Bulkley Valley Research Centre - Science in the Public Interest

Year 2 - Conservation & Restoration of Northern BC Grasslands

Project Reference Number: 2008-17

Project Status: Complete

Led by: Sybille Haeussler, PhD, UNBC, Smithers

Ruth Lloyd; Beth Henderson; Drosera Ecological Consulting; Olivia Pojar; Leanne Helklenberg; all of Smithers

Funder: Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation


The Bulkley Valley Centre for Natural Resources Research & Management (BVRC) is coordinating a project to conserve and restore endangered low elevation grasslands of northwestern BC. Northwest grasslands are keystone habitats for wildlife (especially deer) but their area is shrinking rapidly & the quality of forage is declining. While burning was traditionally used to maintain grasslands, sporadic attempts to reintroduce fire have been unsuccessful for many social and ecological reasons. We now recognize that (repeated) manual cutting will be needed in most areas to kick-start the restoration process, but this is expensive and only small areas can be treated.

BVRC is working with BC Parks, Northwest Fire Centre, BV Naturalists, BC Grasslands Conservation Council and others to build the support and skills to successfully restore grassland productivity for wildlife in the southeastern Skeena Region. Although wildlife advocates would like to immediately burn large areas, this isn't going to happen in low elevation, valley-bottom habitats. It is a slow, difficult process and we want to build gradually on a base of good science and small wins. Not only is there currently little public or agency support for grassland restoration, but most grasslands currently have too little fuel to burn successfully. We believe that a few small successes with BC Parks will help to build the coalition needed to eventually restore larger areas of Crown range.


  • To find cost-effective techniques for preventing shrub and tree encroachment that enhance forage quality and diversity and do not increase non-native species invasion;
  • To monitor changes in plant species composition and the rate of woody species invasion on treated and untreated grasslands;
  • To monitor wildlife habitat use of treated & untreated grasslands, esp. cervids;
  • To increase public interests and involvement in conservation and restoration of grasslands and enhancement of grassland wildlife habitat on public and private lands

Deliverables (2008/09):

  • attempt a 5-15 ha burn in Uncha Mtn/Red Hills Provincial Park near Burns Lake
  • prepare fuels (manually cut 1 ha) for a 2009 reburn at Toodienia/Hubert Hill Nature Reserve near Telkwa
  • repeat and expand manual cutting at Call Lake Provincial Park (0.5 ha) near Smithers
  • if Red Hills burn is unsuccessful, manually cut and distribute fuels (1-5 ha) to prepare for a 2009 or 2010 burn
  • if Red Hills burn is successful, assess burn severity and vegetation response on five 100m transects, and prepare summary report
  • complete wildlife use assessment begun in 2007/08 by conducting fecal pellet counts at six 1 ha test sites and prepare report
  • publicize results of Red Hills burn and 2007/08 vegetation and wildlife assessments in local media and BVRC and GCC websites. Hold meetings and site visits with interested parties. Outcomes will be measured as hectares treated, % of transects burned, shrub/herb cover ratio, number of media reports, stakeholder participation in meetings & site visits.

Related Reports

Publication Date Report Title Authors
December 2015 Ecosystem Restoration and Invasive Species Control at Toodienia/Hubert Hill 2015 Report Sybille Haeussler, PhD RPF, Skeena Forestry Consultants, Smithers
November 2009 Conservation and Restoration of Northwest BC Grasslands Leanne Helkenberg and Sybille Haeussler
2009 Endangered Ecosystems Research in Parks and Protected Areas of West Central British Columbia Sybille Haeussler, Adrian de Groot, Elizabeth Murphy
2009 Effects of Grassland Restoration Treatments on Ungulate Use of Northwest BC Grasslands Sybille Haeussler and Adrian de Groot
2009 Effects of Prescribed Burning on Aspen Mortality and Vigour Sybille Haeussler and Adrian de Groot