||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 Fund 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
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,
"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."