Genevieve Singleton is one of those who’s been working for years on trying to save the Eagle Heights land. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

VIDEO: Grassland, old-growth Douglas fir forest, limestone karst features all protected at Eagle Heights

Many unique or red-listed species will now be protected in their habitat as part of Eagle Heights

After the province announced that it was saving “Eagle Heights”, many readers wondered what territory that name actually covered.

The 144-hectare Eagle Heights acquisition protects a unique pocket grassland, and is home to rare and endangered species, an old-growth Douglas fir forest, limestone karst features, and other red-listed ecosystems, according to a release from the premier’s office.

“The diverse property is culturally significant to local indigenous peoples. The acquired lands are near Koksilah River Provincial Park northwest of Shawnigan Lake, and will either be added to the park or established as a new Class A park,” stated the release.

Cowichan Tribes is excited about finally achieving this.

“The area known as Eagle Heights has been used by the Cowichan People since time immemorial and is of extreme spiritual and cultural importance. Certain grasses are still used in spiritual practices today, and are only found in the unique grassland ecosystem of Eagle Heights,” said Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour. “Cowichan Tribes has been working to protect this area from clear-cut logging for over a decade, and we are happy to hear that Eagle Heights will now be protected.”

Elder Albie Charlie, who was present at the announcement said, “when we build relationships with each other respectfully, it’s so much easier to work together to save the land. You know if you stand still for a moment in silence, you will hear the message from the forest giving thanks for its protection. The land is so important, not only to us, but to our children, and we must stand together to protect it.”

Because logging has been looked at for part of the area, Island Timberlands has had to be involved in the talks as well and the company’s chief forester, Bill Waugh said the company “is pleased to be able to work collaboratively with BC Parks to achieve government’s objective of protecting the unique grassland ecosystem at Eagle Heights, while at the same time supporting our managed forest operations of our surrounding lands. The Eagle Heights project represents the culmination of many years of diligent effort, and is a testament to what can be achieved through patient and mutually respectful dialogue.”

The Cowichan Valley Regional District is also a player in this long-running drama.

“The actions of BC Parks and their partners to fund the acquisition of the Eagle Heights Grasslands complex above the Koksilah River are commendable,” said CVRD board chair Jon Lefebure. “The CVRD board and Cowichan community are longstanding advocates for protection of these lands, which are notably the most valuable and fragile pocket grasslands on Vancouver Island.”

Brian Springinotic, CEO of the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, said “The pocket grasslands and old-growth forest found on the Eagle Heights property provide important habitat for vulnerable and threatened wildlife species, including Roosevelt elk, western screech owl and northern goshawk. The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation helped fund the purchase of this land so that it would be protected in perpetuity and available to all British Columbians.”

 

Environment Minister George Heyman announces the acquisition of Eagle Heights. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau is part of the group presenting the good news in Shawnigan Lake. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

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