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Letter: Cowichan and Quw’utsun, Forest Conservation; Inspiration, Invitation, Initiation

The Municipality of North Cowichan released the results of our four-year public consultation

‘Uy’ skweyul Quw’utsun, hello North Cowichan:

It is said, what we don’t know can’t hurt us. I beg to differ.

When it comes to our two communities, living side by side, yet as if separated by a great wall — living in one Valley surrounded by six mountains of community forests — what we don’t know about each other and our forests is not only hurting us but, as our legacy, is going to be devastating for our children and future generations.

Ignorance is not bliss.

It’s time to go beyond politics to reach out to each other as people. If we’re going to survive as a species, it’s time to come together to protect the forests we can protect.

The question is: how do we bridge the gap to make this enormous leap — say of consciousness? Surely it will take a miracle. Lo and behold, that very miracle has just happened.

Enter the forests.

Noon, March 3, the Municipality of North Cowichan released the results of our four-year public consultation about the management of our Municipal Forest Reserve — The Six Mountain Forests. Once again, in meetings and surveys the public came out overwhelmingly (76 per cent) for conservation.

Through our public consultation, please know, Quw’utsun, the wall is breaking down. Beyond barriers of power and politics, you are surrounded by people of diverse cultural and racial backgrounds who have expressed values in alignment with traditional First Nations wisdom regarding the forests:

We understand that from the micro to the macro, from mycelia to canopies, to clouds of plant spores circling the planet, and including all living beings — we are one. We are interdependent, and we are dependent on forest ecosystems for survival.

For four years, through consultation, we have spelled out, made clear to council our values:

We want no more logging of our community forests.

No more logging roads, no how — no more dividing, fragmenting our rare, critically endangered, nature Coastal Douglas-fir forests (most endangered in the province).

Leave ALL trees in the forests, as food, nourishment, habitat — we have already taken too much.

This is not about money, though through carbon credits and a world-class Centre of Conservation our communities stand to earn millions more than by logging.

Protect the forests to become old growth.

Protect biodiversity, wildlife habitat, watersheds, trails, and culturally significant areas to the Quw’utsun.

And please know, Quw’utsun, we want open consultation with you, our neighbours. It’s on the record. We want truth and transparency.

There is a way. It’s called the Rights of Nature, an international movement growing in the world. It’s about partnership, through stewardship, going beyond ownership.

There is a legal way to protect nature. Just as ships, corporations, and churches may claim legal personhood to protect themselves, so too may ecosystems.

In the beginning, all our ancestors understood we cannot own nature. To divide forests is to divide and separate ourselves. We must end the division.

United, our two communities have the power to protect our Six Mountain Forests. We can’t afford to do otherwise, and for our efforts we will be paid richly.

Through an International Centre of Conservation and partnerships with universities, colleges, governments, we will receive massive funding.

Recently, Premier Eby announced the B.C. forests are “exhausted,” and allocated $10 million to the Buckley Valley Research Centre of silviculture (sustainable logging).

There is no Research Centre of Conservation, comparable to what we can create, in the nation — none with 5,000 ha forests, including the most rare, endangered forest in the province (among the two most endangered in Canada).

Through conservation we are poised, next in line for lucrative grants.

We are arrived at a historic moment, in an extraordinary time and place. Together we may act as visionaries, as a ray of light in the darkness of hundreds of years’ division.

It is the moment to break through the wall. Like dominoes, once one begins to fall, all may follow. What greater inspiration and invitation than knowing that change in the world begins in our home.

As for initiation into this “new way” of conservation, ancient to the Quw’utsun, passed on through elders — how else but by coming together may we learn the ways of nature, of millennia, and the science of today.

Icel Dobell

Where Do We Stand