The protection of forests and community drinking water in the Comox Valley received a big boost this month with completion of a major additional land purchase for the Cumberland Community Forest in the Village of Cumberland. Thanks to an innovative partnership between conservation organizations, local governments, and a private timber company, over 225 acres of additional forested land has been acquired in the Perseverance Creek watershed for protection.
This land purchase was championed by the Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS), a conservation organization first formed 20 years ago by residents concerned about logging next to their community. Since its inception, the CCFS has purchased and protected over 500 acres of privately owned forest next to the Village for ecological protection and low impact recreation.
The CCFS conservation model involves raising purchase funds through diverse donors and community engagement efforts. The CCFS then negotiates a conservation covenant, which is a legal agreement to ensure the long-term protection of the forest lands to be purchased. The lands are then acquired and managed by the Village of Cumberland as the Cumberland Community Forest and protected by guidelines laid out in the covenant.
“We are proud of the rich partnership we have had with the Cumberland Community Forest Society over the past 20 years. The Cumberland Community Forest contributes greatly to the quality of life of Village residents and the wider Comox Valley. This project has also strengthened inter-regional relationships and shown that small communities are capable of great things when people work together,” said Village of Cumberland Mayor Leslie Baird.
The Perseverance Creek acquisition was financially supported by the Cumberland Forest donor community, the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD), the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Program, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Village of Cumberland, the Courtenay Fish and Game Protective Association and Guardian Donors including the Li-Grimmer Family, Rob H. Daniel, the Flanagan Foundation, The Perseverance Trail Run, The Cumby, Cumberland Brewing Company and generous conservation partners who choose to remain anonymous.
Cumberland Community Forest lands have been purchased from Hancock Timber Resource Group, a Manulife Investment Management Company and one of the major landowners of the forest lands in the region. They have worked closely with the CCFS and the Village as active partners in the sale.
The ambitious 2.5 million dollar purchase is the largest to date for the CCFS, and is unique from previous purchases because of the creek system that runs through it. Perseverance Creek is a salmon bearing tributary of Comox Lake, the drinking water supply for over 45,000 Comox Valley residents. The protection of the Valley’s drinking water is the responsibility of the CVRD and the purchase was supported as part of Comox Lake Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) recommendations.
“Source water protection is key to ensuring the Comox Lake watershed is healthy, resilient and able to provide drinking water for our community into the future,” explained Ken Grant, Chair of the Comox Valley Water Committee. “We are pleased to partner with the CCFS and the Village of Cumberland in this unique watershed protection collaboration that benefits the whole Comox Valley.”
The Cumberland Community Forest conservation covenant is monitored annually by the Comox Valley Land Trust who identified the Perseverance Creek watershed as a top conservation priority for the region. The CVRD has a role in ensuring land use plans within the Watershed Protection Zones is in keeping with watershed protection priorities, and the CCFS will have a role as the “community covenant holder” in supporting the management planning process and collaborating with the Village and other stakeholders on future projects.
Both the CCFS and Village note that their work has only just begun. A management planning process will be initiated soon to consider restoration planning, trail management to address historic, current, and future impacts and on the landscape. CCFS led educational initiatives and biodiversity projects are already well underway.
“The business of buying and protecting land doesn't stop once the purchase is made. The CCFS takes our responsibility as stewards and active partners in caring for these lands seriously. We look forward to working with our community partners to help plan the important work ahead,” said Evan Gough, Chair of the CCFS.
The Cumberland Community Forest is a rain shadow forest ecosystem and part of an interconnected system of forests, low impact trails, salmon bearing creeks, wetlands, and riparian areas adjacent to the Village of Cumberland in the traditional territory of the K'ómoks Nation. This forest is an integral part of both the Trent and Comox Lake watersheds and forms a critical link in a habitat corridor that connects mountains and lakes to the Salish Sea.
To find out about the Cumberland Community Forest or the Cumberland Community Forest Society visit www.cumberlandforest.com.
Perserverance Creek. Photo credit: Lorenz Jiminez Photography
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For the Village of Cumberland:
Leslie Baird, Mayor
For the Cumberland Community Forest Society:
Meaghan Cursons, Executive Director
For the Comox Valley Regional District:
Kris La Rose, Senior Manager of Water/Wastewater Services