The Future of The Cowichan Valley Municipal Forests

We are unique in North Cowichan as our valley is geographically surrounded by six forest reserves. The Cowichan Valley Municipal Forests are located within municipally (public) owned forest reserves with a future determined by the vision of the community. There are no private timber licences or private companies holding lease of the lands. The forests that comprise the 6 are;

  • Maple Mountain
  • Mount Richards
  • Mount Prevost
  • Mount Sicker
  • Mount Tzouhalem
  • Stoney Hill

The mountains have seen a massive surge in the last decade as international recreational destinations. Last year alone Mt Tzouhalem saw in excess of 80,000 visitors from the hiking and cycling communities.

In the mountain bike world roughly only 15% of the riders who logged in via the navigation app Trailforks live within a 30km radius of the Cowichan Valley Municipal Forests. The rest are all travelling to our community to experience our amazing forests, mountains and the trails weaving through them.

The economic value of the mountains have changed and I wonder if it is worth exploring. Would we discover that the net benefit to the region is now through eco-tourism, quality of life for residents and the creation of ecological reserves?

Cowichan Valley Municipal Forests – Where Do We Stand ?

This question was raised by a concerned group of citizens that have values aligned with mine and thus why I have put my efforts behind spreading their message. This group created the website Where Do We Stand . Here is an excerpt from their about page;

“The New York Times has described this area of Vancouver Island, including the adjoining islands, as one of the most desirable eco-tourist locations in the world.”

This website began as a conversation between several people of the valley who revere our public-owned forests and are, as a collective, knowledgeable about their history. We come from all walks of life and include loggers, arborists, biologists, conservationists, gardener, landscapers, farmers, and people who have been hiking and biking through the forest for decades.

A delegation called Where Do We Stand is making a request to the Mayor and Council to pause all logging of the North Cowichan Municipal Forests to allow time for public consultation on the future of our six public forest reserves.

This doesn’t mean an end to logging, maybe it means a new innovative approach, maybe looking at forest thinning practices or maybe it does result in a full ecological preserve being created. We won’t know until a public consultation period occurs. One of my friends summed it up nicely of what a possible future could look like.

“Being a parks/trails nerd, I’m generally more in favour of conservation of wild spaces than development, and I would love to see us move towards creating more natural, mature forest spaces for our grandchildren/great grandchildren and beyond. Logistically, the challenge will be taking planted, managed forests and moving them to a more natural state. It isn’t as simple as just shutting down the chainsaws and walking away. Tree spacing allows pests and fungus to spread more easily as trees age (typically they’re logged before this occurs), invasive species need to be managed, and the understory needs light to thrive and allow for succession. I would absolutely be in favour of MNC taking a section of a forest reserve as a pilot project and working to create a long term conservation area. It would be a great study to determine what it takes to naturalize a managed forest.”

Follow the link below so we can start the dialogue to find out what the future looks like.

Please consider sharing and signing the petition to bring together a public engagement session with all parties involved.

Where Do We Stand Petition

Cowichan Valley Municipal Forests

Before you finish reading to day I will leave you with this sensory rich captivating and emotion inducing piece of writing Icel Dobell wrote. This excerpt was what originally captivated me and called me to action to be part of the future. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The Forests on the Mountain and the Valley Far Below

Part One. Abridged. Icel Jane Dobell

One day in a forest, in an area traveled by locals, and like the underworld other-worldly caves of the north island, guarded by an unspoken covenant, trails left unmarked, appearing on no map, suddenly, as if by way of a visitation in the night, there appeared the prophetic flags of demarcation, fluorescent orange, inscribing in letters of black the imminent fate of this forest.

On the day they are discovered, plastic markers are found wrapped around the trees, tagged, corralled, rooted in the wind. The tallest of the canopy sway and groan as if in the impenetrable language of trees, as if in warning of the end:

Arbutus—massive, contorted, (“pests to be controlled,” with pesticides say signs);

Coastal Fir—multi-limbed to the ground, (too many knots for timbers, say some loggers); Maples crowning the forest.

The ribbons follow fragile, tree-less moss beds, like rivers running down the mountain—(not a penny worth of twigs);

They appear like banners knotted around trees, small, struggling—(second-growth, barely a mouthful for a saw)—growing on a stoney hill.

Formed in the beginnings of time, as though a line of defense, a warning that not in all places will a forest re-root and re-cover in such a way as to justify its removal, the peninsula rises from sea to distant cliffs—glacial mounted, an enigma of rock formations and tree contortions.  As is the affect of growing in and around rock, trunks spiral and branches zigzag. In defiance of gravity, the mind, (and the saw), roots of trees cling to lichen murals on rock faces. Giant composites of granite and sandstone balance on fulcrums and float in the air. Planetary bodies emerge in moonlight. Boulders big as ships sit anchored in the emerald understory.

Read the rest here ~ Where Do We Stand – The Story

A short video the advocacy group created and discussion on their presentation to North Cowichan Council on December 19th

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