Letter: What are sensitive ecosystems, anyway?

Garry Oak Ecosystems are much more than Garry Oak trees

Garry Oak Ecosystems are much more than Garry Oak trees.

They have a rich diversity of wildflowers, native grasses, and creatures that are part of the functioning ecosystem. So says the Best Practices Manual produced by the Garry Oak Ecosystem Recovery Team (GOERT).

The report goes on to say that urban Garry oak trees now surrounded by lawn and daffodils do not have the same plant communities and ecological processes as the original Garry oak ecosystem would have had, and are therefore not considered to be a viable Garry oak ecosystem.

The report for the Vancouver Island Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory by the joint Federal/Provincial government initiative indicates that a Sensitive Ecosystem must be in a relatively natural state.

Sensitive Ecosystem units used by the District of Saanich were delineated on air photographs in the 1990s.

If the original mapper had gone on the ground to check those areas with Garry oak overstory and lawn/garden in the understory, they would have removed these areas from the Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory.

The District of Saanich is basically protecting these mapping errors in its Environmental Development Permit Area (EDPA).

Saanich’s own Environmentally Significant Areas (ESA) Atlas states “to be included in the ESA atlas, data must be from a comprehensive environmental inventory using technically acceptable standards.”

It goes on to say that: “this atlas should be used as a flagging tool and should not be used in place of individual site assessments”.

The District of Saanich is not following its own guidance.

Currently, there are side by side properties in Saanich that have the identical attributes of a Garry oak overstory with lawn and garden in the understory.

One property has been mapped as being within the EDPA and the other has not. Neither property should be in the EDPA. The oak trees are already protected by the tree protection bylaw.

Ted Lea, R.P.Bio.
Vegetation Ecologist