The Somenos wetlands are the province’s newest wildlife management area. (Citizen file)

The Somenos wetlands are the province’s newest wildlife management area. (Citizen file)

Cowichan’s Somenos Marsh gets provincial protection

The unique wetland is home to more than 200 species of birds

“We want to protect these kinds of areas for generations to come,” said Doug Donaldson of the Somenos wetlands.

The provincial minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development made the comment in a press release announcing that the wetlands just north of Duncan are the province’s newest wildlife management area.

“Wildlife management areas help to meet government’s mandate to sustainably manage B.C.’s ecosystems, rivers and lakes, as well as improving wildlife management and habitat conservation,” Donaldson said.

The unique wetland is home to more than 200 species of birds including but most certainly not limited to a massive trumpeter swan population and great blue herons. It’s also home to the rare Garry oak ecosystem and is a significant fish and wildlife habitat as well.

The traditional Hul’qumi’num name for the 155-hectare area is S’amunu. The area holds historical significance for Cowichan Tribes as the Somenos Creek was a major travel corridor.

“We are happy to see this work take place and, going forward, work together to restore and preserve the land back to its natural state,” said Chief William Seymour of Cowichan Tribes. “It is important for us to keep its ecological value intact. It will be a great gathering space where the community can come and be educated on the history of this area, including our villages Kwa’mutsun and S’amunu that used to inhabit this land, as well as learn about the vegetation and wildlife that thrive at Somenos Marsh.”

Much of the wetlands (142 hectares) had been protected when it was acquired by Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Trust of British Columbia. The remainder is now protected, too.

“This is a wonderful day for conservation in our province. We are proud to be a partner in the designation of the S’amunu wildlife management area,” said Nature Trust CEO Jasper Lament.

As president of the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society, Paul Fletcher has spent decades trying to care for the marsh. The Society has installed an outdoor classroom, elevated boardwalks and interpretive signs over the years.

“The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society is very excited and pleased that, after 30 years of starting the process, the S’amunu Wildlife Management Area is to be established on provincial lands within the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area,” Fletcher said. “As long time stewards of the area, we are committed to continuing to work with all of the partners to ensure that the tremendous ecological and cultural values of Somenos are sustained into the future.”