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Koksilah River Old-Growth In Jeopardy

TimberWest to sell land for development, harvest trees in Koksilah River corridor

Canwest News Service, March 12, 2010

Koksilah River Old-Growth In Jeopardy
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Rare old-growth Douglas Fir trees in the threatend Koksilah River grove.
Photo by TJ Watt

By Lexi Bainas, The Citizen March 12, 2010
The Cowichan Valley Regional District will write to provincial Forests Minister Pat Bell and TimberWest, asking that any timber harvesting within the vicinity of the Koksilah Ancient Forest and the upper Koksilah River corridor be held in abeyance while consideration be given to other potential interests in these lands.

Warrick Whitehead, who's been spearheading the push to save this old-growth forest beside the Koksilah River in the Shawnigan Lake area since 2007, told the CVRD's parks committee March 10 that he'd been up to the beautiful area recently and seen new logging boundary and road location ribbons on the trail into the big trees.

"After many phone calls and emails I was again able to save this area from logging and roadbuilding, which was about to begin," he said.

Kirk Taylor, vice-president of sales and marketing for Couverdon Real Estate, which is selling the land for TimberWest, replied to him that although they were planning to put the land on the open market, they were willing to hold off on harvesting until after the March 10 CVRD meeting.

Postponing logging was very important as no negotiations had been started, no boundaries set and no surveying done for acquisition, Whitehead told the committee March 10.

Since first hearing about the trees years ago, Whitehead has taken hundreds of people to visit the grove, which is located not far from Burnt Bridge, near but not part of the Koksilah River provincial park.

Notified of the need to protect this additional piece, the province has expressed an interest in purchasing the land for a park at some point but there is no money for that right now, he said, telling directors that immediate action is called for.

"This logging is planned in the area that is extremely important to the integrity of this whole project, the link between the Koksilah River Ancient Forest and the downstream properties that will have access to it."

While he stopped the logging for the moment, it's merely a postponement as he has no power to do more, Whitehead said.

"TimberWest and Couverdon will not hold on to these private lands without a positive response from the CVRD. Without your political support, we could lose this opportunity forever."

Whitehead asked urgently for the regional district to be a leader and contact Couverdon to set up negotiations.

Once that is done, the next step will be fundraising to buy the land and Whitehead said he's lined up retired TV exec Kim Wildfong to help generate public campaigns and negotiate matching funding from various foundations and government agencies, many of whom are already interested in the project.

"The Environment Canada Natural Areas Conservation Program has, for example, a fund of $225 million 'to secure environmentally sensitive lands to ensure protection of our diverse ecosystems, wildlife and habitat'. This project is perfectly matched," he said.

After hearing Whitehead's presentation directors quickly decided to write to the Minister but wanted more time to hash out the subject in private.

However, they all liked Director Gerry Giles' idea of a tour of the land in question.

"It's a really majestic sight. The hike in is not severe. When you are standing in that grove, it's far more impressive than a picture," she said.

Saltair Dir. Mel Dorey and Malahat-Mill Bay Dir. Brian Harrison agreed that the subject must be dealt with expeditiously as the land is now at risk.

"There's no point in buying a property if the trees have all been cut down," Harrison said.

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