- Is a regional conservation plan that was initiated to protect the natural areas of the Comox Valley which are needed to maintain ecological health and quality of life.
- Aims to identify, maintain, protect and restore our natural areas which are treasured by Comox Valley residents & visitors alike.
- Is based on information from the report: Nature Without Borders, which was updated in 2013. The report is available to read or download and includes detailed maps of the natural areas network in the Comox Valley.
Implementing the Conservation Strategy will require wise land use to be practiced by local government, businesses and residents alike.
THE BAD NEWS: A detailed analysis of lands in the Comox Valley found that between 1991 and 2002 the Comox Valley experienced a dramatic loss and fragmentation of sensitive ecosystems. During that time, the provincial Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory shows that 42% or 2700 hectares of rare and threatened sensitive ecosystem lands were lost, fragmented or reduced. And that 97% or almost 9300 hectares of highly valuable second growth forests and seasonally flooded agricultural lands were fragmented or reduced in the same period.
THE GOOD NEWS: The CVCS has a plan to stop the loss of priority conservation areas through protection, restoration and in preparation for continued changes in population growth and climate change. We have 9 Priority Recommendations which guide our activities; as well as developing tools to assist these activities. We have recently embarked on updating the Provincial Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory database for the Comox Valley – the first time this has been done in BC! Stay tuned for the results of this analysis.
Watch one of our Presentations on Ecosystem Losses, Biodiversity Basics or Connecting Communities Naturally.
Why do we need a Strategy?
The Regional Growth Strategy anticipates that the Comox Valley will grow to over 84,000 residents by 2030, and that doesn’t include part-time residents.
What will that mean for us? That we are a community under construction!
With 4 local and 1 tribal governments, we need a REGIONAL and PROACTIVE approach to the protection of natural systems and biodiversity which support healthy living.
The Conservation Strategy provides a plan that balances growth and development with conservation concerns through land-use initiatives.
The plan uses the guiding principals of precaution, which is the idea that it is better to prevent harm from happening the first place, than to try to remediate and compensate after damage has been done. It is something that we all do naturally for ourselves and our families, so why not do it for the community we live in?
The Strategy shows that with careful management and planning, the Comox Valley can continue to grow and provide the resources needed for many generations to come.
PRIORITY CONSERVATION AREAS:
Through a compilation of conservation inventories, plans and reports, and advice from local biologists, planners, and provincial and federal environment staff; a network of natural areas have been identified which are considered to be most critical to the long-term health of the community. These areas are summarized below:
Sensitive Ecosystems is a term defined by the Ministry of Environment and include:
- Old growth forests
- Garry Oak woodlands
- Rocky Outcrops
- Coastal Dunes
- Seasonally flooded agricultural fields
Sensitive Ecosystems support biodiversity and provide often unseen benefits to us; to our families and our communities. These ecosystems arehome to native plant communities and rare species – they are increasingly rare and fragile.
Garry Oaks Woodlands are an example of one of the Sensitive Ecosystems in the valley. Once common, Garry oak and associated ecosystems are now among the most endangered in Canada — less than 5% of the original habitat remains in a near-natural condition.
These Garry Oak and associated ecosystems support the highest plant diversity of any terrestrial ecosystem complex in coastal British Columbia.
Historic information from the Comox Valley shows there was once 592 hectares of Garry Oak ecosystems.
And in 2003 there were only 18 hectares remaining, a 97% reduction!!
If we lose what is remaining…. We could lose popular tourist destinations, culturally significant First Nation sites, natural fire breaks (as they are low risk for high intensity fires), not to mention the medicinal value of many plants that are found in Garry Oak ecosystems.
Every resident of the Comox Valley get their drinking water from a watershed, with roughly 45,000 residents in the CVRD depending directly on the Comox Lake watershed for their drinking water.
Drinking water is essential for human health.
Our drinking water sources come from:
- lakes and streams
- aquifers and springs
By maintaining the natural function of our watersheds, all residents are assured safe, clean, drinking water.
Upland Habitat Corridors
Upland Habitat Corridors are part of conceptual Biodiversity Corridors.
They include Terrestrial Ecosystems (forests, woodlands, cliffs and rocky outcrops) and Restoration Areas, which are disturbed areas restored over time for connectivity
These corridors would connect core habitat areas and allow “natural areas” to be incorporated and connected throughout our landscape.
Corridors increase the ecological value of isolated and fragmented areas, providing safe migration routes for both large mammals and smaller species.
– They are essential to the long-term survival and sustainability of biological diversity.
Aquatic Habitat Corridors
Aquatic Habitat Corridors are also part of conceptual Biodiversity Corridors.
These water resources are our lakes, estuaries, ponds, streams, aquifers and springs.
The Courtenay estuary is second in importance for wildlife and biodiversity, only to the mighty Fraser River estuary. Fresh water is a vital resource that needs careful and long-term stewardship.
They are home to 7 species of salmon, an array of shellfish, resident and migratory birds, to name a few.
Aquatic and Riparian Ecosystems:
• are highly productive
• stabilize shorelines and control floods
• purify water and recycle nutrient
• provide shelter, food, and safe passage for wildlife
Our water resources, like those creeks that run through urbanized land, need protection and enhancement if we want to see them functioning at their full potential.
Priority Recreation Trails
Priority Recreation trails have been identified in the Strategy, as they can provide increased access to our natural areas.
Expanded and improved paths would link the Comox Valley together and would become the backbone of a region-wide network for walking, cycling and other non-motorized use.