View of a section of the new Hwsalu-utsum Park, which is being established bt the province near the Koksilah River. (Courtesy of the Province of B.C.)

View of a section of the new Hwsalu-utsum Park, which is being established bt the province near the Koksilah River. (Courtesy of the Province of B.C.)

New provincial park announced near Vancouver Island’s Koksilah River

143-hectare park will help protect vital ecosystems

A new 143-hectare provincial park, called Hwsalu-utsum, is being established near the Koksilah River.

A press release from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said the new park, adjacent to Koksilah River Provincial Park near Burnt Bridge, will protect a vital ecosystem important to the Cowichan people, honour Indigenous cultural and spiritual history, and aid in the conservation of threatened species.

Hwsalu-utsum Park, located in an area known as Eagle Heights, is within the southern-most portion of a broader ridge area called Hwsalu-utsum in the Hul’q’umi’num’ language.

The area was purchased by the province in 2018 for $7.15 million, with support from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation which provided $400,000, and a $225,000 contribution from the Cowichan Community Land Trust.

The new park is home to pocket grasslands and old-growth forests that provide important habitat for vulnerable wildlife species in the Cowichan Valley.

Used by Cowichan people since time immemorial, the area of the new park also includes rare species of vascular plants and limestone geological features.

Certain grasses are still used by the Cowichan people in spiritual practices today and are found only in this unique grassland ecosystem.

READ MORE: Cowichan street sign project honours Indigenous history and culture

Hwsalu-utsum will be a Class A park, which means its lands will be dedicated for the preservation of their natural environment and for public use and enjoyment.

Appropriate recreational activities and conservation actions within the park will be determined through a future management planning process.

The ministry also made a number of other amendments to the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act that will see more than 2,258 hectares of land and/or foreshore added to the provincial park system in BC.

“Establishing this new park strengthens protection of these sensitive lands and ecosystems that provide important habitat for vulnerable and threatened wildlife species, such as Roosevelt elk, western screech owl and northern goshawk,” said George Heyman, minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

“We are expanding and strengthening our parks and protected areas system to ensure these special places will be here for our children and grandchildren.”

READ MORE: Historic ranches, waterfront, mountains part of B.C.’s latest park expansion

Amendments to the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act are regularly required to add land to parks and conservancies that were acquired through private land sales, modify or correct boundaries and improve boundary descriptions.

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