In the Comox Valley we have lots to celebrate on Earth Day; mountains, rivers, the ocean, estuaries, wetlands, and agricultural lands.
A little-known jewel of the Comox Valley is the conservation lands at Lazo Marsh and the Northeast Woods.
This 470-acre protected area is comprised of a Provincial Wildlife Management Area (containing land owned by the Nature Trust of BC), the Town of Comox Nature Park, as well as the Comox Valley Regional District’s Lazo Wildlife Park.
The area contains a broad spectrum of rare and unique habitat ranging from wetland, riparian and rare sand dune plant communities to old-growth upland forests.
Lazo Marsh is at the northern extent of the Coastal Douglas Fir bio-geoclimatic zone — the rarest of all landscape types in British Columbia. This unique ecosystem with its Mediterranean climate has the highest density of species that are of both provincial and global conservation concern than anywhere else in the province.
Over 130 species of fish and wildlife have been recorded at Lazo Marsh — several of which are rare and endangered.
This unique area is not without its management challenges however; invasive species, habitat fragmentation, and increased recreational use continue to have a detrimental impact on the ecosystems and wildlife that depend on them.
In recognition of the challenges of managing this landscape and the obligation to manage the lands for the benefit of fish and wildlife, the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Town of Comox and the Comox Valley Regional District entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to manage the lands co-operatively.
In addition to these groups, the Friends of Comox-Lazo Forest Reserve and the Comox Town Residents Association are also actively involved as volunteer stewards of the area.
Recent efforts have focused on developing a formal trail network (which has included the construction of boardwalks and bridges), the removal of invasive species and reforestation of impacted areas along with the placement of several new signs.
Extensive studies have also been completed in cooperation with the Ministry of Transportation assessing the bi-annual migration of amphibians to and from Lazo Marsh and the impacts of Lazo Road on this migration; the goal of these studies is to work towards mitigating this impact by installing new culverts and directional fencing.
All of these efforts are being undertaken to ensure the critical wildlife habitat and sensitive ecosystems found within the area continue to be protected and restored. Visitors to this area are ask to cooperate by respecting closed signs to ensure restoration efforts are not wasted.
As Earth Day approaches, get outdoors and enjoy the amazing biodiversity of Lazo Marsh and the NE Woods — and consider what you might do to ensure it survives for future generations.
For more information, contact the Town of Comox, the Comox Valley Regional District, or the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations.