About Ted Burns


Ted Burns grew up in the Kootenay Lake communities of Nelson, Ainsworth and Kaslo and in Northern California. He started fishing the lakes and streams of the West Kootenay with his father at the age of six. This is when his interest in fish and the environment began to grow. Ted was fortunate because he grew up at a time when many of the original white settlers in the West Kootenay were still alive and he learned a great deal about the country and its fish from these old time outdoorsmen who were glad to share their knowledge bounty with an eager young listener.

Ted attended high school in Nelson and Northern California. He started his higher education at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California then moved on to Humboldt State University in Arcata, California where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1968.
In 1966, Ted worked for the BC Fish and Wildlife Branch on the Kootenay Lake Project as a summer student. This study was undertaken to document salmonid life history and limnological conditions in Kootenay Lake so the impacts of Columbia Treaty Dams and Reservoirs could be predicted and compensated for. Ted’s tasks included stream habitat assessment, scale analysis; plankton identification, rainbow and bull trout gut analysis, kokanee meristics and morphology and trap and fence operation on Meadow Creek and the Lardeau River. This work continued until 1969.

In early 1969, Ted moved to Vancouver Island to work on the Big Qualicum River steelhead study which set out to describe the effects of flow control and channel and substrate alteration on steelhead production. Juvenile steelhead habitat selection as evidenced by electro fishing and snorkel observation, age and growth assessment and angler surveys were important elements of the program. Ted’s findings convinced the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) that their efforts to simplify the river to benefit chum salmon production were detrimental to steelhead. DFO added boulder clusters, large woody debris and other habitat diversity to mitigate the effects of river simplification.

In late 1969, Ted began to turn his attention to more general fish habitat concerns in the Vancouver Island Region, especially forest land use. At the time, there was little recognition of the need to protect streams during logging operations and there was no communication between the BC Fish and Wildlife Branch/DFO, forest companies and the BC Forest Service. Logging companies were having their way in the woods with no consideration of fish. Streams were being logged to their edges, trees were felled into creeks sometimes on top of spawning salmon and trout, logs were being yarded through streams and rivers, gravel was removed from rivers as needed, roads were being built almost on top of stream banks and creeks were commonly diverted down roads to wash soil overburden from their surfaces. Ted Burns was determined to change this situation and insure that fish habitat received the attention it deserved.

Under the direction and guidance of J.C. Lyons, the then Regional Fisheries Biologist, Ted began his mission. He and a number of Vancouver Island Conservation Officers traveled to every logging division in the region several times to explain how poorly planned and executed logging operations could damage fish and their habitat. He developed a slide presentation and wrote the technical report The Importance of Streamside Vegetation to Trout and Salmon in British Columbia to assist this purpose.

Ted was somewhat surprised to find that some of the companies were quite receptive to the information but the BC Forest Service was somewhat more rigid. The primary message that Ted delivered was that many of the problems associated with harvesting could be avoided by leaving streamside vegetation intact on fish bearing streams and on streams where downstream impacts to fish habitat could result if these watercourses were logged to their banks.
The efforts began producing results within one year. Cross – stream yarding virtually ceased and the companies began to retain immature conifers, leaners and deciduous species in cut blocks on fish bearing streams and other watercourses. Comprehensive guidelines were developed for various stream classes and watershed protection clauses became essential elements of cutting permits. During this period, a good deal of effort also went into stream inventory and mapping on Vancouver Island forest land (many of the maps haven’t been much improved on to this day). By 1972, there was a referral system in place between the BC Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Branch and regular meetings and reviews were held between the branch and private land operators. Ted is very proud of his part in vastly improving stream protection from forest land use and the now common practice of retaining healthy buffer zones along streams. Ted had a strong role in other aspects of habitat protection in the region and helped develop referral systems for land development with the Department of Highways and for water use with the Water Rights Branch. Of course, he was also involved in the more general facets of fisheries management such as regulation formation and fish population surveys.

In 1974, Ted moved to Victoria to work in a special environmental unit of the BC Lands Branch termed the Special Services Division. He advised the branch on the environmental impacts of large projects such as mining, railroads, highways, pipelines, hydro development, ports and marinas, estuary development, aquaculture and foreshore log handling. He also represented the Branch on a number of interagency committees and task forces such as Coastal Zone Management, Mines Reclamation and estuaries particularly Campbell River Estuary where he chaired a task force on restoration that led to a substantial portion of this valuable estuary being returned to a more natural state. Ted left the Lands Branch in 1975 because he felt he was spending too much time with process and loosing touch with biological realities (he was becoming a bureaucrat).

Ted has been an environmental consultant since 1976. In his early years of self-employment, much of his work was with coastal issues such as coastal zone management scenarios for British Columbia, coastal zone inventory, and estuary planning. In 1980, Ted moved to Lake Cowichan where he has worked extensively in local salmonid enhancement and community stewardship with the Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society as well as maintaining his consulting business. He has initiated and participated in a number of important enhancement/restoration projects in the Cowichan Region such as Beaver Creek Restoration, Robertson Side Channel Restoration, the Cowichan watershed fry salvage program, the San Juan Project and the Cowichan Regional Salmonid Production Plan, which Ted considers to be one of his most important contributions as a biologist.

Since 2010, Ted has reduced his work effort and focused more on fishing and writing about fish and the environment. He began writing about fish and fishing in the 1970’s and hopes to continue and eventually collect them into a book. He and Barbara live in The Alberni Valley and Lake Cowichan.



2 Responses to “About Ted Burns”

  1. Clint Coffey says:

    Hi Ted,
    I was reading your post “Death Down an Alley”…Ted Rutherglen was my on my Dad’s WW2 Lancaster bomber crew – Ted was the Wireless Operator. I am writing a book about the crew and was wondering if you would mind me using the story you tell about Ted darting the bears, and the story of the two grizzlies? It says a lot about his character I think…
    I would give you credit for the story of course!
    Thanks for considering, all the best, Clint Coffey

  2. TedBurns says:

    Ted was quite the man which is a definite understatement. He is one of the main reasons I became interested in environmental issues. I still hear Ted stories and hope to keep on hearing them. Thanks for yours…

    Another Ted

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