As the school year comes to a close, three Grade 9 classes from across the Elk Valley got their hands dirty ridding local wetlands of invasive plants while planting native species in their place.

As part of the Know Your Watershed program, this project was a chance for students to proactively support the health of local watersheds by making a real, tangible difference.

“Invasive species are generally recognised as being one of the leading causes of native biodiversity loss,” explains Know Your Watershed educator Gareth Barlow. “Invasive plants typically spread quickly and overrun native varieties, often leading to habitat degradation.”

Students learned about the harmful effects that invasive species pose to fragile habitats and how wetlands play an integral role in the ecology of the watershed that provides critical food, water, and shelter for many species.

“My favourite part is seeing the students learn in a real-life context, outside of the traditional four walls of the classroom,” shares Barlow. “I believe that for the majority of the students, this program is a huge ‘lightbulb moment’, where students become aware of just how precious water is to us and how, for many of us, we can take such a critical resource for granted.”

Expert advice was also on-hand from Beth Millions of the Elk River Alliance and Serena MacKay of the East Kootenay Invasive Species Council, who aided the students in identifying rogue plants and offered top tips on ensuring that invasives were properly removed and disposed of, roots and all.

Students from The Fernie Academy, Fernie Secondary School and Elkford Secondary School visited the Hosmer wetland and The Sparwood wetland where they pulled Canada Thistle, Scentless Chamomile, Reed canary grass and more, while planting native Cottonwood, WIllow, Spruce and Bullrushes in their place as a measure to reduce surface runoff, provide cover and support wildlife habitat in the years to come.

Know Your Watershed is a program of the Columbia Basin Trust, administered and managed by Wildsight. The multi-day program increases Columbia Basin students’ knowledge and awareness of their local watersheds and water in their communities. For more info visit

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