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Comox Valley Land Trust works to protect environmentally sensitive lands

Federal funds provide opportunities to protect Puntledge River watershed
The Comox Valley Land Trust is working to protect three sites on Vancouver Island, including the Puntledge Forest. Photo supplied

The Comox Valley Land Trust has been granted $3.5 million from Environment and Climate Change Canada to support three projects in the Puntledge River watershed. The projects will protect critical habitat and environmentally sensitive areas at risk from logging. Two of the projects are to purchase land and protect it with conservation covenants. The third involves buying the timber reservation on BC Hydro land. Federal funds must be matched 1:1 and raised by March 31, 2023.

“These projects include over 1,000 acres of the most critical and sensitive habitat in the Comox Valley,” said CVLT executive director Tim Ennis. “This is a fantastic opportunity to protect mature forests, wetlands, and riparian areas on eastern Vancouver Island.”

Puntledge Forest

This 100-hectare (247-acre) area runs along both sides of the Puntledge River on land owned by BC Hydro, managed as a public recreation area. It connects the Comox Lake Bluffs Ecological Reserve to Nymph Falls Nature Park. Comox Timber Limited owns the trees on this property by way of a timber reservation.

The area includes a 120-year-old second growth forest and is an example of a biologically rich, naturally regenerated forest. The site also includes habitat for the endangered Puntledge River summer chinook. Purchasing the timber reservation will protect about 10 critically imperiled ecological communities and some 30 species at risk. Comox Timber gave notice in 2020 of its intention to harvest the site but has deferred this while CVLT works to raise funds to purchase the timber reservation.

Morrison Creek Headwaters

Morrison Creek is spring fed year-round with cool water that enables it to sustain the most productive salmon stream of its size anywhere on southeastern Vancouver Island. In 2019, CVLT and the Comox Valley Regional District purchased a 22-hectare parcel of the area’s headwaters in what is now known as qax mot Conservation Area. The opportunity now is to buy an additional 289 hectares (714 acres) in the headwaters. The expansive, undeveloped wilderness oasis nestled between Cumberland and Courtenay provides habitat for an extraordinary diversity of wildlife including keystone species such as wide-ranging carnivores and robust runs of salmon, and is the only home on Earth to the endangered Morrison Creek Lamprey. In addition to federal funds, CVLT has raised more than $200,000 towards its purchase, and is reaching out to past and potential funders and donors.

Lower Perseverance Creek

The Cumberland Community Forest Society has been raising funds to buy parts of the forest for many years. The Lower Perseverance Creek’s 17.5 hectares (43 acres) are its latest priority. The area forms part of an ecological corridor that links Perseverance Creek to Comox Lake. The lower reaches of the creek have been identified as vital for habitat restoration. It serves as a home to bears, cougars, bats, and salmon.

The federal grant will be matched by donations pledged to CCFS.

“CVLT has strong strategic partnerships and a successful track record,” Ennis said. “The challenges we’re facing are the tight timelines and the significant funds we must raise. We’re seeking partners to match the federal grant and are hopeful the groups we are speaking with will come to the table and be generous. This is a generational opportunity and the time to act is now.”