Living in Acknowledgment of the Land: Transforming Grasslands at UBCO | News
December 08, 2023 – 7:00 pm
For more than a year, Professor Sumer Seki of the University of British Columbia in the Okanagan has been on a mission to put land recognition into practice, and she does so by restoring native flowers and grasses.
Siki moved to the Okanagan last year from California. While she was learning about local history and the Silks of the Okanagan, she wanted to find a way to make recognition of the land more important.
“Land recognition, in many ways, is for the settler colonialists,” she said. “How can we move beyond words and embrace meaning in reality?”
Read more: How Okanagan land recognitions could be more important
This was the starting point for Seki’s ambitious project, which will restore a plot of land on the UBCO campus to native grassland.
However, after more than a year of work, the project is still far from completion.
“Invasive weeds have been around for more than a decade,” Seki told iNFOnews.ca. “I really see this as at least a 10-year project with continued investment by teachers, and I hope that at some point we can see so much gain that some of the original grassland will come back.”
The project requires a lot of hard work, and 250 students enthusiastically signed up to do it.
Last year, students took on the task of pulling cloves, a non-native invasive species.
“It’s been a lot of hard work,” Seki said.
This year, students are working with vetch, an invasive species in the pea family.
“These infestations are very attractive and beautiful, so they are nice to look at,” she said. “But they basically take over our grassland area. So, native species are out of competition.”
Students and teachers are planting different types of native grasses and wildflowers, such as milkweed, which plays an important role in butterfly migration, Seki said.
“I would like… to have a beautiful grassy field with diverse wildflowers and grasses that will support diverse ecosystems,” she said. “Bringing back different species of butterflies and moths, supporting native bee species, and then while working with insect populations, that will also impact bird and herbivore populations.”
There are already signs that song frogs, voles and pocket gophers have returned to the area.
As part of the project, Dr. Seki worked alongside Joshua Smith, Director of Xen Xeriscape Endemic Nursery & Ecology Solutions to source local seeds.
Xen, based in West Kelowna, specializes in growing native plants and making them available to the public.
The Okanagan’s diverse landscape produces many gorgeous flowers and plants, Smith told iNFOnews.ca.
“Because you have the full range, from inland rainforest to arid shrubland, you get every little ecosystem in between,” he said. “So, there is a diverse amount of species that naturally occur in the Okanagan.”
“I love… (when) people come and walk into the nursery and go oh my gosh, this is beautiful,” Smith said. “The beauty that surrounds us all the time can be enjoyed in your garden and it will actually contribute to improving the environment.”
However, some native plants can be expensive, Seki says, not to mention the cost of irrigation to establish the plant’s root system.
“Fortunately, the native species are very drought tolerant,” Seki explained. “That’s where our money will go, to get mature plants and seeds and then irrigation and tools.”
Any funding or volunteer work would be appreciated to help support this long and ambitious project, Seki said.
Anyone interested in volunteering their time can contact Dr. Sumer Seki at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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