Volunteer ecological reserve wardens keep protected areas safe and pristine

Written by Jessica Bodnar

Since the spring of 2017, I have been a volunteer ecological reserve (ER) warden for Chilliwack River. As an ER warden, we are the eyes and ears for BC Parks staff. Each volunteer has their own protected area where we contribute our knowledge and enthusiasm for conservation. Together, we manage the ecological reserve in accordance with the Ecological Reserve Act and Regulations.

The Chilliwack River Ecological Reserve is made up of small rodents, waterfowl, large mammals, old growth trees, hiking trails and lush brush. Documenting and monitoring human activity, native flora and fauna, plus nature’s ecosystems are part of my responsibilities. Being part of this volunteer program has not only embraced my love for the great outdoors, but has also given me a purpose.

A view of the Chilliwack River.

I am able to witness deer, bear and cougar in my area through a wildlife monitoring camera I set up every spring to track activity. Until fall, I visit and place a scent lure in front of the camera every month. The lure increases my chances of photographs by attracting wildlife. The first year I had huge success capturing images of cougars, black bears and deer. My adventures are all about the journey to complete my day. The biggest reward is knowing my efforts contribute to local programs, science and schools for the present and future.

In the two years I have been a warden for the Chilliwack River Ecological Reserve, I have been introduced to many conflicts and concerns, such as garbage, fires, cutting of wood, dumped vehicles and illegal camping. Unfortunately, tampering and vandalism of wildlife monitoring equipment has also occurred in three different locations despite government signage.

Jessica Bodnar passes through old growth trees along the main trail in the Chilliwack River Ecological Reserve.

Every year, I look forward to the year-end luncheons provided for us by BC Parks. Last year I was honoured to deliver a presentation about my efforts to my fellow volunteers. Listening and watching yearly accomplishments from other volunteers has been inspiring and educational. This year’s luncheon offered an ecological reserve warden training program.

The most memorable and useful part of the luncheon was the invasive species workshop. Being able to visualize the invasive species we have in British Columbia, along with the damage they can cause, is a huge help for me. Knowing the different informative apps on my cellphone for identification will be a big help in the field. We are the voice for our protected areas, so we thrive on making them better.

ER wardens are dedicated volunteers across the province and I hope to stay involved with the program as long as I can. Keeping the protected ecological reserves safe and pristine has become my passion.

For more information on how to become an ER warden visit http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/volunteers/about/programs/er-wardens.html


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