A Grassland is Not Just Grass

Here’s a cut on the Grey Canal Trail in Vernon, that was planted into blue bunch wheatgrass about 15 years ago. Bluebird boxes were installed on the fence (you can see one on the upper right), and the grass was intended to hold the slope.

The thing is, there are no bluebirds where there are no flowers, and bunchgrass cannot survive where there is no crust of lichens on the soil to fertilize it. What’s more, 3 metres below this slope, there is a 12 foot fence, designed to keep deer out of the orchards below, while just to the left is a new subdivision that blocks deer from moving in that direction. As a result, they bring their sharp feet here, and pass. back and forth. it adds up. There are no bluebirds, there are no flowers, there is no lichen, and the grass is almost extirpated by exposure, starvation and deer. Simply put, a grassland is an environment, not a lawn. The image below shows a different stretch of that 15-year-old planting scheme, put in to help in the approval of a subdivision on the last great grassland of the Okanagan Valley. This is a few hundred metres west of the image above. It’s healthy, but still in a critical state.

The point is, our ecological protocols, and the rules of protection written into them, don’t work. The entire environment has to be considered. When it’s not, the result is little different than the destruction one hopes they might have mitigated. The good news is that we can fix this. The single most important thing is to legislate an end to 12-foot-tall orchard fences. Next to that, there is a need to plant wildflowers and to seed lichens, along with grass. We can do this. Until then, we live in a desert of our own making.

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