We spoke with Gerald Harris, director of the Friends of Bowker Creek Society in Victoria B.C. The Friends of Bowker Creek Society is working to make Bowker Creek a healthy stream that supports habitat for native vegetation and wildlife, and provides a community greenway to connect neighbourhoods.
What is streamkeeping anyway?
Streamkeeping is the activity of preserving and enhancing a creek, stream or river, particularly for the purpose of restoring and caring for salmon and trout. The groups that call themselves streamkeepers usually identify themselves with a particular waterway.
Why is streamkeeping important?
Streamkeeping is important on two levels. First, this coast has, in the past, enjoyed a wonderful wealth of salmon and trout. Unfortunately, in the last 150 years, we have enormously degraded our salmon streams and watersheds, and streamkeeping aims to mitigate some of that damage. This is the streamkeeper vision: if it was once a salmon stream, it can be again.
The other part has to do with how people feel. A lot of watershed advocacy involves things like keeping track of development proposals and applying for grants. This important work is not very exciting, but getting outside to physically work to bring salmon back really is exciting. Streamkeeping helps people connect to their local waterway and helps build an identity for a group working with a waterway.
Does the government pay people to do this work?
The Streamkeepers Program was started by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) in 1993. Streamkeepers are all volunteers, but a streamkeeper group has the opportunity to work with a DFO Salmonid Enhancement Program community advisor.
For Bowker Creek, we provided the data and made the case for releasing salmon into the stream. They accepted our application and we will get our chum salmon eggs from the Goldstream hatchery.
What is the best thing about volunteering as a streamkeeper?
I believe it’s awfully good for people to physically work on their local stream. That’s how we fall in love with our local streams. In fact, it’s how we even see them as streams. Bowker Creek is mostly underground and I suspect that most people who live in the Bowker Creek catchment have no idea how many times they cross the stream in a day.
Streamkeeping brings us into a relationship with a stream and in that, is the possibility of seeing our landscape differently, to see the valley you live in, to see the community of life to which we belong.
How to get involved?
If there is a local stream or creek in your area you would like to help take care of, start with the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation website. Their list of streamkeepers groups can help you find a group working in your area, or provide you with some useful resources for starting your own group.
The Pacific Streamkeepers Federation offers training for streamkeepers and hosts a well-written downloadable manual that guides you in the steps to take. The manual is really helpful. There is a module on fencing to encourage people not to trample, a module on water quality, and modules on a whole variety of the things that your little group needs to think about.
If you live in Victoria, keep an eye on the Friends of Bowker Creek website for their upcoming streamkeeping events.
In other communities,check the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation list to find a streamkeepers group near you.