A Very Fishy Tale

By Pamela Walker

I didn’t believe him when he said the fish could sing. I didn’t believe him when he said, in fact, that they could sing so loudly I should be able to hear them on land. That maybe I had heard them, but had mistaken their song for a generator, or some kind of weird engine. 

I didn’t believe him when he said the fish had marks that were actually lights, and that these lights were so bright they could be seen at depths below 400 meters, which is where the fish live most of the time. Except when they mate in the intertidal zone. 

Continue reading “A Very Fishy Tale”

Twelve Ways to Write a Great Blog for the Yellow Point Ecological Society

The Yellow Point Ecological Society is starting a regular biweekly blog.

Would you like to try your hand at writing?

by Guy Dauncey

  1. Choose a topic that is specific and tangible, such as the nuthatch, twinflowers, Roberts Memorial Park, a specific idea to solve one of our ten thousand ecological problems, or a personal experience. Make it sound intriguing, such as “The Secret Life of the Merganser” or “My Magical Moments in Hemer Park.”
  2. Limit your blog to around 750 words.
  3. Do your research, to include material that will be new and interesting to most people. Did you know that Midshipman Fish could sing, and that they breed in Ladysmith Harbour? Google your way to instant professorship. 
  4. Find an unusual hook to get the reader started. “We were amazed to hear not one but four barred owls calling to each other when we took the children for a night walk at Blue Heron Park a week ago.” 
  5. Understand that it is normal to write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite four times before you get it right. All the best writers do it. Leo Tolstoy rewrote War and Peace (587,000 words) seven times, requiring his long-suffering wife Sofia to do the actual rewriting – by hand. 
  6. Avoid socio-consequential prosaic formulations that use long words and complex ideo-formulaic constructions. You are not writing an academic PhD.
  7. Have fun. Be playful with your words and phrases. Let them dance and enjoy themselves – oh, you outrageous rollocking racoons!
  8. Tell a story. “I was in my bedroom when my father rushed in and shouted ‘Come down! You’ve got to see this!’. I was eight years old, always willing to be excited, but never had I expected to see our dog with our kitten sleeping on his head. It was the start of a life-long devotion to the study of animal behaviour.”
  9. Use links. You can embed one into the text by using control K to highlight a word or phrase and Control C then V to copy and paste the link in. Two, perhaps even five is fine, but not twenty. That’s a bit much.
  10. Print a copy and read it aloud. This will tell you whether it flows along like a pleasant piece of music or clunks along like a reluctant blog that needs a trip to the repair shop. You could also ask a friend to read it before you send it off. You never know – they may think it’s great!
  11. Don’t be shy to use spelchek. Don’t Use Capitals except for unique names. You wanted so desperately to visit a park you’d never been to before, so you settled on Eve’s Park.  
  12. Choose an image to accompany your story. To be clear about copyright, use Google Image search, click ‘Tools’, then  ‘Usage rights’, then ‘Labelled for reuse’. If you want to be creative, drag the image into a Powerpoint page and play around with it to make something creative. Then use Grab or a screen-capture app to turn your new image into a jpeg. 

We look forward to receiving your first submission. Please send it to

Yes, even you, who is currently thinking “I could never write a blog!”

Every blog will be posted to our YES Facebook page, and the best will find a hallowed place on our website.


The YES Nature Photo Contest

Calling all photographers! We are seeking your photos of nature in Cedar and Yellow Point, Vancouver Island, so that we may share the beauty and ecology of our region. 

For the purposes of the contest, photos must be taken in the area from Elliot Beach Park in the south to Jack Point in the north, and from the ocean in the east to the highway in the west. 

The YES Nature Photo Contest is open to all Canadian residents. You must be the author of the pictures you submit. There is no limit to how many photos you submit. There is an entrance fee of $5 per photo. 

The contest lasts all year, to enable you to capture nature in every season. It ends at midnight on January 1st, 2021. We encourage earlier submissions, to reduce a last-minute rush. 

The First Prize is $250. If we receive more than $250 in entry fees, we will distribute half the money as 2nd and 3rd prizes. The winners will be selected by a Jury, whose decisions will be final. The winners will be announced in a blaze of publicity in local media, the YES Newsletter and Facebook and Instagram during January 2021, and we will exhibit the winning photos in a local restaurant or café.

How to submit:

Submit your photo(s) to with the subject line YES Nature Photo Contest. They must be high-resolution JPG format with high quality compression. Label each photo with the same word of your choosing (not your name) and a number, eg Marmalade01.jpg, Marmalade02.jpg.

To enable the judging to be impartial, photos must not show any identifying information. In your email, please include the following details:

  1. Your name.
  2. Your age. If you prefer to be vague, that’s okay. Our purpose is to identify young photographers.
  3. Your address.
  4. The location where each photo was taken, and any descriptive detail you care to add.
  5. $5 per entry. Payment can be by: 
  6. Cheque or cash to Yellow Point Ecological Society, 13561 Barney Road, Ladysmith V9G 1E9
  7. E-transfer to
  8. PayPal to


  • All submitted photos must be original, of your own making. 
  • You retain ownership and copyright of your photos.
  • You give YES permission to display photos you enter on our website, and to display the winning photos in a public place, with your credit.
  • Photos that contain objectionable or inappropriate content are not acceptable, as determined by YES in its sole discretion.
  • If content is shot with a drone, it must be in an area that allows drones and have been captured with the proper permissions and licenses.
  • By submitting a photo to the YES Nature Photo Contest, you agree that you have read these conditions, and agree with them.

Happy Clicking!


Some Suggested Changes to the Forest and Range Practices Act

Forest Practices Act

The BC Ministry of Forests is asking for our thoughts on how they should reform the Forest and Range Practices Act, with a deadline of Monday July 15th for comments.

To help in your considerations these are our suggested changes, drawing on thoughts from the Sierra Club, the Ancient Forests Alliance, the Forest Practices Board, and others.

Because we live in a democracy:

Continue reading “Some Suggested Changes to the Forest and Range Practices Act”


An Opportunity to Build Homes in the Forest – with UPDATE

21 Acres Lane


This parcel of land has been sold in a way that makes us very happy. A German couple who have roots on the Island have bought the 21 Acres for the sole purpose of preserving the forest, and creating a partnership with Wildwood to practice ecoforestry on the land..

There’s a 21-acre parcel of forested land on the market in Yellow Point, at the end of Roper Road. Yellow Point is a jewel of a rural area that’s like a Gulf Island without the ferries, 20 minutes north of Ladysmith, 25 minutes south of Nanaimo.

The land has not been logged for years, and fifty years ago it was managed by Merv Wilkinson, of Wildwood fame. As Yellow Point residents, we would love to welcome new people to the area who share our appreciation and respect for the forest.



CVRD Area H Local Election, 2018

Our congratulations to Mary Marcotte,

on winning the election!


Our local election is this Saturday, October 20th. Who should you vote for in CVRD Area H? We assembled a Candidates’ Questionnaire on matters that concern us. Here are the candidates’ responses. Continue reading “CVRD Area H Local Election, 2018”


RDN Area A Local Election, 2018

Our congratulations to Keith Wilson,

on winning the election!

RDN Area A

Our local election is this Saturday, October 20th. Who should you vote for in Regional District of Nanaimo Area A? We have assembled a Candidates’ Questionnaire on matters that concern us. Here are the candidates’ responses.  Continue reading “RDN Area A Local Election, 2018”


Protecting the Coastal Douglas Fir Forest: Seven Practical Solutions


It cools us in the summer, it warms our hearts all year,

It provides a home for owls and flowers, for herons, cedars, fir.

It shapes the landscape, painting peace, away from the urban rush,

It protects our water all year round, surrendering it clear and fresh.

In Japanese, the word shinrin means forest and yoku means bath, so shinrin-yoku means ‘forest bath’: being immersed in the forest with all our senses. Listening to its quietness, seeing the variety of trees, mosses, lichens and rocks, tasting the air as you breathe in deeply, touching the rough Douglas fir and the smooth red arbutus, going barefoot across the earth, dipping your feet in a forest stream, lying down to gaze up at its beauty. Such bathing brings healing to the body, heart, mind and soul.

Quite Distressing

Continue reading “Protecting the Coastal Douglas Fir Forest: Seven Practical Solutions”


Poetry in the Forest

PoetryThese are the poems that we shared in the forest on a wonderful May morning full of wildflowers. Enjoy!

At Blackwater Pond

by Mary Oliver, a poet from Ohio, aged 82

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands.
I drink a long time.
It tastes like stone, leaves, fire.
It falls cold into my body, waking the bones.
I hear them deep inside me, whispering …
Oh what is that beautiful thing that just happened?


That Patch of Wilderness

by Lacey Clark, a young woman who lives in a tiny home the Cowichan Valley

We are like that patch of wilderness
Though the streets are paved with concrete
I see the vibrant bursts of life push their way through the cracks
with unfaltering determination
Bold in their blatant disregard
At mans attempt to cover their wildness
Though I may shade my softness with downturned lashes
I too
Yearn to push through the cracks of my lids
To share the light of my sameness
To be recognized from under the concrete
Of my expression
As the brambles of the blackberry
I too
Can yield a thorny exterior
Vines of prickles may climb my words
An attempt to protect the sweet fruit that is
May the birds of truth steal the seeds
of my longing and spread them far
That I may grow
Over the earth
I see you, the wilderness
Breathing deep under the city
Your time of hibernation almost up
I feel your listlessness.
Deep in my bones

Prayer of the Woods

By Veiga Simoes, a Portuguese writer, journalist, politician, diplomat and historian. While he was the Portuguese ambassador in Berlin, he signed visas that saved many Jews in World War II. This poem was written in May, 1914.

I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights,
the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun,
and my fruits are refreshing draughts quenching your thirst as you journey on.

I am the beam that holds your house,
the board of your table, the bed on which you lie,
and the timber that builds your boat.

I am the handle of your hoe,
the door of your homestead,
the wood of your cradle,
and the shell of your coffin.

I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.
Ye who pass by, listen to my prayer:
Harm me not.

My Heart Soars

by Chief Dan George, past chief of the Tsleil-Waututh (slay-wah-tooth) First Nation, an actor, poet and author.

The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass, speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me.

The strength of the fire, the taste of salmon, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away, they speak to me.

And my heart soars.


By Alfred Joyce Kilmer, American poet. He wrote this poem in 1913; he was killed by a sniper’s bullet in July 1918, while serving in World War One, at the age of 31.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Something About A Forest

By Sophia White, 18 years old; she lives in the Appalachian Mountains in America

There’s just something about a forest
That makes the turbulent soul fall still
And listen to the mournful dirge
Of the solemn whipporwhill.

There’s just something about a forest
That makes closed eyes want to look
At the rippling, tippling kaleidescope
Of the steady-flowing brook.

There’s just something about a forest
Than makes the angry gazes see
The regal and majestic might
Ot the ancient maple tree.

There’s just something about a forest
That makes the most stubborn will learn
To praise the bashful beauty
Of the pale green, newborn fern.

There’s just something about a forest
That awakens weary souls
With the fresh rejuvenation
That only a forest holds.

The Cedar and Fir Tree Lovers

by Ray Lucero, an American poet

During a spring day walk through a primeval rain forest,
We encountered on a steep hillside two old growth trees,
One a Western Red Cedar the other a Douglas Fir.
Incredibly the two giants seemed joined together near ground level.
How could this be?
After all they were of two different species!

Our minds quickly filled with possibilities;
Were they just fused for mutual support?
Were they some kind of cross breed,
If so could they propagate?

We concluded that they were married.
“For better or worse, in sickness or in health”
Unheard wedding vows save for their tall fellows,
Standing silent witness.

We imagined their roots beneath ground,
Forever entwined in lifelong bliss.

We pondered what might happen when age and disease,
Toppled one of these magnificent lovers?
Would the other grieve?
Would the surviving lover stand witness…
As flora and fauna lay claim to the bountiful offering,
Of the fallen giant sacrificed to them?

Would the surviving lover wither and die or choose life?

We then realized that diversity, cooperation, and love are
Earthly traits celebrated by all living plants and animals.

We left the forest in awe and inspired by,
“The Cedar and Fir Tree Lovers”

How Can It Be Time?

By Doug Makaroff, an urban planner and developer who lives in Victoria. Doug founded the Elkington Living Forest Community, a forest ecological hamlet south of Shawnigan Lake, which saved 800 acres of forest by the use of residential clustering on 15% of the land.

