Burns Bog walk aims to raise awareness of “lungs of Lower Mainland”

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      Nature-lovers will have a chance to celebrate Earth Day this weekend in one of the Lower Mainland’s most important conservation areas.

      On Sunday (April 26) the Burns Bog Conservation Society will be hosting its annual Earth Day walk at the Delta Nature Reserve.

      The event is geared at showcasing the area’s natural beauty and highlighting its environmental importance.

      “We want people to experience the Delta Nature Reserve—how pretty it is and how unique it is,” said Beverley Bly, operations and development manager for the society.

      A unique ecosystem

      The Delta Nature Reserve protects part of Burns Bog, a 5,000-year-old peat bog ecosystem that covers 3,000 hectares on the northeastern edge of Delta, just 20 kilometres away from downtown Vancouver.

      A report by the Environmental Assessment Office of B.C. notes that the bog is globally unique due to its “chemistry, form, flora and large size.”

      Most of the bog is made up of a spongy moss called sphagnum, which grows into a large mound. The raised mound at Burns Bog makes it the largest domed peat bog in North America.

      The bog houses unique wildlife, including the southern red-backed vole—a small rodent found nowhere else in the province.

      But perhaps more importantly, it plays a crucial role in absorbing Vancouver’s carbon dioxide and creating its oxygen.

      “It’s the lungs of Lower Mainland,” said Bly. “It gives us our air to breath.”

      A historical area

      Local First Nations also have a historical connection to Burns Bog.

      In Hun'qum'i'num, the language spoken by several Coast Salish First Nations, the area is known as Maqwum, which means bog.

      Members of the Tsawwassen First Nation historically harvested berries and hunted for deer and beaver in the bog.

      And the bog remains an important area today. Barbara Joe, an elder from the Tsawwassen First Nation said it would be “a huge loss” for the nation’s culture if Maqwum ever disappeared.

      “It’s still a great area to collect plants for cultural purposes, like our winter ceremonies,” Joe said.

      Conservation and education

      Despite its ecological and historical importance, the bog has been under threat by peat mining operations and encroaching urbanization.

      To curb this threat, the local, provincial, and federal governments purchased a large portion of the bog in 2004, turning it into a conservation area under the supervision of Metro Vancouver.

      But development firm MK Delta Land still owns part of the bog and has plans to develop condos on the site.

      These threats prompted the creation of the Burns Bog Conservation Society in 1988, and motivate its members to educate the public on the bog’s importance.

      “Our education department is a huge part of what we do,” said Bly.

      Throughout the year, the society partners with schools to organize in-class workshops and tours of the Delta Nature Reserve.

      The Earth Day event is meant to expose even more people to the beauty of the bog.

      “It’s a wonderful experience for all the family,” Bly said.

      Sunday’s event will include art displays, guest speakers, and live musical performances.

      Peter Mothe is a practicum student at the Georgia Straight and a graduate student at UBC's school of journalism. You can follow him on Twitter.

      Comments

      2 Comments

      Eliza Olson

      Apr 23, 2015 at 4:35pm

      What a great article! Thank you so much. The importance of peatlands is just beginning to be understood in the role of peatlands in climate change. North Americans are a way behind in the understanding and appreciating the need to save our disappearing peatlands.

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      JessieK

      Apr 24, 2015 at 2:09pm

      It also should be noted that the proposed route for coal trains and coal processing facility at the Surrey Docks will have a huge impact on Burns Bog. The coal dust will completely destroy the complex ecosystem and sensitive fish habitats that the Bog is apart of.

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