North Cowichan falls within at-risk forest type threatened by logging: biodiversity report
Development, invasive species, historic fire suppression also raise concerns
Logging remains a leading cause of biodiversity loss in at-risk coastal Douglas-fir forests — the dominant forest type in North Cowichan — according to a new report for the municipality.
“Historical and current logging and development pressure continue to threaten these natural ecosystems,” says the draft Biodiversity Assessment Report by Diamond Head Consulting Ltd.
The report says most of North Cowichan falls within the coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) biogeoclimatic zone, the “smallest and most at-risk” in the province.
Other threats to biodiversity include climate change and invasive species, along with suppression of forest fires "which historically controlled the growth of competing trees and moderated fuel accumulation.”
The CDF lies within the rain shadow of Vancouver Island and Washington state’s Olympic Mountains, resulting in warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. It includes dry woodland forests dominated by Douglas-firs and Garry oak ecosystems (which support more than 150 animal species and more 800 known insect species which have evolved to rely on Garry oaks.)
Rapidly spreading invasive plants (such as Scotch broom) threaten these ecosystems by outcompeting native species for light, space, and water. They can also change the chemical composition of the soil, making restoration of Garry oak ecosystems challenging, the report says.
More than 100 Garry oak ecosystem species are at risk of extinction, which emphasizes the need for protection and restoration.
The BC Conservation Data Centre classifies 45 of the 48 distinct plant communities in the CDF as being red or blue listed. “Protecting these ecosystems is important to preserve the ecological and cultural values not only in the Salish Sea but on a global scale.”
— 52 percent of North Cowichan’s land base is forested.
— 635 kilometres of watercourses were identified, about 37 percent more than previously mapped.
— Freshwater resources including lakes, wetlands, and floodplain areas cover a combined area of 1,075 hectares across the municipality.
— North Cowichan’s coastline covers 88.8 kilometres of unique ecosystems along the transition between the terrestrial and marine environments.
Council will consider the draft report on Tuesday. More detail: https://pub-northcowichan.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=12560
The BC Forests Ministry is among 40 government agencies and conservation groups, part of the Coastal Douglas-fir Conservation Partnership, that support protection of the CDF. North Cowichan is currently not a member.
New logging within the Municipal Forest Reserve, or Six Mountains, has been suspended since 2019 pending public and First Nations consultations.
A two-phase public consultation ended earlier this year with overwhelming public support for conservation values rather than continued status-quo logging. Closed talks with local First Nations continue.
(Photos: municipal clearcut atop Mount Prevost; invasive Scotch broom encroaches on Garry oaks on Maple Mountain).
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— Larry Pynn, June 11, 2023