||After purchasing their Salt Spring property in 2007, Briony Penn and her sister Caroline protected its natural areas with a conservation covenant. The covenant, held by the Islands Trust Conservancy and the Land Conservancy of BC, protects a portion of Monty Creek, a fish bearing stream that runs seasonally along the edge of the property, as well as the undisturbed riparian forest that borders the creek. Closer to the house, the protected area includes a rocky Garry oak outcrop.
Amidst the oaks, gorse and Scotch broom stood tall on this rocky outcrop, two unwanted plant species
|Briony inherited with the property. Both gorse and broom are aggressive invaders, able to produce prolific quantities of seed and make the soil unsuitable for other plant species by changing the nutrient balance. Briony wanted to give native species a chance to flourish on the outcrop, so she made a personal commitment to get rid of the invaders.
The broom Briony was up against was massive, resembling small trees with deep roots. She quickly realized she needed help. Luring them with financial incentives, she enlisted her 20-year old nephew and two sons, aged 16 and 20. The boys jumped at the opportunity to "attack" the invaders and muscle their way across the rocky outcrop, leaving behind piles of the broom and gorse. When asked what her tip is for other landowners battling broom and gorse, her reply was "Hire your nephew! Young strapping boys are best."
Briony's nephew took on most of the clearing during a two week period when he was visiting in the fall. The rest was tackled by her sons over weekends in the fall and winter. They cut the gnarly old plants, used the woody parts for kindling, and composted the rest in an area outside the covenant area to be used for growing fruit trees. The large diameter gorse branches were used for fencing and twig furniture, "Gorse wood is a really interesting wood to work with as it grows in such interesting shapes!"
Briony knows the seed bank of the broom and gorse will stay in the soil for a long time. She now maintains the rocky outcrop by occasionally pulling the little seedlings as they sprout. She finds it an easy task to combine with her walks on the property. She's already noticed the mosses and ferns growing where the broom once stood. Though the island's deer population mows the area's native plants regularly, she looks forward to the flowers characteristic of a Garry oak meadow returning one day.
When looking back on the process, Briony has fond memories of the time she spent on the rocky outcrop with her family, "It was a really nice activity to do with the boys. We made it a family affair. Restoring the land is great to do with kids and family. Instead of being stuck inside with electronics, segregated and depressed, you're outside working together, talking, laughing."
"Restoring the land provided the perfect venue to teach the boys about ecosystems. We would sit on the outcrop and talk about all the plants that will come back after the broom is gone. We'd find alligator lizard areas and work very carefully around them. Although pulling invasive species is an activity built on a foundation of muscle, it's also a very gentle process, requiring a sensitivity to all that's around you. I valued that time spent with them."