Katia Bannister does riparian restoration planting. (submitted)

Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre launches new project

The Nature Centre’s goal is to continue to engage the local community

The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre is launching a new 26-month project, “Conserving & Protecting Cowichan Fresh Water for a Climate Resilient Future” on Jan. 30.

The launch takes place at the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre in Cowichan Bay, starting at 11:30 a.m. The project runs until July 2022.

“We are grateful to Environment and Climate Change Canada for providing primary Eco-Action funding for this project, and to all our community partners who’ve provided encouragement, as well as in-kind or matching funds to support this work,” says Nature Centre Board Chair Jane Kilthei.

The Centre aims to engage local youth and produce measurable results in conserving and protecting the Cowichan and Koksilah watersheds and the salmon, other wildlife, and human communities that rely on them, particularly recognizing the Quw’utsun people for whom salmon remains central to their diet and culture.

“We began the project in the summer of 2019,” says project administrator Sierra Harvey, “And so far we’ve worked with 24 amazing young people in leadership and team-building, including on a water conservation project in the Koksilah watershed, and engaged 180 school children and youth, Grades 5 and up, in riparian restoration in the Cowichan watershed.”

The project also co-hosted a community conversation on water conservation in the Koksilah with local regional district area director Alison Nicholson.

The Nature Centre’s goal is to continue to engage the local community, especially young people across cultures, in leadership and team-building training, workshops, community awareness-raising and hands-on water conservation and restoration projects.

“We want to restore riparian zones and shorelines while honouring indigenous knowledge and building skills, making an impact both in local watersheds and in the lives of indigenous and settler youth,” says Kilthei.

“Protecting freshwater ecosystems and our drinking water in the face of ongoing climate disruption is increasingly challenging,” said both Kilthei and Harvey. “It’s something that requires coming together as a community.”

They believe that engaging local people, especially youth, in making connections and strengthening partnerships will amplify the creation of local solutions and help the communit protect its rivers and water supply into the future.

This spring the Centre will host a “Whole Watershed Thinking” workshop co-led by Cowichan Tribes biologist Tim Kulchyski and SeaChange Marine Conservation Society’s Nikki Wright. Youth leadership and team-building that incorporates indigenous knowledge from Quw’utsun elders will be ongoing, along with multiple restoration education and action days for youth, families, school groups, clubs, business teams and non-profit volunteers. There will also be a continuing focus on water conservation in the Koksilah watershed, raising awareness and tracking hoped for reductions in water usage.

In addition to the principal funder, Environment and Climate Change Canada, the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre would like thank these supporters, partners and sponsors: Cowichan Tribes, the Cowichan Watershed Board, the Cowichan Community Land Trust, the BC Conservation Foundation, the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, the Cowichan Valley Regional District, including Areas D and E, the Municipality of North Cowichan, the Cowichan Valley Naturalists, the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society, the Outdoor Education Society – Story Trails, Sh-hwuykwselu Busy Place Streamkeepers, BC Nature Trust, SeaChange Marine Conservation Society, the Earth Guardians – Cowichan Valley, School District 79, and Polster Environmental Services.

See: http://www.cowichanestuary.ca/restoration-with-the-nature-centre/

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