Lessons from the DFWT: A Model for Community Based Conservation

By Art Bomke and Wayne Temple

Art Bomke is a SPEC Director and co-wrote this piece for the Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust newsletterYou can find the complete article here

In the Beginning: It’s hard to believe that nearly 25 years have flown by since the inception of the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust (DF&WT). In spite of all of the tensions and misunderstandings of the day, there was truly a window of opportunity in 1992 to mobilize a community conservation effort. Arguably the most important contribution was from Mayor Beth Johnson’s Delta Municipal government led by Councilor Wendy Jeske. Delta provided a conciliatory meeting environment, as well as technical and legal advice that enabled farmers and conservationists to come together to work out the details of an organization that would even-handedly strive to conserve and enhance wildlife habitat and support the sustainability of Delta farmers and their land base.

Landscape Approach: The principle espoused by the founders was that wildlife conservation efforts were best served by engaging and supporting the farmers who manage most of the uplands across the Fraser delta. This represented a policy change on behalf of the Government of Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Regional Manager, Art Martell, and his staff deserve credit for shifting emphasis from the purchase of farmland to supporting conservation programs on farmer owned or rented land. Also, the vision for a landscape approach centered on the skills and knowledge of Delta farmers must be credited to the farmers themselves, notably Hugh Reynolds, John Malenstyn and Robert Savage.

Wayne’s World: Coincident with the efforts to preserve and enhance wildlife habitat, the UBC Soil Conservation Group was working under the auspices of the Delta Farmers Institute to develop practical approaches to reversing soil degradation as exemplified by poor soil structure, impeded drainage and declining organic matter. Much of the on-farm project work was led by Dr. Wayne Temple, a versatile researcher who was as comfortable on a tractor as in the lab or at the computer. From this joint effort arose two programs that did double duty in improving soil health and creating habitat.

Greenfields: For a number of reasons, the Fraser delta had a high proportion of bare soils, especially during the rainy season. The Greenfields Project pioneered over-winter cover crops to protect soils, add organic matter and provide upland forage for waterfowl. It morphed into the longstanding Winter Cover Crop Program of the DF&WT.  

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