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Comox Valley Land Trust raising $500 k to save Puntledge forest

Total $2.4 million needed to secure Bevan Trail lands

The Comox Valley Land Trust is looking to raise $500,000 to protect the Bevan Trails and surrounding forest ecosystem.

The Bevan Trails are part of the larger Puntledge Forest area, which a release from CVLT calls a "beloved recreational area and a rare local example of a mature, biodiverse forest." The release goes on to say that the area — on BC Hydro-owned land — is not protected from logging. Timber rights are held by Manulife Investment Management (Manulife IM) on behalf of their clients. CVLT is looking to purchase the 37 hectares of forest in the area, adding to 61 hectares already purchased in 2023 and 2024.

“We are thrilled to kick off this community fundraising campaign to acquire the Puntledge Forest, ” said CVLT Executive Director Tim Ennis. “These maturing stands of trees are tomorrow’s old growth, and the biodiversity they contain is incredibly valuable.”

The CVLT is working with Manulife to ensure that the forest is protected.

"We know that these forests are of significant importance to the community, and we have been working closely with the CVLT to find an alternative solution to allow for ownership transfer of the timber rights on the property so it will be preserved in perpetuity,” said Tom Sarno, Global Head of Timberland Investments for Manulife IM."

"(Manulife) contacted the Comox Valley land trust to see if we were interested in working with them proactively to find another instrument that would produce for them profits that they are expected to make for their shareholders," Ennis said. "Our partners agreed that we would be willing to entertain the idea of buying the trees from Manulife instead of logging them, and then protect those trees forever."

Support has also come from the K’ómoks First Nation, who have issued a statement saying that "Our nation is hopeful that the CVLT will be successful in securing the remaining portion of the timber reservation, which would positively contribute to protecting fish habitat in the Puntledge River. Protecting these pockets of high-value ecosystems will only help mitigate climate change, and work towards reducing rising river temperatures.”

"They've been the stewards of that of that river and salmon runs in perpetuity since time immemorial," Ennis said. "I think it was really easy to say "yeah, we we don't want to see that property logged'."

The goal is to raise $2.4 million to acquire and protect the 37 hectares. The CVLT is applying for provincial, federal and other grants to raise $1.9 million of the total, and is looking to raise the remaining $500,000 by March, 2025. That $500,000 will show potential grant funders that there is Previous purchases in the area were achieved through funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and BC's Old Growth Nature Fund.

"We really hope that people will not take for granted the fact that it's just there for their enjoyment. It's not going to be if we don't protect it now," Ennis said. "We have a generational opportunity to get this thing done and that opportunity might not come around again."

The Puntledge forest supports dozens of species of conservation concern, including an endangered summer run of Chinook salmon. The forest is also highly valued by the K’ómoks First Nation for cultural purposes, is the gateway to multiple popular swimming holes such as ‘Palm Beach’, and is the site of historic coal mining works.

To donate, visit the Comox Valley Land Trust website.

Marc Kitteringham

About the Author: Marc Kitteringham

I joined Black press in early 2020, writing about the environment, housing, local government and more.
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