Since 2018, The Association of Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot & Barkley Sound and Huu-ay-aht First Nations have been working together to protect the toad population at Frederick Lake. Over the years, they have taken steps together to protect important toad habitat close to the lake. When Wetland Stewards heard about the Bamfield Main Road Resurfacing Project, they saw another opportunity in protecting connections between habitats, the lake, and surrounding forests by installing wildlife tunnels.
Their first project was installing educational signs and temporary barriers to protect toadlets from being trampled on the north shore of the lake where they emerge in high numbers. Toadlets are baby toads that have just transformed from tadpoles. They come ashore, spend several weeks close to the water, then disperse into the surrounding forest. It’s easy to trample them unintentionally because they are so tiny and difficult to see.
Wetland Stewards worked with Huu-ay-aht Lands and Natural Resources staff to design the educational signs for the site. Edward R. Johnson designed a welcoming sign for those visiting Huu-ay-aht traditional territory with encouragement to follow Huu-ay-aht sacred principles while visiting the site. The sacred principles are ʔiisaak (greater respect), ʔuuʔałuk (taking care of), Hišuk ma c̕awak (everything is one).
In 2021, Wetland Stewards and Huu-ay-aht First Nations took further steps together to protect the toadlets by installing permanent barriers, placing logs, and planting native vegetation. This took place at the end of the road that provides access to the water pump that supplies water to Poett Nook Marina and Sarita log sort. Huu-ay-aht First Nations provided a bobcat and operator (Don Prevost) and labourer (Alec Frank) for several days to complete this task. To further support the project, Huu-ay-aht Forestry LP provided concrete blocks, rocks, and gravel for the barriers, Stan Coleman (Forestry Advisor, Rocky Point Forest) provided time to help coordinate the delivery of those materials, and the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure provided the toadlet barrier material.
Planning for the toad tunnels under the Bamfield Main Forest Service Road began in spring of 2021. Toadlets get killed crossing the roads that surround Frederick Lake when they disperse into the surrounding forest. Adult toads get killed crossing the roads when they migrate back and forth to breed at the lake each spring.
To determine where toadlets and toads are in danger, former Huu-ay-aht staff, Katie Turner, conducted surveys to document locations where toads and other amphibians cross the Bamfield Main. Participants in these surveys were The Wetland Stewards trained technicians, the Huu-ay-aht Watershed Renewal Program staff, Huu-ay-aht Lands and Resources Department staff, and several volunteers from the community of Anacla and Bamfield.
The surveys happened during the migration periods in spring 2021 and 2022 and fall 2021. They spent 14 rainy nights doing these surveys per period for a total of 42 nights. Crews walked 2 km on the Bamfield Main Forest Service Road starting at least one hour after sunset on those rainy nights. Each time they found an amphibian, they recorded the species, age, class, and sex. They used a GPS app on their phone to record the location. They also did surveys to find the main shoreline areas around the lake where adults laid eggs and where tadpoles congregated and transformed into toadlets. They did daytime surveys in the summer to find where toadlets crossed the road. They put cameras on the drainage channels at three existing culverts to capture photographs of the toadlets moving toward the road and through one of the existing culverts. They synthesized their findings with maps to pinpoint the best places for installing tunnels under the road. The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation provided partial funding to cover some of the Watershed Renewal Program technicians’ time and mileage on the surveys. Most of the cost was covered by Huu-ay-aht First Nations.
Wetland Stewards worked with engineers at Parsons Corporation to design toad tunnels for the road. They investigated existing drainage culverts to see whether they had the potential to serve as passageways for toadlets. They also looked at provincial guidelines for tunnel structures that would work for adult toads. Using the location data collected on the night surveys, they chose the most concentrated locations for adult crossings as places to put two concrete box culverts. Three existing drainage culverts that occur in peak areas for toadlet dispersal were highlighted for repairs so that they can function for wildlife passages when not carrying water. This is usually the case when the toadlets are moving away from the lake in August and September; the driest time of the year.
In 2021-2022, Huu-ay-aht contributed approximately $10,000 for road surveys, shoreline surveys, barrier installation, and habitat restoration work.
In 2022-2023, it is estimated that Huu-ay-aht will contribute a similar amount for surveys, building fencing to the new culverts, and monitoring movements of toads through the culverts (approximately $10,000 to the project). Huu-ay-aht will also make a substantial investment through the funding for resurfacing the road.
The Association of Wetlands Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds welcomes anyone who is keen to come out and volunteer on fence building. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to let them know if you’d be available in August.