How can it be time
for the acorns to bud already?
The summer’s only just begun
and not weeks since the precious
pale leaves of May emerged.
But now the next generation appears
small firm green expressions of fertility
held sunward by dappled waxen leaves
hardening against a backdrop of grizzled bark.
The grass beneath the trees
withers but is not dead.
The camas flower too will see another season.
This landscape unfolds in so many
stages of birth, life, decay, death combined.
Oh, that my heart could grasp and hold the
mystery of the self-addressed envelope of LIFE.

One final paragraph of advice

By Edward Abbey, an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues, his criticism of public land policies, and his anarchist political views. His best-known works include the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which has been cited as an inspiration by many environmental groups.

One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out.
Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast, a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic.
Save the other half for yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure.

It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.

While you can.

While it’s still here.

So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizzly, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breath deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely mysterious and awesome space.

Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators.

I promise you this: you will out live the bastards.


We Heard No Owls

By Richard Arnold, an English prof at VIU, a great environmentalist and a fabulous man who died last year. He led many hikes up Mount Benson for the VIU community. Rachel Cooper, one of our Yellow Point Ecological Society members, says that this poem about the owls became real for her after Wyndlow’s logged 40 acres at the end of Doole Rd.

We did not hear a single owl this winter.
Our neighbor logged his hundred acres clean,
And now deep midnight wild has lost its splendor.

He claims that he’ll make pastureland to rent, or
Turn into trenches sprouting soybeans:
And we heard not a single owl this winter.

Trees gone, the man is not afraid to enter
Where once he heard weird cries and sweeping wings–
The place where midnight wild has lost its splendor.

Always the Great Horned whooped beyond our window,
Bass rhythmic mutters in our December dreams–
But we heard not a single owl this winter.

What fiend would scorch a gorgeous wood to cinders?
Quiet snows bereft of feathered hunters mean
That our deep midnight wild has lost its splendor.

He goes to church, yet God knows he’s a sinner;
The stars frown down on this diminished scene;
We did not hear a single owl this winter,
And now deep midnight wild has lost its splendor.


A Wolf in the Choir

by Richard Arnold

Although essentially I hated school,
I had one brilliant outlaw for a teacher.
“When it comes to truth, I’m lazy,” he used to say.
“I find it in close-by, ordinary things.”

The Literature he showed us was thunderclouds
Swollen like dark cheeks with a prodigious message
In the fearful moments of silence before they open
With tongues of fire to teach the listening earth.

In Economics he taught us the constant debit
Of forests and rivers, the credit of concrete and greenhouse.

Religion we learned by standing in April rain,
Hats off, in silence, seeing it soak the ground.

Politics, he claimed, would quickly go extinct
If we all simply heard the steady song
Our reason sang, then tuned our living to it.

In Music, he’d talk about the genius of Bach-
But weep for joy when he heard the evening grosbeak.

Our Sociology was dropping to hands and knees
On beaches to watch the yellow sand-verbena
Fling its fragrance of sex to pollinators.

The years passed on. At last we graduated.
We packed the hall, and our commencement speaker
Talked stagnantly about how noble Science
Was waiting for us to run its budgets of billions
And ride in rockets to learn the universe.

But afterward, shaking his head, our teacher took us
Aside and quietly gave us our last lesson.

“Science? The universe?
Ride a fifty-cent bus to the creek and study the eyes
Of a wolf-spider preparing to launch on a cricket.”

Then sidled away, hunch-shouldered, almost arachnoid,
Leaving us (our first moult finished) with fledgling fangs
To pierce and suck the truth in uncouth ways.

A Yellow Point Trail


The community response to the Yellow Bikes, the article in Take 5 Magazine, and on the Cedar and Yellow Point Facebook groups has been very positive. 90% of the comments on Facebook are either enthusiastically supportive, or supportive as long is taxes are not raised to pay for a trail.

We have a strong committee guiding our way forward. Thanks to everyone who is helping!

On September 15th we presented to the RDN Board, where we received a very positive response. A Notice of Motion was proposed that the RDN name one person to join the Joint Management Committee, and offer its support for the project. This will be voted on at the next RDN Board Meeting on October 27th

On September 15th we presented to the CVRD Electoral Area Services Committee, where we received a similarly positive response, referring our request to the CVRD Board on October 14th. This is the slide deck that we presented:

Our Vision

We have a vision of safe, healthy, sustainable travel and recreation in the Yellow Point area – and everywhere.

We believe there is a strong need in Yellow Point for a safe separated trail that could be used by walkers, cyclists, mobility devices and, in some areas, horse riders.

Practically, there may need to be a combination of trail designs to suit local conditions and the cost of building, with a separated trail in some areas and a widened shoulder in others. The trail’s development could also be phased to address areas of higher need first. 

The Proposed Route

We propose a 22 kilometres multi-use trail connecting local parks, schools, businesses, markets and community centres, in a circular route around Yellow Point and Cedar roads, with 10 km of connectors: 

(a) from the Chuckwagon to the Highway 1 / Cedar Rd S. Park and Ride and to Nanaimo airport/bus stop

(b) From Cedar Road N. to Macmillan Road, on the way to the Duke Point Ferry.

The Tofino-Ucluelet Trail

Local Connections

The trail would connect users to nine parks, including Hemer, Roberts Memorial, Yellow Point Park, Wildwood Ecoforest, and the Ladysmith Bog Ecological Reserve, and to:

  • Farms, farm stands, agricultural recreation, McNab’s corn maze
  • Schools – Cedar Elementary and Secondary, North Oyster and Woobank
  • The softball fields in Cedar
  • Churches –  Cedar United and St Phillip’s Anglican
  • Cedar and North Oyster community centres
  • Businesses, stores and markets, including 49th Parallel Grocers and Friesen’s
  • Resorts and campsites, including Yellow Point Lodge, Zuiderzee, Inn on the Sea
  • Pubs, Cafes and Restaurants, including the Crow and Gate, Coco Café, Slice Resto, the Mahle House, the Wheatsheaf and the Cranberry Arms.
Lake Minnetonka Regional Park Trail, Minnesota

Where Should the Trail Go?

The path would be built within the existing Right of Way (ROW), on land that is owned by the province. The roads along the proposed route are typically 6 metres wide on a 20 metres ROW, allowing 7 metres of space on either side for a trail. In some areas, the property lines are wonky, so the layout may need to vary.

In many places the roads are unsafe for non-car users, with blind hills, blind bends, narrow shoulders, and some drivers who are just going TOO FAST!

Cedar Rd has a fog line and narrow paved shoulder, but Yellow Point Road is mostly without a paved shoulder and is probably more dangerous.

Potential Path Users

  • Our kids walking to school
  • Cyclists commuting, exercising and volunteering and touring
  • Neighbours visiting
  • Dogwalkers going to the parks
  • Horseriders
  • Businesses and community services – bike repair, coffee shops, farm stalls, softball players
  • And so much more
A trail on Salt Spring

Future Potential Connections

In the long run, the train could connect to other present and future multi-use trails:

East Bay Bike Path, Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Gathering Support

We are gathering letters of support, seeking community support, and consulting people who have experience planning paths, including:

  • Other communities that are building trails: Salt Spring, Gabriola, Mill Bay, Central Okanagan
  • BC Cycling Coalition (YES is a member)
  • Transport consultants

What’s Next?

We need to:

  • Demonstrate sufficient local support for the project 
  • Engage key stakeholders including MOTi, CVRD and RDN to plan the project
  • Form a broader committee and a RDN Area A/CVRD Area H partnership, to advance the project,
  • Obtain funding for an initial Feasibility Study
  • Complete the various project stages, including
    • Planning and conceptual design 
    • Preliminary design
    • Detailed design
    • Tender and construction
  • Timeline could be from 2 to 10 years

What Should We Call It?

We are using ‘The Yellow Point Trail’, but it could equally well be

  • The Yellow Point Path
  • The Yellow Point Way
  • The Yellow Point Greenway
  • The Yellow Brick Road

Finding the Funding

We are looking for funds that are available for green infrastructure projects:  

  • BC Active Transportation Infrastructure Grant 
  • Gas tax 
  • COVID Community Infrastructure Grant
  • Other grants and donors

The Annual Bike vs. Bear Race

If you are interested to help, please contact Pamela Walker, 250-245-9155. If you’d like to share your thoughts, or make a comment, scroll down below to “Leave a Reply”. Thanks!

Wildflowers of Yellow Point

A wildflower may be defined as a flower that grows in the wild, not intentionally planted by humans. Included on this page are native, introduced, and invasive species of wildflowers that are found throughout the Yellow Point area. Please note that this is an ongoing project. Many (!) more ‘Wildflowers of Yellow Point’ will be added as time allows.

Also please note that although information regarding food and medicinal uses of plants is included for interest’s sake, the Yellow Point Ecological Society advises you to not ingest or otherwise use plants or their components without expert identification.

Fawn Lily – Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Erythronium oregonum

Status: Native plant

Description: The appearance of pairs of oblong, mottled leaves of the fawn lily is one of the first signs of spring in Yellow Point. The elegant white flowers, almost luminescent at night, arrive a short time later, usually in mid-late March. The white to pale yellow tepals (a term used when petals and sepals cannot be differentiated) curve upwards like the roof of a pagoda, exposing yellow anthers. Blossoms form in clusters of 1-3 per stem, with each flower measuring 2.5-5 cm across, on leafless stems up to 30 cm in height.

Habitat/Uses: Preferring fairly low elevations, the fawn lily naturally occurs in moist to dry grasslands and woodlands. It can be found in deep shade, but is generally found in sunny or partly shaded areas. Although it thrives in well-drained acidic soil rich in organic matter, it has been found in less favourable environments, including rocky areas. Its pollinators include bumblebees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and moths. Erythronium species can be grown in containers from seeds, which can be sown immediately if conditions are dry, or in late summer. They take up to five years to flower, so planting for a native flower garden is considered a long term project. Bulb division is possible but not recommended.

Did you know? Pink fawn lilies are a separate species (Erythronium revolutum), and are occasionally seen in Yellow Point.

Erythronium revolutum

Shooting Star – Primrose Family (Primulaceae)

Dodecatheon hendersonii

Status: Native plant

Description: One of the first flowers to emerge in the spring, these intensely purple-pink (and occasionally white) flowers resemble a thrown dart. Clusters of petals arching out from a bright yellow base and a brown flower tube give the shooting star its appropriate moniker. February-March brings the soft green, thick, spoon-shaped leaves first on the forest floor, followed by the intriguing flowers on long thin, leafless stalks in April-May. Height at maturity is up to approximately 30cm, but usually less in Yellow Point.

Habitat/Uses: Found at low to mid-elevations, these delicate plants can be found in grasslands and woodlands, and at forest edges. They prefer dry soil, and can be found in full sun and partial shade. Shooting stars evolved to attract certain species of solitary bees as well as bumblebees, who collect their pollen for their young. As shooting stars are a native species, they can be cultivated in native plant gardens, but it can take years to form a colony. Collect seeds in late spring, and plant in fall or early spring. Alternatively, bulblets can be divided very carefully and transplanted after flowering.

Did You Know? Successful pollination of shooting stars requires insects who are able to hang from below the flower and vibrate their wing muscles without moving their wings.  This mode of pollination, called sonication or buzz pollination, vibrates the flower, thereby shaking the pollen loose .  Here’s more on buzz pollination:

Common Camas – Asparagus Family (Asparagaceae)

Camassia quamash

Status: Native plant

Description: Also known as small camas or blue camas, this gorgeous native perennial with edible bulbs is characterized by dark blue or violet star-shaped flowers, adorned with six slender tepals, a green centre, and bright yellow stamens. Arising from grass-like leaves and found on stout stems, multiple flowers open sequentially from bottom to top, and can reach heights of 60cm. Blooms begin in late spring and can last into early summer.

Habitat/Uses: Camas plants are relatively common in fragile Garry oak meadows. The meadow in Yellow Point Park that faces Yellow Point Road is a typical Garry oak meadow; camas flowers are found there in abundance in the spring. Camas are also found growing on rocky outcrops, in coastal mountain forests, and in marshy meadows inland. They grow in full sun to part shade in fertile, moist, well-drained soils, tolerating drier conditions as the plants become dormant in the summer. Plants are easy to grow from seed, and are deer- and rodent-resistant.

Historically, camas bulbs were an important carbohydrate food source for First Nations. According to “The camas harvest and pit cook” on, First Nations family groups traditionally ‘owned’ their own camas harvesting areas. Larger bulbs, which are similar in taste to potatoes, “were encouraged by using a pointed digging stick to loosen the soil and the use of selective harvesting.” According to the above website, only five percent of First Nations’ traditional camas harvesting lands are in the same state now as they were before European contact.

