Riding the rapids for conservation: Jason Butt's environmental mission on Clarence River

Riding the rapids for conservation: Jason Butt's environmental mission on Clarence River

Earlier this month, our ECAN principal biodiversity advisor Jason Butt joined staff from Boffa Miskell, Department of Conservation (DOC) and Clarence River Rafting on a surveying expedition to tackle weeds and protect biodiversity around the precious Waiau Toa/Clarence River.

Butt joins Dom George to talk more about his mission to survey and manage invasive plant species, such as purple willow and false tamarisk, and the thrilling rediscovery of rare native flora like the horsetail plant and the Slender Button Daisy. 

He describes his experience, emphasising the hands-on approach as being more effective than remote methods like helicopter or desktop surveys.

"The only real way to get access to large stretches of that river [is] by floating down it."

His commitment to conservation is evident as he outlines the meticulous process of identifying and mapping invasive weeds, "drawing little polygons around different patches of species of weeds," using an app developed by Botham Iskell for the LIMS weed program. 

This innovative technology has significantly improved the management of these environments. One of the key talking points was the ecological impact of invasive species. Butt points out that certain weeds could disrupt the natural river functions and threaten biodiversity. 

"When they invade these rivers, they channelise them, stop them being braided rivers and pull them into a single channel, which completely impacts on their natural function." 

He underscores the importance of controlling these species to protect native plants and wildlife, particularly those dependent on the unique conditions of braided rivers. Another focal point of the conversation is the joy Butt finds in his conservation work, combining the essence of adventure with ecological protection. 

"It's hard to go past six days paddling down a river, looking at lovely native vegetation and, of course, the weedy stuff." 

The conversation highlights the collaboration between various parties, including the rafting company guides, who play a vital role in identifying invasive species and managing traps for pests along the river. 

Listen to the full chat between Jason Butt and Dominic George above.

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