Burns Bog

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Burns Bog is the largest domed peat bog on the west coast of North America. It covers an area of about 40 square kilometres (15 square miles) and occupies a quarter of Delta, British Columbia, about 25 km (16 mi) southeast of downtown Vancouver, and is bounded by BC Highway 10 on its south, the Annacis Highway on its east, and River Road, along the South Arm of the Fraser River on its northwest.[1] It is named after the former owner, Dominic Burns brother of Patrick Burns of Burns Meat Packaging. Its indigenous name is Maqwum, or in proper Hunquminum orthography, Ma?qwem . The word simply means "bog" but may refer to a specific plant growing in the location as well.[2]

The bog's ecosystem sustains a wide variety of flora and fauna, including 24 species of mammal and 150 bird species. Numerous zoning codes have been enacted to protect the bog from development and retain its original state in hopes of preservation for future generations. The bog is thought to be a major regulator of the region's climate, since there is no drainage and all the rain fall is ultimately evaporated. Highway 91 and flood control measures for nearby farms have cut off periodic flooding and drainage that previously fed into the bog. While a few black bears used to inhabit the area, they have disappeared, likely due to having been hunted out prior to the implementation of the current protection of the area.[3]

According to Environment Canada, the bog ecosystem is under threat from the proposed South Fraser Perimeter Road.[4]

The southern part of the bog contains a landfill for the city of Vancouver.

History[edit]

Burns Bog has traditionally been an important place for First Nations people in the area. They practiced controlled burning of patches, which promoted the growth of a variety of berries including Vaccinium (bog blueberries) and salal berries. Berries provided an important supplement to their diet. Various plants such as Labrador tea were used by First Nations people for medicinal uses.

Peat was mined from the area in the 1940s, leaving large holes and drainage ditches in the middle of the bog.[3] During the second World War, the U.S. military sought to use the peat to refine magnesium for artillery shells. Large scale peat harvesting stopped in the 1980s but resource extraction remained to be the official land use zoning of the majority of the bog until 2004.[3] A small peat harvesting operation continues to operate on the south side of the bog. Before the establishment of the Burns Bog Ecological Reserve in 2004, only 60 acres (24 ha) of the bog were protected as the Delta Nature Reserve. Another 2,300 acres (931 ha) of the bog were owned by Western Delta Lands Inc., which in the past had tried to develop the area but have been denied permission from the local and provincial authorities. The Burns Bog Conservation Society lobbied the province to buy the bog from the company, but in 1996 a $27.5 million offer was turned down by the Western Delta Lands owners, the McLaughlin family in Ontario, who also own Grouse Mountain ski area.

In March 2004, 2,042 hectares (5,050 acres) of Burns Bog was purchased to be protected as the Burns Bog Ecological Conservancy Area. The four purchasing partners are the Province of British Columbia, the Greater Vancouver Regional District, the Corporation of Delta, and Canada. A legally binding conservation covenant placed on the property will ensure Burns Bog is protected and managed effectively as a natural ecosystem. On behalf of all partners, the Greater Vancouver Regional District will act as the lead managing agency.[3]

Notable fires[edit]

The 2005 fire as seen from Highway 91

The bog has been the site of many serious fires, which can burn underground for months in the methane-rich peat. Major blazes occurred in 1977, 1990 (twice), 1994, 1996 and 2005. The 1996 fire covered Greater Vancouver in smoke and ash for two days, destroyed 170 ha (420 acres) and cost more than $200,000 to extinguish.

On September 11, 2005, a fire broke out near the south eastern edge of the bog with its smoke and ash being blown many kilometers, permeating the entire Lower Mainland and reaching all the way to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. By the morning of September 14, the fire had expanded to 200 ha (490 acres). Numerous large-scale fire-fighting techniques were employed to combat the huge blaze. Firebreaks were bulldozed and dikes were used to raise the water level in the hopes of extinguishing any of the fires that can burn underground for prolonged periods. The British Columbia fire service's Air Tanker Centre dispatched a fleet of air tankers to help extinguish the blaze, including four Firecats, two Convair 580s and the Martin Mars water bombers, the world's two largest air tankers. On September 19, the municipality of Delta announced that the fire was in the "mop-up stage". About 30 firefighters remained on the scene and were expected to begin withdrawal on Wednesday, September 21, with ongoing monitoring beyond that time.[5]

A large fire occurred on May 29, 2007.

Ecological Protection[edit]

The four parties have completed the Burns Bog Ecological Conservancy Area Management Plan [6] to effectively protect the special attributes of the Bog.[3]

Burns Bog is owned and managed by the Province, Metro Vancouver, and the Corporation of Delta. A legally binding conservation covenant placed on the property will ensure that Burns Bog is protected, and managed effectively as a natural ecosystem. All levels of government have agreed to: "maintain in perpetuity a large, contiguous, undeveloped natural area for the purpose of protecting the flora and fauna that depend on the Bog; manage the Bog as a functional raised bog ecosystem as understood by the best science of the time; maintain the extent and integrity of the water mound and the peat that encloses it, and in particular the upper porous acrotelm, upon which the persistence of the ecosystem depends; and prevent any occupation or use of the Bog that will impair or interfere with the current state of the Bog or the Amenities..."

Metro Vancouver is the lead agency to ensure collaboration with all funding partners in the planning and management of the area, as defined in the Management Agreement. Burns Bog will be managed as an "Ecological Conservancy Area" or ECA. The priority will be ecological protection, not public use.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Burns Bog". BC Geographical Names. http://apps.gov.bc.ca/pub/bcgnws/names/54807.html.
  2. ^ "Maqwum". BC Geographical Names. http://apps.gov.bc.ca/pub/bcgnws/names/57340.html.
  3. ^ a b c d e Larry Pynn (2014-08-22). "Of monsters and mud: Exploring the deep mysteries of Burns Bog". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 2014-08-23. 
  4. ^ Unprotected bogland owned by MK Delta Land Group Inc. is being threatened by development of 89 acres for 1850 housing units and possibly a hotel. MK Delta's land is surrounded on three sides of Burns Bog Conservation Area. The Burns Bog Conservation Area, along with several other areas including Boundary Bay and two other sites recently received Ramsar designation. [1]
  5. ^ here
  6. ^ [2]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 49°07′15″N 122°58′25″W / 49.12083°N 122.97361°W / 49.12083; -122.97361