Death Camas – Bunchflower Family (Melanthiaceae)

Zigadenus venenosus

Status: Native plant

Description: Similar in morphological appearance to the common camas but yellow or white in colour, death camas bloom at the same time as common camas but are generally easy to distinguish from them when in bloom due to stark colour differences. Numerous 6-tepalled flowers arise from a single, unbranched stem, which can reach up to 70cm, but is generally much shorter in the Yellow Point area. Leaves are grass-like and V-shaped, 10-30cm long and 2-10mm wide. Bulbs, 1-4 cm in diameter, are similar to both edible common camas bulbs and wild onion bulbs, but contain several toxic alkaloids, including zygacine, a compound toxic to the nervous system. Because the entire plant contains toxins, it should not be handled. According to the US Forest Service, bulbs can remain toxic for at least 20 years.

Habitat/Cautions: Death camas can be found in a variety of habitats, including dry meadows, hillsides, forest edges, and open forests. It is found in terrains where common camas grow, including Garry oak meadows, and it is commonly found amongst patches of common camas. Interestingly, soil moisture appears to affect zygacine levels: in one study, at 2 of 5 study sites, a 45% decrease in soil moisture was associated with a 40% increase in zygacine levels. Because of its toxicity, the only known bee that can tolerate its toxins is the specialist mining bee, Andrena astragali. It is extremely toxic to animals, especially sheep, with consumption of 2-6% of the body weight of the animal likely to be fatal. Humans have been poisoned after ingesting bulbs, and children have been poisoned after ingesting flowers and flower buds.

Monkey Flower – Lopseed Family (Phrymaceae)

Mimulus guttatus

Status: Native plant

Description: The dainty, intensely yellow monkey flower is an herbaceous perennial that blooms in Yellow Point in early to late spring, and continues into early summer. Blossoms, 1-4 cm in length, form clusters at the tops of stems, which can reach 10cm. Each flower is a bright yellow funnel of five fused petals – two at the top, three at the bottom. The throat of the flower has bright maroon spots and can be quite hairy. Oppositely arranged oval leaves, 1-10cm in length, are generally yellowish-green. Margins are marked with large irregular teeth.

Habitat/Uses: Found from sea level to mid-elevations and preferring average to moist conditions, the monkey flower is found in wet open sites, including seepage areas, meadows, streambanks, springs, and ditches. Its preference is sun to part shade; it is not particular as to soil or pH. A good choice for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, it can be used in native gardens as border edging, ground cover, mass planting, and in wet rocky/alpine terrain. It is self-seeding, and can also be propagated by division.

Did you know? The maroon markings in the throat of the flower are a dominant trait, controlled by a single gene. The expression of the gene is temperature dependent.

Seablush – Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae)

Plectritis congesta

Status: Native plant

Description: A self-seeding annual herb appearing in early spring and lasting into early July, seablush flowers appear as swaths of small pink pom-poms that brighten often overcast and rainy spring days. Slender stems bear widely oval leaves, with rounded or pointed tips. Plants can reach a height of 60cm in some locales, but in Yellow Point the tallest plant would likely be in the range of 15-20cm. The flower head bears many tubular flowers, each with an upper and lower lobed lip. Three stamens tipped with purple anthers carry yellow pollen.

Habitat/Uses: A hardy plant, sea blush is found in various habitats, from damp grassy meadows near the ocean to dry rocky soils inland. Preferring sun (but tolerating shade), and often found in Garry oak meadows, it can be found from sea level to mid-elevation. Although seablush releases an odour that might be considered by us to be unpleasant (and certainly not consistent with its pretty appearance), sea blush is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of native bee species and butterflies.

Calypso Orchid/Fairy Slipper – Orchid Family (Orchidaceae)

Calypso bulbosa

Status: Native plant

Description: One of the early flowers to grace Yellow Point in the spring, the fragrant perennial Calypso orchid consists of three pointed, usually pink sepals, and two usually pink petals, found above a large hanging slipper-like lip, usually white or light pink with rusty or maroon streaks and spots. A yellow area is found near the opening of the ‘slipper’, and is decorated with three ridges bearing yellow hairs. The single stem, 5-21 cm in height, emerges from a single dark green, oval basal leaf, 2.5-6 cm in width, which develops in the fall and lasts through the winter . Both the leaf and stem grow from a thick, short underground stem, called a corm. If the corm becomes detached, as can happen from picking or trampling the flower, the whole plant usually dies.

Habitat/Uses: Calypso orchids are commonly found in dry to moist mossy forest habitats, at low to mid elevations. They grow well on decaying vegetation, such as on rotting logs and stumps, and tend to favour sheltered areas. They prefer light to heavy shade, but can also grow in direct sun. They do not transplant well, as they likely rely on specific soil fungi to survive. Individual plants generally live a short time in nature, approximately five years, with vigor generally waning after the first few years. Corms were used as a food source by First Nations.

Did you know? The genus name is derived from the sea nymph Calypso (meaning ‘to conceal’), daughter of Atlas, of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’. Fairy slippers do not produce nectar. Instead, the similarity of the flower shape and smell to other nectar-producing flowers lures pollinators, resulting in collection and distribution of their pollen.

California Poppy – Poppy Family (Papaveraceae)

Eschscholzia californica

Status: Introduced plant

Description: Not native to BC (its native range only officially as far north as Oregon) but impossible to miss, this intensely orange fast-growing annual or delicate perennial poppy grows 15-45cm tall, often in bunches. Flowers, solitary on long stems, consist of four silky petals, 2-6cm long and wide. Petals close at night and in cold weather, and open in the morning, although they can remain closed in overcast conditions. Generally, blooms can be found from late May into autumn. The lacy blue-green leaves are alternately divided into round, lobed segments.

Habitat/Uses: Drought-tolerant and easy to grow in sandy, poor-to-average, well-drained soil, seeds germinate with rain and warmth in the spring. They can be found at low to mid-elevations. In our climate, poppies can survive several years via a fleshy taproot. Alternatively, when happy in their habitat, self-seeding is a common phenomenon. In landscaping, they can be used in container gardens, mixed beds, rock gardens, and xeriscapes. Deadheading spent flowers can encourage new blooms, but collecting seeds from seed pods affords spread of more beautiful colour in the garden. After the risk of frost is past, press the seeds lightly into the soil and water gently. Blue-green foliage appears after approximately two weeks, followed by the spectacular orange flowers. Deer and rabbit resistant (possibly because all parts of the plant are poisonous to mammals), these poppies attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Did you know? The California poppy became California’s official state flower in 1903.

Yarrow – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Achillea millefolium

Status: Native plant

Description: Appearing in June in Yellow Point, fragrant clusters of this flat-topped, perennial flower continue into late summer or early fall. Many white (and occasionally pinkish flowers) crowd into small flower heads; each small flower head in the cluster consists of three to eight tiny ray flowers with a strap-shaped petal. Feathery fern-like foliage is soft grey-green in colour, and aromatic. Plants can grow up to three feet wide, and three feet tall, but are generally much shorter and narrower in this area. It spreads by both seeds and rhizomes.

Habitat/Uses: Yarrow’s highly adaptable nature allows it to grow in wet to dry soil; in meadows, forests, rocky hillsides, and disturbed areas; and at all elevations. Found across the northern hemisphere, yarrow has been used in various medical remedies: its genus name Achillea comes from the mythical Greek hero Achilles, who reportedly carried it with his army to treat battle wounds. According to the Royal BC Museum, First Nations peoples value yarrow as a medicine to treat sores, aching muscles, and toothaches, and as a mosquito repellent. Yarrow’s bountiful floral display offers excellent forage for pollinators, and the foliage is a source of food and habitat to many species of butterfly and moth caterpillars. Yarrow is an excellent choice for xeriscapes, and can be grown from seed or transplanted from rhizome divisions.

Chocolate Lily – Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Fritillaria affinis

Status: Native plant

Description: A relatively rare flower to encounter in Yellow Point, the perennial chocolate lily can be difficult to find as its purple-brown flowers, speckled with green or yellow, can easily blend into the landscape. Blooms can be seen in March-April, and are broadly bell-shaped, with six similar, distinct oblong tepals, 2-4 cm long and 1-2 cm wide. A long, yellowish-green nectar gland is found on the inner surface, near the base, along with six stamens and one pistil. Flowers can be single or multiple (up to eight) at the end of a sturdy stalk which can grow to 60 cm, but usually much shorter in Yellow Point. Lance-like or egg-shaped leaves are found in one or two whorls of 3-5, measuring 5-10 cm long, 0.5-3 cm wide. Also called rice-root, the plant grows from white bulbs that produce bulblets that resemble grains of rice. These break off when the plant is disturbed, allowing propagation.

Habitat/Uses: Often found in Garry oak ecosystems, chocolate lilies prefer open woodlands, meadows, and coastal grasslands, but can be found in forests at low to subalpine elevations. They prefer sun but tolerate partial shade. Flowers are pollinated by flies, which are attracted by their somewhat offensive odour. These lilies are fairly easy to cultivate from bulb or seed for use in ornamental gardens, doing well in well-drained, humus-rich soil. They are deer and rabbit resistant. An important food source for centuries for Coast Salish communities (, TSALIQW, as it is called, was boiled or steamed for immediate consumption, or dried and stored for use through the winter months. Bulbs were also traded with other communities.

Broadleaf Stonecrop – Stonecrop Family (Crassulaceae)

Sedum spathulifolium

Status: Native plant

Description: Found on cliffs and sunny rock faces throughout Yellow Point, this perennial plant is rumoured to have been the source of Yellow Point’s name. Flowering from May to July, the plant appears typically succulent, with grey-green to dark-red plump rosettes (2-4 cm in diameter) consisting of approximately 15 spoon-shaped leaves. Rosettes give rise to a short (8-10 cm), erect inflorescence composed of many small, bright yellow, starry flowers containing 10 stamens and 5 pistils.

Habitat/Uses: Found at low to mid elevations, stonecrop prefers light, sandy, and loamy well-drained soils, and full sun; it will tolerate light shade. It is frequently found growing on rocks amid clumps of various species of mosses and liverworts. Since the plant needs very little care, it is an ideal plant for beginner gardeners. It is easily transplanted: simply remove a piece from an established plant and place on soil in the desired area, watering lightly to help establish roots. The plant is drought-tolerant, and deer- and rabbit-resistant. Medicinal uses of the leaves include treatment of constipation, gingivitis, and hemorrhoids. Juice from the leaves reportedly can staunch bleeding. First Nations people had several uses for the plant, from treating hemorrhoids and constipation to soothing infants.

Common Woolly Sunflower – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Eriophyllum lanatum

Status: Native plant

Description: Also known as Oregon Sunshine, the woolly sunflower is not a ‘real’ sunflower, but a fibrous-rooted perennial herb. The intensely yellow, daisy-like flowers, up to 5 cm in diameter, bloom from May to August. The flower is actually a flower head of numerous florets. Looking closely, one sees that the outside flowers have 1-2 cm oval petals, framing numerous inner florets. The silver-grey stems, bearing multiple silvery leaves, shoot upward from the ‘woolly’ base foliage. A mature, robust plant can reach 60 cm in height, but wild plants most often only reach a maximum height of far less.

Habitat/Uses: The woolly sunflower thrives in sunny and dry areas, and grows well in poor, rocky soils. It can be found in dry open areas, such as on bluffs and rocky slopes. Its preference is sun, but it is also found blooming in partial shade. The plant spreads gradually, and is very attractive to pollinators and other beneficial insects. It is used as an ornamental in native gardens, but can also be grown in pots. An added bonus is its resistance to deer.

Tapertip Onion/Hooker’s Onion – Lily Family (Liliaceae)

Allium acuminatum

Status: Native plant

Description: This striking, bulbous perennial is uncommon, but occasionally found in Yellow Point. Almost-white to deep pink flowers bloom, in groups of five to 40, on a firm, rounded stalk, 10-30 cm in height. This head of flowers, called an umbel, can reach up to 7.5cm in diameter. Each flower sits on a stalklet (‘pedicel’), with three sepals and three petals; anthers are yellow. Flowers can be found in June and July in Yellow Point. Leaves are long, with narrow, tapered tips which wither before the flowers appear.

