An online petition is demonstrating strong support for protecting a stand of old-growth trees west of Shawnigan Lake.
The Koksilah River Ancient Forest, which includes trees close to 1,000 years old, is located on the steep hills above the Koksilah River, on land currently owned by Mosaic Forest Management. David Barnes is concerned that the old-growth forest, or some of the younger trees surrounding and protecting it, could be in danger, and started a petition encouraging Mosaic and the local and provincial governments to guarantee its protection.
Although he was born and raised in Shawnigan Lake, Barnes didn’t learn about the Koksilah Ancient Forest until a few years ago, and he decided to check it out.
“I hiked in, and I was amazed,” he recalled. “It’s incredible we have something like this here. If Port Renfrew has Avatar Grove, which is well-known and a tourist attraction, then why isn’t this well-known and protected as well?”
Those feelings inspired Barnes to contact local land stewards, who have been talking to Mosaic about protecting the forest. Those discussions reached an impasse recently, he said, which prompted Barnes to go public.
According to Barnes, land stewards have spent about 15 years trying to ensure the safety of the old-growth trees. The Cowichan Valley Regional District, he said, looked into acquiring it as parkland around 2010. John Horgan toured the site around 2016, and the provincial government has also investigated making it a provincial park, Barnes added.
Barnes understands that Mosaic has pledged to protect some of the trees as part of a “carbon sequestering system,” but the company has been vague about their plans in that regard. Even if they log up to the edge of the grove and leave the old-growth trees, the loose dirt currently held in place by younger trees will be vulnerable to landslides, and the old trees will be exposed to high winds.
“If they log up to the old-growth trees and leave them standing, it will spell the end of them.”
Barnes hasn’t spoken to the CVRD about protecting the land yet, but he plans to. He started the petition so that when he goes to the regional district, he will have the numbers to back up his efforts. The petition passed 10,000 signatures on Wednesday, March 17, and still appears to have strong momentum.
“It shows the amount of support there is for this kind of thing,” Barnes said.
Barnes’s petition can be found at https://www.change.org/p/mosaic-forest-management-protect-the-koksilah-river-ancient-forest
Meanwhile, Mosaic Forest Management spokesperson Evelina Lamu said “Koksilah Grove is an area that Mosaic has identified as having exceptional values — both ecologically and as a public recreation area. To maintain those values, we have designated this area as protected from harvesting in our management planning through several overlapping layers of restrictions.”
Lamu noted that the Grove has been set aside, “reserved from harvesting as a riparian reserve and wildlife habitat along the river. It is identified as an area we will manage for non-timber values in our third-party forest certification, and is committed to a long term carbon project because of the high value in carbon storage and other non-timber values.”
Lamu added that Mosiac has no plans to work within the Grove.
“We are undertaking second growth forest harvesting on our private managed forest lands in a stand approximately 600 metres from the Grove. No operations or harvesting will occur within Koksilah Grove, and a Registered Professional Biologist has confirmed that planned activities will not negatively impact the Grove itself,” she said. “Public access through a recreational footpath will be restored when harvest is complete in the near future.”