Myra Juckers is part of the Land and Resources Department with the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it First Nation (Tobacco Plains Band), located in Grasmere. She is originally from eastern Ontario, and her undergraduate degree is from Trent University. Myra credits her degree in environmental and resource science with providing her the continued inspiration to pursue a career in the field of ecosystem enhancement and restoration.
In her role as Environmental Officer, she is directly involved with many on the ground projects including wetland restoration and ungulate habitat enhancement. She especially enjoys being able to connect with a variety of people and organizations, including specialists, government staff, consultants, and NGOs.
It is awesome to be able to connect with a wide spectrum of people and make these projects happen. For example, for the wetland restoration project that we’re working on, I will be collaborating with the East Kootenay Invasive Species Council (EKISC), and various specialists and consultants, as well as the Columbia Basin Trust, who are funding the project.
Myra is also appreciative of the field work component of her role. When she previously worked for Keefer Ecological Services Ltd., she was grateful that she had the opportunity to get high up in mountainous areas while working on whitebark pine surveys.
A current project that Myra is excited about is the habitat enhancement project in the Galton Mountain Range, near the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it First Nation Reserve. The primary focus of this project is enhancing habitat for bighorn sheep, as well as other ungulate species including elk and deer. In collaboration with the Ministry of Forests, the First Nation is involved in forest thinning to improve the quality of habitat for ungulates.
Myra explains that due to fire suppression, there is ingrowth happening in the forests there. “The trees are shading the ground, so as a result there is a reduction in available forage for ungulates. Whereas elk and deer will move into denser forest cover to escape predators, bighorn sheep rely on sight lines to be able to spot potential predators. Then they run into their escape terrain, which is the cliffy and rocky landscapes. If there is a lot of ingrowth, then the sheep can’t see potential predators. We’re trying to thin all that out so that they have a better chance of escaping predators.”
In addition to forest thinning, the habitat enhancement project has an invasive plant management component. Myra explains that several factors including ungulate pressure, invasive plants, and forest encroachment and ingrowth all impact the health of the ecosystems on and adjacent to the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it First Nation Reserve.
Myra has experience in invasive plant management, having completed her Masters on this topic through the University of Saskatchewan, specifically on methods of containing and controlling the spread of sulphur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta) within intermountain grasslands in southeastern BC. One method she was researching was using targeted goat grazing. Another method was applying the herbicide aminopyralid.
“Tobacco Plains was the only site where we were able to look at the integrated approach versus the single approach to see if herbicide and targeted goat grazing alone, or in combination, was a better strategy to manage sulphur cinquefoil,” she explains. While both methods have off-target effects, her results indicate that both targeted goat grazing and the application of aminopyralid can be used to manage sulphur cinquefoil, and the combination of both methods didn’t prove to be significantly different.
Myra is currently on the Board of Directors of the East Kootenay Invasive Species Council (EKISC) and she enjoys developing a connection with this organization. “It’s interesting to see the scope of what they do. EKISC has quite a big operating area, whereas most of my projects are on reserve or close by. I like supporting EKISC because they’re helping me with my projects that have an invasive species component. My role on the Board helps to build that connection and we help each other out, essentially. So that’s been awesome.”
Having worked in the field of land management for seven years in various roles, Myra appreciates the insight and experience she is gaining in her current position working directly for the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it First Nation. “It’s interesting working with the First Nation and seeing a different side or perspective of things. Everything that is happening in the traditional territory, including large industrial projects as well as any small projects, must go through a referral system. We get a lot of those seemingly small requests. People are asking the First Nations for their feedback and insight, and to be involved in many projects. I now realize how much is asked of them, and that they only have the capacity to give so much.”
In her free time, Myra enjoys hiking and exploring the region, including hiking up nearby mountains to be rewarded with amazing views across Ȼam̓na ʔamakis (Land of the Wood Tick), which is the Ktunaxa homeland where Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi ‘it First Nation is located.