This year, as a primary class released 52 chum fry into the Brunette River, a fish spilled from the bucket onto the sand. Automatically, a girl scooped up the tiny, frantic creature, and set it in the stream.
“Come on, little guy,” she pleaded. “Swim for it.”
“Ya, you can make it, buddy,” added a boy.
The fry turned on its side, then floated belly up – a lesson in the fragility of life, along with its resilience.
Children begin with a profound wonder of nature. They cherish all living things, indiscriminately. This holy connection is often replaced by visions of profit or power, but for many it lasts a lifetime.
In B.C., we’re known for our enduring affinity with nature. In a Watershed Watch survey, 70 per cent said fish and habitat are as important to them as the French language is to Quebecers.
Contrast this with Steven Harper’s honed evisceration of the Fish Act, Section 35, Habitat Protection. It was created in 1976 to protect all fish, not just those of “economic value,” a new phrase slipped into this statute, the Species at Risk Act, and mining legislation to remove constraints on developers and resource companies.
It’s not politicians who’ll save Supernatural B.C., but individuals whose lifelong reverence of all living things is reflected in their deeds.
The efforts of folks like Joe Jurcich, for example. Jurcich lives in a townhouse behind 207B Street, just north of Dewdney Trunk Road. Beyond his complex is a wooded ravine with a little creek running through it. It’s either McKinney Creek or a feeder. Nobody’s certain. In any case, it’s one of those little waterways Resource Minister Joe Oliver defames as “ditches” that can slow down projects like the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline.
There’s hundreds of those along the planned route. Here’s Oliver, on CBC’s, The Current, April 17th: “They [the Chinese] want to see that the process [environmental review] is done in an efficient way … We don’t need a bridge over a six-inch creek that could have fish in it.”
Recently, Jurcich found a four-inch smolt in the stream he sees, not as a ditch, but a vital bio-system worth caring for. Jurcich plans to join the ARMS adopt-a-creek program. They want him to.
“That’s wonderful news,” said Geoff Clayton, when told about Jurcich’s smolt. “Probably, cut-throat trout.”
Clayton is another guy whose love of nature will last a lifetime.
He was also intrigued by Jurcich’s habitat enhancement activity. Jurcich reintroduced indigenous plants to the ravine – salal and maianthemum, or false lily of the valley. Birds eat their berries.
Jurcich sees pine siskins, barn owls, rare Audabon warblers, and foot-high pileated woodpeckers that sound like jackhammers when they drill into rotten trees for beetles. On Monday, he saw a family of raccoons. They eat crayfish, and fresh water clams in this stream.
And then, there’s the wood ducks, a multi-colored species whose head feathers sweep backward like Fonzie’s hair style.
Four years ago, Jurcich placed three 12-by-12 bird boxes on nearby trees. Nesting pairs of wood ducks occupied all three. Two complete broods have hatched and moved on already. Eggs in the third still remain.
“I filled the boxes with aspen shavings I bought at a pet shop,” Jurcich says, motioning to a TV monitor in his living room. It’s connected to the first nest – sound and video – by a 100-foot cable.
“She laid 22 eggs, one every day,” he recalls. “The mother duck took a break now and then. Long enough for another female to lay 10 of hers on the first mom’s. There’s a little fight if a duck discovers this,” says Jurcich, “but the extra eggs stay.”
Newly hatched ducklings are soon out of the nest. “The mom checks for any danger, then calls the young ones. They bounce on the ground when they hit. Mom dries and preens them, and then they’re off.”
Jurcich says he doesn’t see them again after that, but it’s certain they’ll be back next year. “It’s first come, first served for nesting boxes,” he says.
• On the Ridunkulist: For spilling the beans in the Legislature, Environment Minister Terry Lake. On May 3, local MLA Michael Sather accused the Liberals of colluding with the Feds in weakening the F.A. The following suggests they did.
Sather: Will the Minister tell the federal government that gutting protections for our salmon is not on?
Lake: The member apparently considers draining ditches and irrigation channels critical habitat for salmon … many local governments and many people in the agriculture section have expressed concern with the F.A. … where irrigation ditches are considered habitat for fish.
The 70 per cent who think differently will remember Lake next election day.
Community Living B.C. is another lame duck. Last Sunday, several speakers in M.R. demanded the Liberals adequately support people with developmental disabilities and that an independent audit ensures CLBC dollars reach people in need.
The CLBC traumatized many dependent folks last year by threatening to end their employment at the Ridge Meadows Recycling Depot.
Bob Goos, a parent advocate, said workers and their families still don’t know if the recycling program will exist when the funding extension ends Sept. 30.
Families want proof Christy Clark’s motto, “putting families first,” is not just words.
Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.