Habitat/Uses: Preferential to sunny locations and sandy or loamy well-drained soil, this onion can be found on hills, and in grassy and rocky meadows, at low to mid elevations. It is extremely drought tolerant, making it a good choice for xeriscaping or rock gardens. First Nations valued this plant as a food source, along with other native onions found in the Pacific northwest, harvesting the light brown 1.5 cm bulb either in early spring or late fall and eating raw or cooking in pits. Flowers, leaves, and bulbous root are all edible, with a strong onion taste.

Pacific Bleeding Heart- Fumitory Family (Fumariaceae)

Dicentra formosa

Status: Native plant

Description: A beautiful and delicate perennial plant with small, puffy, pink, heart-shaped flowers, the Pacific bleeding heart can be found blooming in Yellow Point in May and June. The genus name Dicentra refers to the two nectar-bearing flowers with four petals each, which create a sac with spurs on the end. Bluish-green leaves are deeply cut, lacy, and fern-like. The plant grows up to 45cm in height, with foliage almost as tall as the flower stalk. It spreads mainly by rhizomes, but is also spread by ants, who feed their young an oil-rich appendage of the seed and dispose of the rest, thus assisting in seed dispersal.

Habitat/Uses: The bleeding heart grows best in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil, at low to mid elevations. It thrives in part to full shade in woodlands, damp forests, ravines, and near streams, preferring cooler temperatures. The flowers are rich with nectar, attracting syrphid flies, bumblebees, and hummingbirds, and the foliage is a food source of the butterfly larvae Clodius parnassian. Bleeding hearts can be used in native woodland gardens, growing well with various fern species beneath other plants and trees. Deer tend to ignore the plant. First Nations peoples reportedly used the roots to treat toothaches and worm infestations. However, the entire plant contains toxic compounds (isoquinolones), which, in large quantities, can cause trembling, weakness, convulsions, and difficulty breathing. Any part of the plant may cause skin irritation due to these poisonous compounds.

Self-Heal – Mint/Deadnettle/Sage Family (Lamiaceae)

Prunella vulgaris

Status: Introduced plant

Description: Flowering in Yellow Point from June onward, this perennial plant is native to Europe. Although generally low-growing, it can reach heights of 30 cm. It is characterized by small, two-lipped dark pink or violet flowers, clustered into dense spikes, 2-5 cm long and ~ 1.5-2 cm wide. Medium lance-shaped green leaves reminiscent of mint leaves arise in pairs along the square stem. Leaf edges are toothed or slightly wavy.

Habitat/Uses: Self-heal is adaptable, and grows easily in various landscapes, from garden beds and borders to woodland edges and meadows. It prefers sun or partial shade, moist soil, and cool to mild temperatures. It is found at low to mid elevations. Edible leaves and flowers have been long used in a variety of ways in folk medicine: plants are usually cut during summer flowering and used in various infusions, tinctures, and ointments. The flowers are rich in pollen, so are an important food source for butterflies, bumblebees, honey bees, sweat bees, and long-horned bees.

Harvest Brodiaea- Asparagus Family (Asparagaceae) (Formerly in Lily Family)

Brodiaea coronaria

Status: Native plant

Descripton: Blooming in late June/early July, these native perennial six-petalled lavender-blue, violet, or rose upright bell-shaped flowers grow in a loose umbel. They arise on an erect stem from 1-3 grass-like basal linear leaves, ~ 2 mm wide. At the centre of the flower are white to purple hornlike staminodes (sterile stamens) that lean toward the fertile stamens. It can reach a height of 30 cm in some habitats, but is usually shorter in the Yellow Point area.

Habitat/Uses: Found in grasslands and open woodlands at low to mid elevations, this drought-tolerant plant prefers full sun but tolerates light shade. Well-drained soil and dry summers favour its proliferation; rock gardens and xeriscapes are ideal places for it to grow. The plant is slow-growing, long-lived, and very easy to care for. It comes into flower as native grasses become dormant, hence the term ‘harvest’ in its common name. The corm of the plant is edible, apparently sweet and flavourful with a taste and texture similar to sweet potatoes. It is a food source for rodents; rabbits and slugs enjoy the young shoots in the spring.

Oxeye Daisy – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Leucanthemum vulgare

Status: Invasive plant (as designated by

Description: Often confused with the ornamental Shasta daisy, perennial oxeyes are daisy-like flowers with 20-30 white ray flowers, 1-2 cm long, surrounding yellow central discs, 10-20 mm wide, on long slender stems. Lower leaves are lance-shaped with toothed margins. Upper leaves have wavy margins and are alternately arranged, narrow, and stalkless. Flowers appear in early June in Yellow Point, and continue well into July. Plants can grow up to one metre tall. Widespread and considered a weed or invasive plant in many countries, the oxeye is native to Europe and temperate Asia. It is considered a noxious, invasive weed in BC.

Habitat/Hazards: The oxeye daisy can be found growing in a variety of habitats, including meadows, open forests, and disturbed areas. It is a common weed in fields and along roadsides in Yellow Point. Found at low to mid elevations, it prefers sun but tolerates partial shade. It is able to grow in a variety of soils, from degraded pastures to rich loamy soils. It spreads by both seeds and rhizomes, with a mature plant producing up to 26,000 seeds. A new plant can regenerate from rhizome fragments, making it a difficult plant to eradicate. Additionally, plants can cause soil erosion, as their manner of growth results in exposed soil. These plants decrease forage for wildlife, and crowd out our native plants, decreasing local plant biodiversity. Although the unopened buds can reportedly be marinated and eaten, the plant has an unpleasant taste, which causes grazing animals to avoid it, leading to further spread in pastures. The plants have a shallow root system, so are easy to pull up, but seeds can germinate years after dispersal, often making eradication a long-term project.

Lupines – Legume Family (Fabaceae)

Lupinus sp.

Status: Native plants

Description: Lupine species found in Yellow Point are a group of striking white, pink, blue and purple flowered perennial herbs, growing up to 90 cm in height. Flowers, up to 2 cm in length depending on species, grow in tiered whorls around a raceme, which can measure up to 20 cm. Flowers bloom starting in late June in the area, and can continue into August. Leaves with hairy undersides can feature up to 15 light to medium green elliptical leaflets, alternating along a central stalk in palm-like fronds. Stems are hollow.

Habitat/Uses: Lupines can be found from sea level to elevation up to 2500 m. Generally, they prefer slopes, full to partial shade, and moist to fairly well drained soils. Lupinus latifolius prefers moist open to shady woods and meadows; Lupinus rivularis is found in sand and gravel, near marshes, streams, and other wet places at low elevations; and Lupinus littoralis is found at sea level in coastal sands. Lupines attract butterflies and birds.

Did you know? Although they are not found in Yellow Point, Vancouver Island marmots favour feasting on lupines. Interestingly, several (but not all) species of lupines are known to contain alkaloids, which are poisonous.

Pearly Everlasting – Aster Family (Asteraceae)

Anaphalis margaritacea

Status: Native plant

Description: Emerging in late June or early July in Yellow Point, the individual cottony stems of the herbaceous perennial pearly everlasting grow 30-90 cm in height, often in clumps. Flowers are globular, long-enduring, white, dry bracts with yellow centres, resembling fried eggs, although younger flowers are reminiscent of small pearls. Flowers are often slightly musky smelling. Leaves are long and slender, arranged alternately, with green surfaces and white, woolly undersides that match the stems. The hairy stems and leaves are an adaptation to reduce water loss and overheating.

Habitat/Uses: Preferring sun to part shade, pearly everlasting grows well in sandy, gravelly, dry soils, and is often found on roadsides in Yellow Point in the heat of summer. It can also be found growing in meadows and woodlands, and does well as a drought-tolerant specimen in native plant gardens. It can be used in flower arrangements, and has been used medicinally as a salve to treat burns, bruises, and sprains. Plants can be grown from seed or propagated. Bees and butterflies are the main pollinators; the American Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) uses the plant as a host for its young. Reportedly, it was used as a tobacco substitute by First Nations peoples.

Great Mullein/Common Mullein- Butterfly Bush Family (Scrophulariaceae)

Verbascum thapsus

Status: Invasive plant (as per BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resources)

Description: This statuesque hairy biennial herb/weed, a native of Europe/northern Africa/Asia, starts out as a small rosette of furry silver-grey leaves, eventually growing to heights of two metres or more when well-established. In its second year, a flower spike bearing numerous, short-lived yellow flowers emerges. The inflorescence is 10-50 cm, densely packed, with wheel shaped flowers 1.5-3 cm in diameter. The stem carries numerous leaves alternately, which reduce in size as they ascend the stem. Leaves are uniquely arranged to form clasping channels to carry the water down the stem toward the roots. The abundant ‘hair’ on the leaves ‘shades’ the leaves, preventing excess evaporation, making this plant extremely drought-tolerant.

Habitat/Uses: Mullein thrives in challenging conditions, preferring places like gravel pits, dry roadsides, and fields with well-drained soil. It flourishes in full sun, and can be found at low to mid elevations. This is a great plant for wildlife, attracting bees, hoverflies, and other pollinators. It also supplies (non-native) carder bees (Anthidium) with ‘fur’ to build their nests. Various species of caterpillar may also feed on the foliage. It is a prolific self-seeder, and in a hospitable environment often needs to be weeded out. Mullein has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy. Tea can be made from flowers and leaves to soothe respiratory ailments. The plant also has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Did you know? The Romans believed placing leaves at the openings of homes would repel demons. Some legends say that witches used the flower spikes as torches and other stories say that burning the spikes repels witches and evil spirits (from

St. John’s Wort – St. John’s Wort Family (Hypericaceae)

Hypericum perforatum

Status: Invasive plant (as designated by

Description: Considered an invasive plant, St. John’s wort is a perennial invader of disturbed land and grazing fields that flowers in June-July. The flowers are characterized by five bright yellow petals, often ringed with black dots, clustered at branch tips. Ten or more stamens and a single pistil emerge from the centre of the flower. Flowers in clusters can number up to 100, and each plant can produce up to 100,000 seeds each year, which can survive in soil up to ten years. Stems up to 60 cm in height carry simple, veined, opposite leaves. Held up to the light, translucent oil glands on the elliptical or triangular leaves give a perforated appearance, hence the epithet ‘perforatum.’

Habitat/Uses: St John’s wort prefers dry, sandy soil and full sun, and can be found at low to mid elevations in grasslands and forests. It is often seen on the roadside in Yellow Point. Well known as a treatment for depression, the plant is reportedly also used as a diuretic, expectorant, and sedative. (Please consult your health care provider for medical advice before ingesting St. John’s wort.) It is considered poisonous to livestock, due to the compound hypericin, which causes photosensitivity.

Sweet Pea/Everlasting Pea – Legume Family (Fabaceae)

Lathyrus latifolius

Status: Introduced plant

Description: Arising from a single root, dramatic displays of these robust, brightly coloured perennial flowers burst forth in Yellow Point in late June/early July. Racemes of 4 to 11 white to dark pink odourless flowers are produced on hairless stems carrying short, wide-winged leaves, which hold pairs of lance-shaped to oval, pointed leaflets up to 7.5 cm long and 2.5 cm wide. Flowers, up 2.5 cm wide, are composed of an upper and lower keel with lateral petals. If available, these plants will climb adjacent vegetation using their tendrils, and can reach three metres in height. They spread by rhizomes and self-seeding.

Habitat/Uses: Introduced from Europe, sweet peas are found in abundance in Yellow Point, sprawling along roadsides and in ditches. They prefer moist, well-drained soil, full sun to light shade, and are found at low to mid elevations. Bumblebees pollinate, butterflies visit for nectar, and deer (usually) ignore them. They can be grown in gardens, but often need to be cut back. They make striking cut flower displays throughout the summer. Note that the peas are NOT edible.

Queen Anne’s Lace/Wild Carrot – Carrot Family (Apiaceae)

Daucus carota

Status: Invasive plant (as designated by

Description: Native to Europe and Asia, Queen Anne’s lace is considered invasive to BC. It is a biennial herb characterized by an umbrella-shaped white, yellowish, or pinkish umbel up to 15 cm wide, composed of numerous 5-petaled flowers. There is often a solitary purple flower centrally. The umbel sits atop a 90-120 cm hairy, fine-lined central stem (which may branch), while oblong, pinnate, feathery leaves that resemble poison hemlock, fool’s parsley, and water hemlock, are found at the base and alternately along the stem. Lower leaves appear more ‘feathery’ than upper leaves, with upper leaves becoming smaller, shorter-stalked, and more widely spaced than those near the base. Flower heads appear in Yellow Point in June and continue through the summer. Foliage and the slender, woody taproot smell distinctively like edible carrots.

