Community Papers

Forest Society eyes additonal land

The Comox Valley has a rich legacy of conservation.

It is integral to the Valley’s character and the direct result of the amazing work of groups like the Comox Valley Land Trust, MacDonald Wood Society and others.

This rich tradition is alive and well in the hills above the Comox Valley where the Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS) has is working to acquire an additional 50 hectares of forest scheduled to be logged in 2016. The CCFS began to purchase privately owned forest back in 2000, raising over $1.2 million and purchasing over 71 hectares so far.

The CCFS kicked off their campaign last summer and things have not slowed down. In fact, they're gaining momentum with sold out fundraising events and major Valley-wide initiatives coming up over the next six months.

"We have doubled our monthly donor revenue in the past six months from $3500/month to over $7000 as of March 16," says CCFS co-ordinator Meaghan Cursons. "This is unparalleled fundraising activity and it was been the work of an incredible community of volunteers. These folks don't seem to be slowing down any time soon!"

It might be tempting to relegate the work of the CCFS as a project “for Cumberland and by Cumberland.’ But the work of this small but mighty society has implications for the entire Comox Valley.

The Cumberland forest is part of a network of natural spaces identified in the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy as integral to the health of our community. It has immense ecological, social and cultural value for the Valley as a whole.

Not only is the forest an integral part of our shared watershed flowing into Comox Lake and the Trent River, it is also home to blue-risk species, unique flora and fauna and is part of an important wildlife corridor between Comox Lake and Baynes Sound. It is home to lush, mature, second-growth closed canopy forest that is part of a global network of forests critical to our efforts to bring our global environment into balance.

The Cumberland Forest is enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year who come to the area for recreation and relaxation.

Beautiful hiking paths and renowned mountain biking trails zigzag through a thriving ecosystem. National and international calibre sporting events take place in this forest and bring important economic activity to Cumberland and beyond.

This forest provides a beautiful green backdrop to a community that actually defines itself by its proximity to nature, enjoyed by an eclectic mix of school groups, runners and cyclists, naturalists, photographers, videographers, families, heritage buffs, geo-cachers and others. A recent video about the project, produced by Fox&Bee, beautifully illustrates the diversity of the forest users.

“These trees are worth a lot more to our community standing than cut. It’s not about opposition to logging, it’s about positive action to protect a shared community resource,” says CCFS Chair Andrew Nicoll.

All of the forests surrounding Cumberland are privately owned as part of the legacy of the E&N Land Transfer in the late 1800s that saw over two million acres of land along the eastern side of Vancouver Island transfer into private hands in exchange for building a railway.

“We’re creating a new ‘community commons,’ ” says Cursons. “We’re rewriting the map of our community and helping to create a network of protected spaces that will have an impact on the Valley in years to come.”

The CCFS has a significant two-year community fundraising campaign underway and the response has been incredible from the Village, the Comox Valley and as far away as Germany and Australia. But the CCFS is very clear that the momentum must continue.

“This campaign requires sustained effort and creativity from our community. Although we've doubled our monthly income since last summer, our big goal is still to get to $10,000/month before June 30. This is by far the best way to support this campaign right now,” says Nicoll.

"Community support through our monthly donor program is huge leverage in our funding requests. It is a powerful expression of a shared commitment to protecting the Cumberland Forest,” says Cursons.

To find out more about the Cumberland Community Forest Society, coming events, fundraising updates and more, check out their website at cumberlandforest.com.

— Cumberland Community Forest Society

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