The Cumberland Community Forest Society is putting the finishing touches on a 226-acre purchase in the Perseverance Creek Watershed.
It’s the single largest purchase in the society’s 20-year history.
Executive director, Meaghan Cursons, said ‘Project Perseverance’ has been years in the making, adding that the COVID-19 crisis threatened to derail their final fundraising push.
“We ended up having to cancel well over $50,000 worth of fundraising events that were all cued up,” Cursons said. “But what was really amazing is our community continued to rally around the project and fundraise so we could meet our March 31st deadline.”
Perseverance Creek flows into Comox Lake, the drinking water supply for over 45,000 residents of the Comox Valley.
It flows through current and pending Cumberland Forest purchased lands and forms an integral part of the Comox Lake Watershed.
Cursons said the society has been working with local timber companies, with a goal of buying lands for conservation and recreational purposes around the Village of Cumberland.
She said whenever the society buys lands, they put a conservation covenant on them: “That’s a type of legal layer you put on lands to make sure that for future generations, it’s protected for all the same reasons it was purchased by the community.”
Cursons added the society is working to ensure that the conservation covenant will allow locals and visitors an opportunity to “enjoy this land in its natural state in perpetuity.”
The society says ongoing support is critical right now as members “roll-up (their) sleeves” to complete the legal aspects of this transaction “and dive into much-needed restoration planning, species at risk research, education and projects, future land protection targets and more.”
Cursons said the east coast of Vancouver Island is unique in that most of the forested areas are on private property.
“That has to do with a long land-use history on Vancouver Island,” Cursons said.
“I think people are realizing now that, yeah, they would like to see some of these forests be allowed to grow old again. Logging is a huge part of Vancouver Island and an important part of the island, but there is also a desire to allow forests and ecosystems to get old again and healthy, and I think that really does reflect the culture of Vancouver Island, both people who have lived here for a long time and grown-up camping, and hiking, and exploring, and people that have moved here in more recent years.”
She added that allowing a forest to grow old and have that “wonderful biodiversity” is an important part of the quality of life that we seek on the island.
Cursons has every confidence that this deal will close.
“But we just can’t have a big party right now,” she added. “That’s our usual way of operating, is we draw people together to celebrate but of course with the physical distancing measures, we can’t do that.”
The next step, she said, will be the formal announcement of the closure of the purchase.
“Then we can set our eyes on our next targets (which is) other lands that we’re interested in protecting as a community and also the species at risk and unique ecosystems within those lands,” Cursons said.
“So this story continues but right now, I think people are really appreciating nature as a place that we’re able to escape to during these challenging times and we really hope that importance continues to be held into the future.”