Habitat/Hazards: Queen Anne’s lace establishes easily on road sides, abandoned fields, and disturbed agricultural land. It is a hardy plant and thrives in dry environments, preferring full sun to partial shade, and well-drained to dry soil. Removing the plant (since it is considered invasive) can be done by pulling or digging it up, ensuring removal of the entire tap root. Note that handling the plant can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation. Additionally, the plant can be confused with its cousin, giant hogweed, which, if handled, can result in severe skin irritation, blistering rashes, scarring, and even blindness. If uncertain of the species, do not touch it. (If you believe you have found hogweed in the area, the Coastal Invasive Species Committee can be contacted at 1-844-298-2532 to properly dispose of the plant.)

Did you know? Romans ate Queen Anne’s lace as a vegetable, and early Europeans cultivated it. (Note: Do not eat wild plants without positive identification from an expert. Many people have confused Queen Anne’s lace with poison hemlock, resulting in illness or death when ingested). Its common name derives from a legend that states Queen Anne of England (1665-1714) pricked her finger while tatting lace, resulting in a single drop of blood landing in the centre of the lace.

Botanical Definitions


Anther: The part of the stamen where pollen is produced. 

Corm: Vertical, fleshy, underground stem that acts as a food-storage structure in certain seed plants.

Inflorescence: A group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches.

Ovary: The enlarged basal portion of the pistil where ovules are produced.

Peduncle: The stalk of a flower. 

Petal: The parts of a flower that are often conspicuously colored. 

Pistil: The ovule producing part of a flower. The ovary often supports a long style, topped by a stigma. The mature ovary is a fruit, and the mature ovule is a seed. 

Raceme: A flower cluster with the separate flowers attached by short equal stalks at equal distances along a central stem. The flowers at the base of the central stem develop first.

Receptacle: The part of a flower stalk where the parts of the flower are attached. 

Sepal: The outer parts of the flower (often green and leaf-like) that enclose a developing bud. 

Stamen: The pollen producing part of a flower, usually with a slender filament supporting the anther. 

Stigma: The part of the pistil where pollen germinates. 

Tepal: Segment of the outer whorl in a flower that has no differentiation between petals and sepals.

Umbel: An inflorescence that consists of a number of short flower stalks which spread from a common point, somewhat like umbrella ribs. The word was coined in botanical usage in the 1590s, from the word Latin umbella, meaning “parasol, sunshade”.

Native/Introduced/Invasive Designations

Varying definitions exist for the terms ‘native’, ‘introduced’, and ‘invasive’. Additionally, there seems to be no ‘master’ list for introduced and invasive species for this region, or for Vancouver Island. (If anyone knows of such lists, please let us know!)

A native plant is defined by the Native Plant Society of BC as “one that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem or habitat – and occurred prior to European contact….Native plants have co-evolved with animals, fungi, and microbes to form a complex network of relationships. These plants are the foundation of native ecosystems, or natural communities.” (

The Invasive Species Council of BC (, a registered charity and non-profit society, lists invasive species found in BC on its website. It defines invasive species as: plants, animals or other organisms that are not native to BC whose introduction and spread causes harm to the province’s native species or our economy.

A definition for introduced species (also known as an exotic, alien, non-native, or non-indigenous species) is an organism that is not native to the place or area where it is considered introduced and instead has been accidentally or deliberately transported to the new location by human activity ( Such species can ultimately become invasive, or can co-exist with native species. For this page, ‘introduced’ species are those that are non-native but also non-invasive.


Electronic atlas of the flora of BC:

Invasive plant species in BC (reference is from 2004; updates to list is uncertain, but at least some invasive plants (e.g., Himalayan blackberry) are not listed):

Website of the Invasive Species Council of BC:

Camosun College’s website of native plants and traditional uses by First Nations:

Author and photographer Mark Turner’s exhaustive website of wildflowers of the Pacific northwest:

Nanaimo and Area Land Trust’s website for their native plant nursery:

The Province of BC’s website for invasive species, including a link for reporting invasive species:

Habitat Acquisition Trust’s website for gardening with native plants:

The Native Plant Society of BC’s website:

This page from the Master Gardeners Association of BC has a downloadable pdf of the native plants of the Pacific northwest:

Pojar and MacKinnon’s ‘Plants of Coastal British Columbia’ is a best-selling field guide of plants found along the coast from Oregon to Alaska:

The Trees of Yellow Point

Welcome to the Yellow Point Trees.

Yellow Point/Cedar area on Vancouver Island is a beautiful and diverse area within the Coastal Douglas‐Fir (CDF) ecosystem.
It lies between Nanaimo and Ladysmith, with Highway 1 forming a logical boundary to the west and the coast to the east.. 
There are coastal, riparian, forested and urban/agricultural habitats, interspersed with rocky outcrops and bluffs, so typical and unique to this part of the world.

We hope this webpage will provide the reader with useful pointers for seeing and recognizing the trees found here, without going into too much (botanical) detail. For those who are interested, there are links for more information. 

In a forest with big trees, sometimes all you can see is the trunks! It is helpful to recognize the bark, but not all bark is easily distinguished. In that case, look down on the ground. You will find tell-tale signs of the tree above: cones/fruit, a broken branch with needles/leaves, or last year’s leaves.

Knowing the seasons of the trees will help too, each tree has its time to shine.

This webpage is a work in progress – starting with the 10 more common big trees, more will be added over time…


Arbutus menziesii

SIZE: up to 30m
AGE: 250-400 yrs

Ericaceae (Heath family)

This is an eye-catching tree, with its colourful and whimsical trunk and limbs, especially against the backdrop of the serious and upright conifers! It is Canada’s only native evergreen broadleaved tree. It is  very much part of the CDF ecosystem.

The arbutus has a tortuous growth as it looks for light, for it cannot tolerate shade. 

HABITAT:  Dry and sunny, on rocky, well drained sites, open forests, clearings, rocky bluffs and along the coast. Yellow Point Park entrance has some lovely specimens.

FEATURES:  Its most remarkable feature is the bark, revealing a seasonal change of yellow/golden/green to fiery cinnamon which peels in autumn. As the tree gets older, the bark remains on the trunk, especially where shaded and it becomes brown and scaly. 

The leathery leaves are shiny green above and pale whitish below.

The seed germinates readily, but browsing by deer can prevent a seedling from growing into a tree. By caging them, the seedlings/young trees on your property will have a chance to grow !

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Bigleaf maple

Acer macrophyllum

SIZE: up to 35m
AGE: 200 yrs
Aceraceae (Maple family)

The bigleaf maple gives the forest a mystical appearance with its tall, often multi-stemmed trunks all covered in moss, lichen and liquorice ferns!

HABITAT: They grow best in rich moist soils, but they do tolerate drier conditions as well. As they need light to grow, you’ll find them along stream banks, in clearings or edges, logged areas. They have solved their conundrum of wanting to live in the forest, but needing the sun to grow, by being able to grow very quickly when young (up to 3m/year) and by having big leaves, that they keep horizontal to catch more light.

FEATURES: The bigleaf maple is a large deciduous spreading tree. As its common name suggests, it has large maple leaves with 5-lobes. In fall they turn a rich yellow.
In spring, the yellow-green flowers hang in big clusters and appear before or with the leaves.  Their 2-winged seeds are joined at the base (called a samara) that whirl in the air  when they drop – the following spring you can find the forest floor covered in little seedlings!

The most distinctive feature of the bigleaf maple is the trunk, actually what grows on the trunk! The rough bark with longitudinal ridges is calcium-rich and encourages the growth of mosses, lichen and liquorice fern. It can support more epiphytes than any other tree in the Pacific NorthWest (the biomass can be up to 4x the foliar weight of the host tree). When the epiphyte load is thick enough, the bigleaf (and the vine maple and a few other tree species) are then able to produce canopy roots into this biomass to extract water and nutrients.

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black cottonwood

Populus balsamifera ssp trichocarpa

SIZE: 25-50m
AGE: 200-300 yrs
Salicaceae (Willow family)

The iconic tree of the wetlands. The black cottonwood is a tall deciduous tree, that can grow up to 2m/year. Morden Colliery Trail has a few old giants.

HABITAT: They tolerate standing water and can grow abundantly on floodplains. They are often found along rivers and streams and in freshwater marshes.
They need rich soils and lots of sunshine.

 FEATURES: Older trees have a long branch-free trunk, with a thick and deeply furrowed bark.
Black knots on the trunk are not unusual and are caused by a fungus. The bark on young trees is smooth and greenish.

Leaves are shiny green above and a pale silvery below, heart-shaped/triangular leaves 6-12 cm long with a pointed tip. The leaves are slightly toothed, and the veins curve upwards. The leafstalk (petiole) is long and not flattened, like its little sister, the trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides), so you can roll it between your fingers. The leaves turn a beautiful yellow in the fall.

In spring it disperses its seed in white fluffs that float through the air like wisps of cotton.

Black cottonwood is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on separate trees

The buds contain a waxy resin with anti-infectant properties still used in many modern natural health ointments. Bees collect it and use it to seal off intruders.

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Coastal Douglas-fir

Pseudotsuga menziesii spp menziesii

SIZE: up to 70m
AGE: 1000+ yrs
Pinaceae (Pine family)

The coastal Douglas-fir is the most common tree in our area and is the   backbone of the CDF  ecosystem. It is a large stately evergreen tree.

Douglas-fir is hyphenated, because it is not a true fir. True firs belong to the genus Abies, whereas Douglas-firs belong to the genus Pseudotsuga (which means ‘resembling hemlock’).

HABITAT: It has very adaptable growing requirements, from dry poor rocky soils to moist rich soils (it does not however do well in poorly drained wet soils). They are somewhat shade tolerant, but do much better with light.

FEATURES: Their most distinguishing feature are the cones. They have three-pronged bracts and are 5-10cm long and hang down from the branches in the upper crown or the tree. They fall on the ground intact, you can always find them on the ground for identification. (Unlike those of the true firs, that disintegrate on the tree).
Younger trees might not have cones yet, then look at the way the flat green needles are arranged all around the twigs. The needles are 2 cm long and not sharp to touch.

Older trees have a long branch-free trunk. The very thick bark has deep vertical fissures.

New studies on the underground life of trees has revealed an incredible network of cooperation between the roots and mycorrhizae – this can be seen above ground in the ‘living stumps’, where a stump has healed over and is thus able to offer its established network of roots to surrounding trees!

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garry oak

Quercus garryana

SIZE: up to 25m
AGE: 250-500 yrs
Fagaceae (Beech family)

The Garry oak is our one and only native oak in BC – a lovely gnarly tree, often found with coastal Douglas-fir and arbutus. With good soils, it can grow into a medium sized tree; on dry shallow sites it remains small.

The Garry Oak Meadows are a beautiful, but threatened habitat, with their showy display of spring flowers like camas, white fawn lily, western buttercup and shootingstar. The entrance of the Yellow Point Park is a remnant of a Garry oak meadow, it has all the flowers, and a Garry oak.

Garry oak hiding in plain sight

HABITAT: Dry rocky slopes, bluffs or open meadows, shallow to deep rich, well-drained soil, the key being that they get enough sunlight, as they don’t like shade (or competition for that matter).

 FEATURES: We can recognize them by their gnarly growth habit and their deeply round-lobed oak leaves (up to 12cm long), glossy bright green above, and hairy below. The leaves turn brown in fall and can remain on the tree.

The grey bark has thick scaly ridges.

The Garry oak only starts producing acorns after 20-25 yrs. The acorns are 2-3 cm long and drop to the ground when ripe. They only remain viable for one season. The Garry oaks can also sprout or grow from underground rhizomes

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grand fir

Abies grandis

SIZE: up to 80m
AGE: 300 yrs
Pinaceae  (Pine family)

The grand fir is a fast growing tree and can grow very tall. In our CDF-ecosystem, it is more commonly an understory tree, forming about 10% of the tree community.

HABITAT: It prefers deep, rich moist soils along streams and mountain slopes, but it also tolerates our drier rain-shadow coastal forests.
It is shade tolerant. 

FEATURES: It is easiest recognized by the flat, glossy dark green needles, that are arranged in two flat comb-like rows. The entire branch appears flattened. The needles are a pale green below, due to the two longitudinal white lines (stomata). They are not sharp to touch and release a citrus scent when crushed.

Cones are hard to find, as they are borne in the top of the tree and disintegrate on tree when mature (as all in the genus Abies do). They sit upright on the branches.

The bark is smooth and greyish-brown with white spots and blisters filled with gummy resin when young.
The bark becomes furrowed and scaly with age.

