Alison Nicholson Special to the Citizen
In the late 1980s, Louie Van Beers and Don Hughes from Cobble Hill and Mill Bay were working as fallers when they came upon an amazing stand of old growth forest along the banks of the Koksilah River. They put down their chainsaws and refused to fall this magnificent grove of 600-800 year old trees that includes, at 81 metres, the tallest Douglas fir on record in B.C.
Almost 30 years later, these ancient giants still stand — thanks to the tireless efforts of those dedicated to their protection. It is worrying, however, that they are not formally protected and that we know so little about these rare old forests.
The Koksilah River watershed — all the land that drains into the Koksilah River — was once entirely forested and old growth was common. Over thousands of years, these forests evolved to achieve a Goldilocks-style balance: not too hot and not too cold, not too dry and not too wet. The layers upon layers of branches create a “leaky umbrella” that ensures just the right amount of rain will reach the forest floor and just the right amount of moisture will stay in the air. Rotting logs, slowly turning back into the forest floor, also help maintain the balance by soaking up water during rainy months and then gently releasing it over dry months. Knowing how to live well and maintain this balance was important to indigenous people who lived in the Koksilah River watershed and have passed this knowledge down through generations.
Much has changed over the past 150 years. Land that was once stewarded by indigenous people, has been divided into private holdings. New communities have taken shape — living, working and playing on the land and in the water of the Koksilah River watershed. But how many of us who live in these new communities can say that we truly know this place? Who else lives here? What else lives here? How are we connected? What ties keep us strong and where have those relationships been weakened?
Understanding where we live is an important part of taking care of one another. Knowing the state of the assets that keep us healthy can tell us what we need to do to ensure our community’s well being — whether it is a hospital in need of an upgrade, a broken streetlight in need of repair, farmland in need of a farmer, or a forest (old and young) that needs our care. Forests provide clean air and water, and mitigate the effects of climate change. All of these services get better as forests age. Understanding our forest ecosystems can help us ensure that these essential services are not compromised.
To help us get to know our Koksilah watershed better, the Cowichan Station Area Association is hosting a Beer and Burger event on Nov. 13 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Cowichan Bay Pub.
Come and share your knowledge, memories and concerns about the watershed, and help raise funds for an ecosystem-based analysis that will further support watershed understanding and stewardship. There will be live music, an auction for an exclusive watershed flyover, as well as maps and other ways to collect ideas as we kick-start getting to know our watershed.
For more information or to RSVP, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Alison Nicholson is the Cowichan Valley Regional District area director for Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora Electoral Area