Millstone River to provide more salmon-rearing ground.

The city already co-manages the Buttertubs Marsh Conservation Area with the Nature Trust of British Columbia.

That conservation area is 21.5 hectares and the majority was purchased in 1975. Buttertubs is owned by the Nature Trust of B.C., but is managed through agreements with the city, the province and public volunteer groups.

Harding said with the city involved in the management of both properties it creates opportunities to enhance the wetland area as a whole.

“The main objective is habitat enhancement,” said Harding, adding that public access opportunities will also be available, but need further planning.

Bill Merilees, chairman of the Buttertubs Marsh Liaison Committee, was overjoyed at the news.

He said acquiring the west marsh was an ongoing process for many environmental groups, which worried the land would be developed.

“This is valuable habitat and recreational land for the enjoyment of the city of Nanaimo and the people of B.C.,” said Merilees. “Now we have to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

The Nature Trust of B.C. is looking forward to working with the city and Ducks Unlimited on conservation efforts for the entire marsh area, said Thomas Reid, Nature Trust’s Vancouver Island conservation land manager.

“We’re really excited, actually quite thrilled to have that area [protected],” said Reid. “It protects the entire marsh ecosystem in perpetuity.”

The draft management plan for the marsh area will be presented at the Monday (Aug. 13) Nanaimo council meeting.