Like all true firs, the needles are soft,
flat (can’t be rolled between fingers)
and do not ‘pull-a-tag’ when removed.
Spruce trees have needles that are
prickly, square (can be rolled) and pull
a tag when removed.

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pacific dogwood

Cornus nuttallii

SIZE: 10-20m
AGE: 150 yrs
Cornaceae (Dogwood family)

Our Queen of Forest! This beautiful, medium sized, deciduous tree grows in the Douglas-fir forests, together with the western redcedar, grand fir and western hemlock.

In spring she is adorned with fabulous white blossoms, making this the best time of year to find her.

HABITAT: The Pacific dogwood prefers deep, rich soils on moist well-drained sites, but it can tolerate slightly drier conditions too. It is found as an understory tree in fairly open, mixed forests or at the forest’s edges and openings. The Pacific dogwood likes to keep its trunk shaded.

FEATURES: Showy white ‘flowers’ facing up towards the sun, that appear from mid April: be on the look-out while you are driving and you’ll see her poking her pretty head out of the woods!

The green leaves grow opposite to each other, are oval with a pointed tip and have the typical dogwood-pattern with curving parallel veins. When the summer hasn’t been too dry, the leaves turn a beautiful orange-red in fall.

In September/October the happy cackling of the northern flicker or the pileated woodpecker will remind you, that the Pacific dogwood is in fruit with bright red drupes arranged in clumps.

Here you can see all branches are directed to the sun. The trunk will be shaded by its own foliage. The bark can look like the bark of the  red alder, grey and blotchy (in winter, the absence of small woody cones make it more likely to be a Pacific dogwood)

The leaves and twigs are favoured by the deer and young seedlings stand no chance with high deer pressure! One can recognize a young pacific dogwood by the way the twigs are arranged along the main stem: opposite in 4’s, very symmetrical in appearance and the bright green leaves growing at their ends. Caging them until they grow out of reach is a very rewarding effort!

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red alder

Alnus rubra

SIZE: 15-25m
AGE: <100 yrs
Betulaceae (Birch family)

The Pioneer! A fast-growing, medium sized deciduous tree. When it sees an opportunity, it will colonize and form an attractive stand – there is beauty in singularity.

HABITAT: It prefers sunny, moist to wet sites and is found along marshes, floodplains and stream banks, but also clearings or disturbed sites (seeds need light and mineral soil to germinate).

FEATURES: They are generally found in stands, rarely are they by themselves. 
Catkins appear before the leaves early spring. Male flowers are in long, drooping, reddish catkins and female flowers are shorter.

After the leaves have fallen, the red alder is easily identified by the woody cone-like fruit, that remain on the tree all winter.
The bright green leaves have toothed edge and straight lateral veins, with a ‘pleated’ appearance.
The bark is pale and thin with patches of moss or lichen growing on them.


The red alder is an excellent pioneer species for re-establishing woodlands on disturbed and difficult sites, disused farmland etc. It is a fast growing and wind resistant tree, that will quickly provide sheltered conditions to allow more permanent woodland trees to become established. It enriches the soil by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. Their extensive root system make it suitable for controlling erosion along the banks of rivers. Alder trees also have a heavy leaf canopy and when the leaves fall in the autumn they help to build up the humus content of the soil. Alder seedlings do not compete well in shady woodland conditions and so this species gradually dies out as the other trees become established.

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Western hemlock

Tsuga heterophylla

SIZE: 50-60m
AGE: 1200 yrs
Pinaceae (Pine family)

A most graceful large coniferous tree, the third most common tree in the Pacific Northwest.

HABITAT: A true forest dweller, it can grow in deep shade. You will often see it growing on an old stump, or decaying wood and nursery logs.
It prefers moist to very moist sites, but is does well here in our slightly drier CDF forests too, probably with help of the mycorrhizae.

 FEATURES: It has an obvious drooping leader (especially when young) and drooping tips of lateral branchlets with flat sprays of dull mid-dark green needles. 
The small, woody cones are usually less than an inch (2.5cm) long.

The green needles are soft, short and flat and of unequal length (as the species name heterophylla implies), forming flat sprays. 
Looking underneath, the needles appear almost white, because of two broad bands of white stomata with only a narrow green midrib between the bands. No needles grow downward.

The needles of the grand fir (Abies grandis) are arranged in a similar way, but the needles are a glossy yellowy-green, longer and underneath appear less white, because the green midrib between the stomata is broader.

bark of western hemlock

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Western redcedar

Thuja plicata

SIZE: 50-60m
AGE: 1200 yrs
Cupressceae (Cypress family)

The co-dominant conifer in the CDF ecosystem, it is a large and magnificent tree, in all aspects.
It is the provincial tree of British Columbia.
It is also referred to as arborvitae, the Tree of Life .

It is not a true cedar; that name belongs to the old world genus Cedrus.

HABITAT: It is a very adaptable tree tolerating most soil types. It prefers shady, cool, moist habitats. It is most abundant along streams, seeps, bogs, and wet bottomlands and usually grows in mixed conifer stands. With our mild wet winters and coastal summers and with the help of mycorrhizae, it has done well in our rain-shadow CDF forests.

FEATURES: It is easily distinguished from the other evergreens in Yellow Point/Cedar by its leaves and its bark.
It has no needles. The leaves are scale-like and compressed tightly to the stem, looking like fine braids and forming graceful yellowy-green sprays that droop down along the swooping branches that turn up at tip.

Small seedcases appear in loose clusters and become woody and remain on the tree through winter.

The bark is grey to reddish brown, fibrous, appearing like long vertical lines. The trunk becomes buttressed with age.


Older trees produce a chemical called
thujaplicin. It is a natural fungicide,
making the wood rot-resistant.
Its aromatic oils deter moths and carpet beetles.

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A Green OCP

These notes are adapted from these three documents:

An Official Community Plan (OCP) is a legal policy document intended to manage growth and guide future development. It represents the communi­ty’s vision for the future. The Local Government Act defines an OCP as “a statement of objectives and policies to guide decisions on planning and land use management.” 

An OCP typically contains broad goals, objectives for particular land uses, specific policies for each land use, general advocacy policies, maps and development permit areas. 

  • Goals are general statements of purpose
  • Objectives are strategies to achieve the goals
  • Policies are specific statements, programs or restrictions that provide direction

An OCP is not a regulatory bylaw. With the exception of Development Permit Areas, OCPs have no direct effect or authority on private landowners or other governments or agencies. Land Use Bylaws regulate the use of land.

To protect the Coastal Douglas-fir, OCPs should set goals, objectives, and policies that support CDF retention and protection, include strong language directing at protection of the CDF zone:

  • Policies supporting park dedication that protect CDF forests 
  • Development Permit Areas for the protection of the envi­ronment, specifically the Coastal Douglas-fir zone and associated ecosystems.
  • Urban containment boundaries that preserve large lot areas outside of urban areas and direct density to areas zoned for mixed use commercial/residential and smaller lots that can be serviced by adequate water supplies. 
  • Identified protection of the CDF zone as an amenity that can be provided at the time of a rezoning. Establish the connection between development impacts and ecological services.
  • Enabling policies for conservation subdivisions, amenity zoning, density transfers and density bonusing. 
  • Language and policies that reference and honour the cultural heritage of Coast Salish stewardship, including the protection of culturally important places and archaeological sites.

Galiano’s OCP includes the following Forest Objectives: 

All land use decisions for lands in the Forest designation must be guided by the following objectives: 

  1. to preserve a forest land base,
  2. to preserve and protect the forest, its biodiversity, integrity and ecological services, 
  3.  to encourage ecosystem-based sustainable forest management for all forested lots and to encourage economic opportunities through this forest management practice, 
  4. to encourage ecological restoration of degraded forest stands, and
  5. to maintain or enhance carbon storage and sequestration. 

Suggested prose based on Galiano’s OCP: “This Plan supports the preservation and protection of the CVRD’s many and varied ecosystems, including the Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone, the smallest and rarest such zone in British Columbia with the highest density of species that are of both provincial and global conservation concern. These ecosystems provide key services that sustain human health and wellbeing, including clean air and water, nutrient cycling, carbon storage, and timber and nontimber resources. The forested landscape is integral to the CVRD’s character. Maintaining and restoring the forest ecosystem is critical for ecosystem-based sustainable forest management.”

South Pender Island’s OCP notes that the island is located in a threatened CDF ecosystem: “Protection is to be afforded to the island’s environmentally sensitive areas, according to particular circumstance, by means that may include: landowner stewardship; inter-agency planning  and management agreements; protective covenants, voluntary and required; protective provisions in regulatory bylaws; development permit areas; and land acquisition.” 

Land-Use By-Laws

The Land Use Bylaw is the main tool for implementing OCP policies through land use regulations, particularly zoning. Land use bylaws designate the zoning and regulate land use within the area of covered by the bylaw. They contain regulations on the size and siting of buildings and structures and define setbacks from lot lines and water courses. The land use bylaw prescribes the number of new lots, and the shape, dimensions and area of new lots created by subdivision. A land use bylaw often incorporates parking regulations, subdivision servicing requirements, sign regulations, screening and landscaping requirements, flood plain regulations, and run-off control regulations. 

  • Reduce site coverage density in land use bylaws. It is often a default 25%, inherited from older zoning, allowing 25% of the land to be covered with impervious surfaces. Site coverage is often overlooked when updating land use bylaws. High site coverage is inconsis­tent with the preservation of the CDF zone. 
  • Incorporate conservation subdivision principles into land use bylaw requirements for subdivision. 
  • Increase the minimum average area of lots that can be created by subdivision to a minimum of 10 acres. Remove subdivision potential from some large lots in areas targeted as important for CDF protec­tion and hydrological connectivity. 
  • Negotiate land conservation at the time of rezoning. Make consideration of zoning approvals conditional on the voluntary provision of a covenant or land donation to protect the CDF forest as a public amenity. 
  • Pre-zone land to allow an increase in density in exchange for natural area protection. Unlike amenity zoning, density bonus bylaws offer developers and the community certainty; a rezoning process is not required, and the maximum potential density is known ahead of time. 
  • Residential lots or dwelling units can be clustered during rezoning or at time of subdivi­sion. Land use bylaw density requirements should have minimum average lot area provisions that allow smaller lot areas while limiting the number of lots that can be created. When homes or lots are clustered, the rest can be left as natural area. Clustering reduces development costs as there are fewer trees to clear, less land to grade, and less need for road, water, hydro, and sewer infrastructure. Smaller lots with significant amounts (more than 50%) of protected open space target people who want homes in natural settings with less property to maintain.
  • Conservation subdivisions combine different tools including amenity zoning or density bonuses at time of rezoning to achieve multiple environmental and social benefits. Lot clustering is combined or traded off with protection of large natural areas (often by means of a covenant). Land use bylaw provisions allow lot averaging to achieve the cluster­ing, ecological design lot layout requirements, landscape buffers, and remove the potential for further subdivision. 

Forest Management

The Province does not have legislation that directly regulates forestry on private land. Forestry is exempt from local government regulation and there are few tools to use to protect the integrity of the forest from timber extraction. 

Forestry cannot be regulated by local governments. A longstanding common law principle known as profit à prendre entrenches the rights of people to extract profit from the natural resources of the land. Common law land ownership is typically characterized as a bundle of rights. These rights include the rights to use and occupy the land free from interference of non-owners, as well as the right to take or sever minerals, soil, trees and other resources from the land. 

This principle was referenced in the reasons for decisions concluding that the Denman Island Local Trust Committee reached beyond its authority in its attempt to regulate forest practices on private land using a Development Permit Area. The BC Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal ruled that the DPA was not broad enough to allow the Trust Committee to regulate forestry, in part because the enabling legislation did not indicate a clear intention to curtail or interfere with the common law right to extract timber. As common law, profit à prendre is not found in statute. It rep­resents deeply held social constructs that favour the rights of individuals to exploit natural resources on private property. Even if societal attitudes towards the best use of land were to shift, it would likely take an act of the legislature rather than a court decision to overturn this principle.

On the other hand, the ability of local governments to prevent logging within riparian zones on private land has already been accepted. So maybe profit à prendre is not such a strong argument, after all.

Twelve Recommendations for Official Community Plans

1. Acknowledge Growth Management as an Important Environmental Protection Tool 

Many OCPs and topic-specific plans such as greenway or park plans address connectivity and site-specific environmental protection but fail to put them in the larger and more important context of growth management. A tightly delineated urban area with strong growth management policies that direct a large percentage, such as 90%, of new development into urbanized areas as well as large lot rural policies are better environmental protection measures than site specific regulations such as tree preservation. While both are important, the big picture should be the first order of priority. This includes linking specific policies to the relevant regional growth strategy. 

