Invasive Species Council of British Columbia

Teamwork makes the dream work! StrongerBC Action Teams partner with Scia’new First Nation

The Nanaimo Action Team (left to right): James Ogihara-Kertz, Miho Matsuo, Daniel Mattison, and Steven Hayward (photo submitted by Evelyn Vandermaas).

By Lisa Houle | September 21, 2022

Sometimes it takes a community to tackle invasive species. Sometimes the community could use a helping hand.

All season, our StrongerBC Action Teams have been responding to requests for help in areas where invasive species are prevalent. Evelyn Vandermaas, member of Scia’new (Beecher Bay) First Nation in East Sooke, reached out to ISCBC while in the planning stages of a project in 2021.

“I was fortunate to be working with S’W,CENENTIEL First Nation advocates and the Saanich Native plant staff while planning our Indigenous gardens here at my home site. Both groups had mentioned the ISCBC and that I might reach out for assistance with invasive Scotch broom, Gorse and English ivy removal,” said Evelyn.

Gorse (Ulex europaeus), one of the invasive species targeted (photo credit GMarkin, USDA Forest Service).

Evelyn has always been keenly aware of invasive species, having seen the devastation first-hand. She has actively participated and volunteered in removal efforts with local groups and schools and has been providing First Nation Awareness programs and events including First Nations Plant/Food Securities, sharing traditional knowledge. Cultural and environmental need is also driving the urgency for invasive species removal from their lands.

“The removal of invasive species is very important to us in Beecher Bay territories due to the allergic reactions in breathing and skin irritations that is detrimental to many of our members and we’re noticing that it’s worse now than ever,” said Evelyn. “Invasive species also destroy our natural plant species that we eat and use for medicinal purposes in everyday living.”

Evelyn was able to begin planning and scheduling with ISCBC’s Nanaimo Action Team for invasive plant removal in July 2022. And the team was more than happy to help, working three full days removing multiple invasive species.

The Nanaimo Action Team at work (photo submitted by Evelyn Vandermaas.)

“Our total treatment was just under half a hectare and we managed to fill approximately 45 large garbage bags between the four of us. The work was quite physical, but it was rewarding to see the big piles of broom at the end of each day, knowing that we were making a positive impact in the Beecher Bay community,” said Miho Matsuo, Nanaimo Action Team Supervisor. “It was also lovely to receive feedback at the end of each day from Evelyn who mentioned that the kids would have an easier time playing outside now that the broom had been removed. The days were hot, and we appreciated the cool water bottles that were provided for us.”

The feeling of appreciation is mutual.

“I would like to say a very big thank you for the works the crews did at our three reserve sites. The workers were very respectful, worked wonderfully with us and I am appreciative of the time they shared,” said Evelyn. “All are welcomed here anytime as guests in our Nation, and we can provide any info or guidance they may need in working in/with our First Nation communities in the future.”

The Invasive Species Council of BC gratefully acknowledges the territories of the Indigenous Peoples of BC where we live and work to maintain healthy ecosystems for all.

ISCBC is grateful to the StrongerBC funding from the Province of BC that supports individuals in training and providing work for people whose jobs were impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic and to help protect BC’s lands and waters from invasive species. 

Lisa is a Communications and Outreach Coordinator at ISCBC. She values a diverse environment and connecting with others about environmental protection. In her spare time Lisa enjoys spending time at the ocean and beach combing for sea glass. You can reach Lisa at