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Water protection trumps logging in the Municipal Forest Reserve, says society president

The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society is asking North Cowichan to consider water protection rather than logging as the best use of the 5,000-hectare Municipal Forest Reserve.
“It’s really time to look at water first,” Paul Fletcher, society founder and president, told “Water should be driving all development decisions in the valley. We have to look after our water in every direction, including streams and aquifers.”
Fletcher plans to appear before council soon to discuss a new initiative — GreenStreams — which seeks, in part, to enhance stream riparian areas. His comments come as North Cowichan is launching a public consultation into future management of the forest reserve. A separate consultation is taking place with Cowichan Tribes and other local First Nations.
The province’s Riparian Areas Regulation applies to a 30-metre strip on both sides of a stream, but detrimental impacts on streams can start in headwaters far upstream.
Logging alters the natural hydrological regime by creating uneven flows that are detrimental to lifeforms downstream, Fletcher said, adding that “forest cover is one of the best ways to recharge our aquifers and recharge our streams with even flows."
When developers run up against the regulation, they typically hire a qualified environmental professional to guide a development, but Fletcher believes the municipality should be in control and ensure that cumulative impacts of the entire watershed are considered.
The first area being targeted for improvement is fish-bearing Menzies Creek and Bings Creek, which flow to Somenos Lake. The society will work with homeowners to improve riparian areas, including offering assistance and expertise in removing invasive species and planting native vegetation. Next in line would be Averill Creek, which also flows to Somenos Lake.
Fletcher said North Cowichan needs to look not only at income from logging but the value of “ecosystem services,” the benefits that water provides to communities and to nature.
“We expect them (council) to be the first protectors of these streams by not logging,” Fletcher said. “We really think the slopes need to remain intact for water flow.
“They need to leave the slopes of Swu’qus (Mount Prevost), in particular, untouched — which basically is the same for the slopes of all Six Mountains because they all feed water.”
Six Mountains is a more popular name for the Municipal Forest Reserve and includes Prevost, Sicker, Richards, Maple, Stoney, and Tzouhalem.
Larry Pynn, March 12, 2020


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