2. Connect Biodiversity and Ecologically Sensitive Areas 

It is well accepted that substantial corridors of biodiversity or ecosystem connectivity preserve ecological function better than islands of habitat. The ecological value of open space and parkland is significantly increased when it is connected to other areas of ecological significance. Biodiversity corridors, greenways with ecological values, and other connectivity must be planned before other land uses are layered onto the landscape. 

3. Establish Criteria for Evaluating if New Greenfield Development is Needed 

Decisions about allowing new development at the periphery of a community on greenfield sites rarely occurs in the context of whether that unserviced land is needed to fulfill growth management goals. It is often seen as an opportunity for new residential or commercial development without considering the direct link between density and environmental stewardship. Prioritizing ecological conservation means establishing a standard of buildout that should occur before a community-wide discussion considers designating further greenfield sites for servicing. Such a standard could be based on one of the following: 

  • Density – the average density in existing built areas must be 1:1 or 1.5:1; 
  • Infrastructure – existing wastewater treatment capacity is allocated to new developments in the following proportions: attached housing 50 percent, commercial and industrial 30 percent, detached housing 20 percent; 
  • Building permits – the percentage of total residential building permits must be 50 percent attached (townhouse to apartments); or 
  • Demographic – the types of development over the past five years meet certain criteria that respond to the existing demographic of the community, e.g. 15 percent supported housing, 50 percent attached housing, 20 percent detached housing and 15 percent commercial/industrial. 

4. Do Away with “Residential Reserves” or “Urban Reserves” 

Community plans sometimes identify residential or urban “reserves.” The intent is to identify areas or parcels where there is potential for future development that is not anticipated within the life of the current plan. These designations send the signal that the policies supporting infill and building in existing serviced areas are not firm growth management policies. Likewise, plans do not establish a benchmark for evaluating when existing residential areas are built out to the extent that it would be appropriate to consider urbanizing additional parcels. The identification of these residential reserve parcels lessens the incentive to fully build out existing urban areas and make the best use of infrastructure, thus there is no clear phasing for growth or encouragement to build in existing areas. If population growth projections do not indicate a need for these parcels in the next five years then leave them out of the community plan. 

5. Do Not Use Small Lot Rural or Small Holdings Land Designations 

Residential policies for small holdings are inconsistent with growth management goals, smart growth and sustainability. Generally, they are essentially rural sprawl. Parcels of 0.8 to 2 hectares are predominantly rural residential. They are not large enough to sustain agricultural or other land-based economic activities and significantly fragment the green infrastructure because of the large amount of each parcel that is dedicated to buildings, driveways and residential landscaping (primarily lawn). Concentrations of these parcels near to sensitive ecosystems increase the likelihood of pollution due to septic system failures and runoff from impervious surfaces. In short, they are an outdated land designation that is yielding to hard urban and rural designations. Large holdings of 5 hectares or more in size are more consistent with rural densities where the landscape is largely intact and parcels maintained for resource or agricultural uses rather than hobby farms or rural residential. 

6. Cluster Development Away from Functioning Ecosystems 

Any new development has the opportunity to cluster new development to protect biodiversity corridors and ecological features, even if on private land. Clustering is used in both urban and rural areas to strictly limit the footprint of development across the landscape with the intention of maintaining designated ecosystem services. These services (riparian corridors, greenways, and sensitive ecosystems) should be included in OCPs as clear designations where development will not occur. Development can be clustered away from these sites. 

7. Clarify the Boundaries of Any Amenity (Density) Bonus Program 

Whether for rural or urban areas, amenity bonus can assist local governments to achieve goals for community amenity provision, in particular the donation of parkland. However, the majority of local government plans say very little about the parameters of amenity bonus. At minimum, community plans should address three factors to promote understanding of amenity bonus. The first is to define the maximum uplift that a local government will allow in defined neighbourhoods or under a specific zoning. For example, thirty percent uplift over base zoning may be appropriate if other criteria are met. This allows the amount of the bonus to be discussed beforehand with the community and will likely be different for downtown versus rural areas. The second is a list of priority amenities on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood or municipal-wide basis so that each neighbourhood is receiving the appropriate amenity contributions. Thirdly, a clear formula is required for calculating the value of the uplift in density and the value of the amenities provided in return. Developers who opt into the amenity bonus program should be providing 50-60 percent of the increase in land value to the community in the form of amenities. Local governments may consider including in the list of community amenities “extraordinary environmental protection measures.” See the Denman Island Official Community Plan treatment of amenity bonus. 

8. Plan for Water 

Water is clearly an important issue for all communities and will become more critical in the next decades as climate change alters how ecosystems function. There will be more water in undesired places and less water in desired locations. Community plans traditionally have focused on establishing policies for land use but are changing to include planning for water management and establishing policies to develop long-term water demand management programs. Water will become more important than land use, and community plans are beginning to reflect this reality. 

9. Define Development Permit Areas for Protection of the Natural Environment by Using the Provincial Government’s Sensitive and Other Ecosystems Map Codes and Descriptions 

The trend for local governments in BC is to define ESAs based on the provincial government’s approved sensitive and other ecosystem map codes and descriptions. This provides a province-wide definition for different ESAs, and allows local governments to tailor environmental DPA (EDPA) guidelines to the specific needs of each particular ecosystem-type such as subsections on riparian or watercourse protection, wetlands, grasslands, woodland, mature forest, and other ecosystem types unique to the region. Some general guidelines can apply to all ecosystem types to deal with water and water quality, air and air quality, species at risk, and agriculture and ESAs. 

10. Create and Track Environmental Indicators 

Indicators can target a specific policy, or be a community-wide indicator of climate impact and ecological health. The following are strong indicators: 

  • Decrease or increase in per capita greenhouse gas emissions
  • Decrease or increase in land-based carbon storage
  • Decrease or increase of land in the Agricultural Land Reserve 
  • Decrease or increase of healthy riparian ecosystems 
  • Decrease or increase in the area of undisturbed contiguous forest
  • Species at risk that are protected or lost 
  • Water quality at specific sites in designated creeks or watersheds – fecal coliform, phosphorus, turbidity
  • Water flow-rates at specific wells in designated high risk areas
  • Number of trips taken by foot, bicycle, or other non-motorized means 
  • Percentage of residents living within 500 metres of a shopping centre 
  • Kilometres of trails, bicycle paths, sidewalks and roads per capita
  • Decrease or increase in per capita solid waste disposal.

11. Create Ways to Enable Farmers to Live on Farm Land 

  • Designate areas for clustered housing on land zoned agricultural on condition that:
  • The chosen land is low-fertility
  • The homes are limited in size
  • The homes are self-sufficient in water through rainwater harvesting
  • There are bylaws and other conditions requiring the  residents to obtain half of their income from farming or farm-related products.

12. Create Ways to Protect the Forest

Map areas where the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem needs to be protected, and develop tools to protect it:

  • Establish CDF Development Permit Areas that require buffer zones and permitting before development can proceed.
  • Designate standards for the clustering of buildings.
  • Define the permitted area of a forest that can be cleared for fire safety purposes and firewood gathering.
  • Define the permitted size of a canopy opening that is allowed for the pursuit of ecological forestry.

Produced by the Yellow Point Ecological Society

January 2020

Twelve Ways to Protect the Forest


  1. Deepen Your Love

Go wandering. Find a place where you can sit and listen quietly to the poetry of the forest. Take time to look at the different trees, to observe the way they grow. Learn the names of the ferns, wildflowers, and forest birds. Find a space to lie down and gaze up, and wonder. The forest has been here for a long, long time.

  1. Learn about the Forest Ecosystem

The forest ecosystem on Vancouver Island is 12,000 years old. Until loggers started clearcutting in the 1940s every forest was an oldgrowth forest, with trees up to a thousand years old. This is the astonishingly rich ecosystem we have lost – but it is slowly returning with each successive year that a forest is not clearcut.

The integrity of the forest is essential for the health and resilience of our watersheds and our drinking water, since the forests filter and clean the water. It is essential for all the wildlife for whom it is home. It is essential for carbon storage, making protecting the forest a key solution to the climate emergency.  If you visit Wildwood you can join a workshop or a forest tour where you can learn more about the forest ecosystem.

We also suggest these books:

  1. Find Other Forest-Lovers

 Working to protect the forest will be more effective if you can find friends who share your concern, and work with them to make a difference. It will also be more fun. These are some of the groups that are working to protect the forest here on Vancouver Island:

  1. Understand Just How Little Protection The Forest Has

When it comes to the law and regulations intended to protect the forest there are four different forest jurisdictions on Vancouver Island:

  • Crown Land. 80% of the forest on the Island, including most of the oldgrowth. This is governed by the Forest and Range Practices Act, which is ecologically very weak, and currently undergoing a review.
  • Private Managed Forest Land. Most of the forest on the east side of the Island up to Campbell River that was in the E&N Rail Grant. This is managed through the Private Managed Forests Program, which is also ecologically very weak, and currently undergoing review.
  • Community Forests. Forested land owned by a municipality, such as North Cowichan’s Municipal Forest Reserve, the management of which is governed by the elected councillors.
  • Private Forest Land. Most of the forest in developed areas along the coast is privately owned. Its management is governed by provincial laws regarding fish and water, and by Regional District bylaws. Forested land adjacent to a creek, lake or wetland gets some protection, though with weak enforcement and minimal penalties for damage done, but other private forested land has no protection at all: it has been ecologically abandoned.
  1. Ask Your Regional District to Do More to Protect the Forest

This is an area that has not been explored much, since many people believe that governments should not interfere with a private landowner’s rights. These rights are already governed by zoning laws and bylaws, however, and by Development Permit Area rules, so there’s good reason to engage with the rules. Often, where forested land is in a Development Permit Area (DPA), there are many exclusions that make the rules irrelevant. We need to discuss ways in which DPA exclusions can be reduced, and the DPAs themselves can be widened to allow logging using ecoforestry principles, while ending clearcutting.

  1. Ask the BC Provincial Government to Do More to Protect the Forest

Members of organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Ancient Forest Alliance have been working for years to try to influence government forest policy, but so far, it has been a slow, uphill struggle. In the 1990s we had success in protecting various areas completely, such as the Carmanah, parts of the Walbran, and the development of the 1990s Forest Practices Code. That was abandoned under successive BC Liberal governments, but we hope for more success under the current NDP/Green Party Alliance. Oldgrowth forests the size of 34 soccer fields are still being clearcut every day, and only 10% of the biggest old trees are left. You can send a letter to Minister Doug Donaldson here.

  1. Restore Damaged Forest Habitat

All over the world, forests are in need of restoration. This is a big topic that people study in universities. If you know of land locally that is in need of restoration, you can plant trees, making sure to install a deer-protector for each sapling. You can also ask your friends to help you clear invasive species such as broom, using advice on how and when to cut from Broombusters.

If it’s a creek or stream that needs restoration, this is a more complex matter that needs care and skills. Dave Polster has some good advice.

  1. Use Ecological Care when Altering Forested Land

If you want to build a home or a workshop, or clear a a spot for a tiny home, the most useful advice is Don’t Rush In. Live on your land for a year to see where the sun falls, where it floods in winter, which way the wind blows, and which species live where. If you cluster buildings together, there will be much less damage to the forest. You may have friends who say “It’s okay to clearcut the forest because it will grow back,” but in areas where the forest has been cleared such as Timberlands south of Cassidy, and along the Nanaimo River Road the temperature on the ground can be ten or twenty degrees warmer on hot days, compared to within the forest. Deer may eat any new trees that try to get established, and the ‘new normal’ of the climate crisis with its extended summer droughts may mean that the forest never grows back.

If you are thinking of working in a riparian area close to water it’s important to know that fish, frogs and salamanders breed in the water and spend much of their lives in riparian areas, as do many birds, invertebrates, including dragonflies, snails, slugs, and native pollinators like bumblebees and butterflies. For these reasons, it’s important to protect riparian areas:

  • Don’t clear the vegetation. What may seem messy to us is an undisturbed paradise for fish, birds and dragonflies.
  • Don’t use herbicides or pesticides near a riparian area.
  • Don’t allow livestock there, since they will cause damage by trampling and grazing, releasing sediments that could degrade spawning habitat for kilometres downstream, while their wastes can be a source of harmful bacteria like E. coli, harming downstream fish and other creatures.
  • Don’t dump grass clippings or pruned branches, since they can smother the native vegetation and introduce invasive species such as ivy, Japanese knotweed or flag iris.
  • Don’t dredge, channel or alter the water itself.
  • Don’t dig or extract soil from a riparian area.
  • Don’t build a driveway in a riparian area.
  • Don’t let a septic field drain into a riparian area.

