In March of 2021, the Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS) responded to harvest flagging in the forests along Lower Perseverance Creek west of the Village of Cumberland in the Comox Valley. The CCFS had to mobilize fast to interrupt the harvest with equipment on site and road building completed.
Thanks to a long-standing relationship with the owner, Hancock Timber, from whom they have purchased over 500 acres of forest so far, the harvest was deferred. For now. The CCFS is now tasked with completing the purchase of this 25-acre parcel to ensure it will be protected in perpetuity.
Lower Perseverance Creek is an ecological corridor that links Vancouver Island Mountains to Perseverance Creek to Comox Lake. The forest is a rich ecosystem, filled with Red cedar and Douglas fir, some over 125 years old. The lower creek has been identified as high priority for habitat restoration and the area offers refuge and safe passage for species big and small from the upland mountains to the lake.
This corridor has been identified as a protection priority by the CCFS, Comox Valley Land Trust, Comox Valley Regional District, K’ómoks First Nation, Perseverance Stream keepers and the Village of Cumberland. It feeds Comox Lake, the drinking water for 50,000 Comox Valley residents through the Comox Valley Regional District water service. It flanks the old Wellington Rail path to the historic #4 Coal Mine site and connects directly to Coal Creek Historic Park and the Cumberland Community Forest.
Since 2005 the CCFS has protected 500 acres of threatened land for low impact recreation, ecological protection, and climate resilience. Their most recent purchase was 225 acres in September of 2020. This small community NGO now finds itself in the unexpected position of leading negotiations for another land purchase less that 7 months after completing the last one. They did NOT expect to be here so soon. However, there is a lot of action in the forests of Vancouver Island right now.
How can you help? The CCFS is leading fundraising to realize this important Lower Perseverance Corridor purchase. Project costs are estimated at $700,000 and they are currently negotiating a formal purchase agreement. As of June 30th, 1/3 of these funds ($233,000) have been raised by the CCFS. They are now hard at work leveraging the other 2/3 working with their conservation and government partners. The goal is to have 100% of the funds secured by December 31st.
Benefits of the Lower Perseverance Corridor Project
Carbon Sequestration / Natural Climate Solutions: The Lower Perseverance Corridor is an important carbon sink, with the trees absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in biomass and the soil. Harvesting of this forest would not only remove the trees that are absorbing CO2 and temporarily halt carbon sequestration, it would also turn the area into a carbon source for 15 years following harvest, as the left over wood waste decomposes. Protection of this forest provides exceptional value as a carbon sink. Natural Climate Solutions can make up 37% of the global reduction in emissions that must be achieved by 2030 to keep global temperature increases to below 2 degrees celsius (www.nature.org). One such solution is to prevent forest loss through conservation. The biomass and soils of old and mature forests, such as the 12 hectares within the Lower Perseverance Creek, are important carbon sinks.
Relationships with Indigenous Government: The project has opened the door for dialogue and research work with K’ómoks First Nation and the K’ómoks Guardians. Discussions are underway about the feasibility of an Indigenous Land Use Study in the Lower Perseverance Creek corridor and in the Perseverance Watershed as a whole. These studies explore the past, present and potential future land use. The Perseverance Corridor is also directly adjacent to K’ómoks Treat Lands.
Protection of Biodiversity: This biodiversity corridor offers safe passage for a variety of species from mountains to the lake. The creek side forest offers habitat for birds and cougar sightings are common. Bear prints are found on the creek bank and the corridor is a hot spot for bats, including the at-risk little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus). Riparian wetlands flank the creek and nourish ferns and Devils club (Oplopanax horridus). Big firs and cedars shade deep pools and gravel bars where Coho salmon spawn.
Protection of Community Drinking Water: Perseverance Creek is a tributary to Comox Lake, the source of drinking water for over 50,000 Comox Valley residents. The creek has also been the source of turbidity events that have resulted in boil water advisories. The protection of creekside riparian forests, and the future enhancement and restoration efforts along the creek are important for protecting water quality and ensuring the long term sustainability of new drinking water treatment facilities.
Fish Habitat Protection and Restoration: Lower Perseverance Creek has been a study area for a Fish Habitat 1 and Proper Functioning Condition Assessment. Both studies indicated that protection, engagement, and restoration efforts in this corridor hold great potential to support future fish populations. *This past summer the Perseverance Stream keepers rescued over 3000 smolts from the drying pool of the upper creek and relocated them to the lower reaches.* The protection of this forest will set the stage for this work and remove the lands from the harvest cycle. The Creek provides habitat for Sculpin, Cutthroat Trout, Dolly Varden Char, and Coho Salmon (https://maps.gov.bc.ca/ess/hm/habwiz/).
Education: The accessibility of the corridor makes it an excellent location for education and interpretive activities for schools, daycares, and others. The area offers opportunities to learn how riparian and wetland forest ecosystem’s function and the biodiversity they support. The Wellington Colliery Trail (the old train line) runs through the centre and offers a defined walking path from which to view the forest. The restoration and engagement projects proposed are accessible for volunteer groups and observers
Heritage Conservation: The area is a significant heritage corridor where the Wellington Colliery Rail Line reaches the site of the historic #4 Coal Mine at Comox Lake. The area helps to tell the story of Cumberland’s coal mining and logging history.
Landscape and Recreation Connectivity: The protection of this area links Cumberland Community Forest Park, Coal Creek Historic Park, the Wellington Colliery Rail line, and protected areas at Comox Lake into a connected corridor of protected lands. This stitching together of the landscapes reconnects ecological, hydrological, historic, and recreational values for the benefit of nature and community.
Your support is needed to help protect this critical corridor. Visit www.cumberlandforest.com/protect/