In the CVRD, development is not allowed:

  • within 30 metres on either side of a stream, measured from high-water mark;
  • within 30 metres of the top of a ravine that’s less than 60 metres wide with a steep 3:1 slope;
  • within 10 metres of the top of a ravine more than 60 metres wide with a steep 3:1 slope.

In the RDN, riparian setbacks range from 9 meters to 30 metres depending on the slope of the land and the nature of the watercourse.

  1. Practice Ecoforestry

If you own a parcel of forest and you manage it ecologically using ecoforestry methods you will speed its restoration to its original oldgrowth character. A good way to learn about ecoforestry is to attend a workshop at Wildwood: it’s all about retaining the canopy, preserving the strong seed trees, preserving wildlife trees and protecting the soil. Here’s a short video that can get you started.

  1. Place a Conservation Covenant on Your Forested Land

If you own a parcel of forest and you want to protect it forever, you can work with a Land Trust to place a Conservation Covenant on it. This will bind future owners to protect it, with a heavy penalty for a breach of the covenant and a requirement for restoration. The downside is that it will cost you around $25,000:  $12,000 for surveying and legal work and $12,000 for the Land Trust whose staff and volunteers will need to visit the land to monitor the covenant every year or so, for eternity. One option is to write the wish that you want your land covenanted into your will, leaving money to cover the cost. On Vancouver Island, you can discuss placing a covenant on your land with these organizations:

  1. Take Action If You Learn that a Forest May Be Harmed

You have heard a rumour that a forest you love is threatened with being clearcut. What to do?

  • First, call a friend or two, so that you can discuss the problem together. Then gather as much information as you can.
  • Next, ascertain if the land is private, private managed forest land or Crown land. If it is not private, you will need to contact the Ministry of Forests and try to learn more about the rumour.
  • If it is privately owned and within a municipality, contact the municipal planning department and ask what they know about the planned activity. If it is privately owned and in a rural area, contact your Regional District and ask the same. The landowner may or may not have been required to apply for a development permit. If he or she has, you can ask to see the permit and any requirements it may contain.
  • If the chainsaws or feller-buncher machines are already at work, try to take a close look at their work, to ensure that they are doing what is required to protect the riparian area, and to stick to the rules (see #8 above). If they are not, call the 24-hour RAPP line (Report all Poachers and Polluters) to report a violation: 1-877-952-7277 or #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network.
  1. Work Towards an Ecological Democracy in which Nature’s Rights are Protected

We need to develop a vision of the future in which Nature is respected and protected. We need to hold a clear intention that forests will be valued for all that they offer, with proper protection under the law. The trees and wetlands cannot speak for themselves: we have to speak for them: that is what ecological democracy means. And they need rights.

Christopher Stone, a law professor at the University of Southern California, has written that just as we have given legal status to non-human entities such as ships and corporations, society should also give legal rights to forests, oceans, rivers and other so-called ‘natural’ objects in the environment. Corporations cannot speak either: lawyers speak for them. In 2017, New Zealand’s lawmakers granted the Whanganui River the legal rights of a human, ensuring that it will be represented by guardians in all legal matters that concern the waterway.

Yellow Point Ecological Society, November 2019



Our Suggested Changes to the Private Managed Forest Lands Program


The members of the Yellow Point Ecological Society work to understand, appreciate, protect and restore the ecosystems and watersheds in the Yellow Point area of Vancouver Island, and to inspire and support local residents and visitors to do the same.  

This paper is also available as a PDF Y.E.S. PMFLP Submission

 July 22, 2019

In BC, we have Crown forests. We have private forest lands, where most people live. We have public forests that are protected as parks. We have community forests, such as North Cowichan’s. And we have the Private Managed Forest Lands, which are actively harvested while being under private ownership.

Each type of forest is governed by different people and different rules. The urgent need that faces us, at this unprecedented time of climate and ecological emergency, is to find ways to manage the forests in which our needs for timber, income and jobs can be met while nature is nourished, carbon is stored and water is protected.

Very much to the point, the BC government is asking for our ideas on how the governance and management of Crown Lands and Private Managed Forest Lands might need changing. This paper is focussed on the latter. Our thoughts about Crown lands can be found on our website.

The climate emergency is such that we need to reduce our harmful carbon emissions as rapidly as we possibly can, while simultaneously increasing the means by which Earth’s forests, farms, grasslands and oceans re-absorb the dangerously excessive carbon.

The ecological emergency is such that the team of scientists who have written the Global Deal for Nature are urging that we need to preserve 50% of Earth’s lands in a natural state by 2030 if we are to have a hope of keeping global heating under the “danger zone” target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, and prevent the world’s ecosystems from unravelling.[1]

The History of the Private Forest Lands

 The Private Managed Forest Lands on Vancouver Island have their origin in the 1875 E&N Rail Grant, when a quarter of Vancouver Island from Sooke to Campbell River (two million acres) was given to Robert Dunsmuir as part of the arrangement to build a railway on the Island. In the years between 1925 and 1960 the Dunsmuirs sold most of their lands to coal and forest companies.

Two big companies own the most Private Managed Forest Lands on Vancouver Island: TimberWest and Island Timberlands. Some of the Dunsmuir forest lands were bought by MacMillan Bloedel, which was later bought by Weyerhauser, parts of which were later bought by Brookfield Asset Management, which then created Island Timberlands, seeking a 12-15% return on equity, presuming industrial logging followed by real estate development.

Other forest lands were bought by the American pulp and paper conglomerate Crown Zellerbach, parts of which were bought by Fletcher Challenge, which over time became TimberWest in 1997. In the late 1990s, TimberWest developed a sustainability agreement with the government in which their Oyster River Division in the Comox Valley would harvest 400,000 cubic metres a year. In the late 1990s, however, TimberWest’s owners decided to become an Income Trust, which required them to provide a guaranteed 8% return to their unit holders. In pursuit of this they ditched the sustainability agreement and increased harvesting to 1.2 million cubic metres a year, to much community protest. In the years between 2008-2011, Brookfield Asset Management, Western Forest Products, Weyerhauser and TimberWest donated $290,000 to the BC Liberals.[2]

In 2011, TimberWest[3] and Island Timberlands[4] were bought by the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board and the Alberta Investment Management Corporation for just over $1 billion. TimberWest’s core business is selling hemlock and Douglas fir logs from their 327,000 hectares to B.C and Pacific Rim markets. In 2011, Asian exports accounted for 70% of their log sales and revenue. In 2018 the two companies entered into an agreement to provide for shared use of facilities, align best practices and enhance forest stewardship, and they are now managed jointly by Mosaic Forest Management.[5]

With an eye on the long-term, TimberWest has earmarked 17% of its 322,000 hectares as being suited for real estate development in addition to forestry. Island Timberlands has done the same for 5% of its 256,000 hectares.

The Private Managed Forest Lands in total includes 278 private managed forests covering 818,000 hectares, from which 4.76 million cubic feet were harvested in 2017, representing 7% of BC’s timber harvest.

On Vancouver Island there are 201 managed forest, on which 33 owners harvested 8,861 hectares of forest, yielding 4.27 million cubic metres of timber (482 cubic metres/hectare), 28% of the Island’s timber harvest.[6] At 40 cubic metres per logging truck, that’s 107,000 trucks, which parked nose-to-tail would stretch 1819 km from Vancouver to Winnipeg.[7]

BC’s total average annual timber harvest is 77 million cubic metres, or 1.95 million logging trucks, which parked nose-to-tail would stretch for 33,000 kilometres, 7,000 km short of the circumference of the Earth.

Ecologically Sustainable Investments

The wants and needs of investors are defining motivators at heart of modern economies, accompanied by the externalization of costs to nature, communities and workers, in accordance with the principles of neo-classical economics. The natural growth rate of timber in forests on the east coast of Vancouver Island is 2%-4%, but TimberWest’s investors at the time demanded 8%. The only possible sources of a return higher than the natural growth rate are increased productivity, which is currently pushed to the limit with the use of feller-bunchers, decreased wage-costs, reduced payment of taxes, or unsustainable harvesting. The additional return could be achieved by liquidating the forest over 20 years and then selling the company to a private equity (leveraged buy-out) firm, but this would be vulture capitalism at its worst, close to piracy, with the forest being the stolen booty.

As the sole intermediary between the government and the private sector, the Private Managed Forest Lands Council bears the responsibility for ensuring that large land-owning companies do not abuse the privileges they receive through the Program by exploiting the forests under their stewardship in a non-sustainable manner. The forests have been here for 12,000 years, and if we manage them responsibly, and if they can survive ecological disruptions caused by the climate crisis, they will be here for many thousands of years to come.

Map 1Island Timberlands Forest LandsMap 2TimberWest Forest Lands

Private 2Vancouver Island Private Managed Forest Lands

Troubles on the Land (1) – Watershed Impacts

Many people in the Comox Valley, the Nanaimo watershed and the Cowichan Valley have been troubled by the way the big companies have been logging. In the Comox Valley, mountainsides have been stripped bare of their timber, silt and mud is being washed away, the rivers are flooding in winter, and there are boil water advisories in the summer. In consequence, the CVRD is having to build a sophisticated underwater pumping station and an onshore pump station with filtration, chlorination and UV treatment, costing local taxpayers a probable $125 million. When New York City’s 9.5 million residents were faced with a $10 billion cost to build new water filtration plants, plus $100 million a year to maintain them, they found that they could achieve the same result by investing $1.5 billion in watershed restoration with 368 local landowners.[8]

In July 2019 the Narwhal reported that: “In Peachland in the Okanagan, where extensive logging has taken place nearby, a landslide downslope of a logging road contributed to boil-water advisories and the need for a new $24 million water treatment plant funded by the community. In Grand Forks, sprawling clearcuts are believed to have played a major role in a monster flood in 2018 that inundated houses and led to the closure of 28 downtown businesses. In the Regional District of Central Kootenay — which stretches from the U.S. border to north of Nakusp and includes Glade and the cities of Nelson and Castlegar — at least seven communities face clear-cut logging on slopes that are home to the creeks that supply their drinking water.”[9]

Because of the heavy logging, the Columbian blacktail deer that used to browse on lichen hanging from old growth trees at upper elevations to get them through the winter have been forced down into the valleys to feed on gardens and fruit trees. In the Cowichan Valley, similar problems have arisen: mountainsides stripped bare, flooding in winter, and the Cowichan river drying up in summer, threatening the spawning grounds of the coho, and the spring salmon, on which the southern killer whales depend.[10] The warming climate and shrinking glaciers are also contributing, demonstrating how the different impacts combine.

Troubles on the Land (2) – Climate Impacts

Clearcut logging has big climate impacts. A healthy growing forest is a carbon sink, absorbing CO2 through photosynthesis and storing it as carbon in the timber and soil. In consequence, over the millennia BC’s forests have become a huge store of carbon. Old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest with a timber volume of 1500-1800 cubic metres per hectare hold carbon stocks that vary from 750 to 1130 tonnes per hectare, with 30-50% being stored in the soil and 400 to 500 tonnes in the trees.[11]

When the timber is cut and used for pulp or paper and the soil is disturbed each cubic metre of timber releases a tonne of CO2. The 4,270,000 cubic metres that are logged each year in the Private Managed Forest Lands on Vancouver Island therefore release some 4.27 million tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of a million cars driving on the road for a year. BC’s total harvest, averaging 77 million cubic metres, releases 77 million tonnes of CO2, compared to 62 million tonnes for BC’s annual emissions from everything else.

Once clearcut, a hectare of forest debris becomes a net source of 22 tonnes of CO2 per hectare per year. The shift from source to sink occurs at around 17 years, and a near-end-of-rotation stand (50-60 years-old) stores 15 tonnes per hectare.[12] The Sierra Club has estimated that Including forest fires, BC’s net forest emissions totalled 209 million tonnes a year in 2017 and 2018, three times more than all other emissions combined.[13] For the average log, the Sierra Club estimates that 23% of the carbon is stored in timber products; the BC government estimates 52%.[14]

How Does the Private Managed Forest Lands Program Work?

 In 2004, the Forest Land Reserve Act was repealed, the Forest Land Reserves were dissolved, and the Private Managed Forest Land Act was enacted “to encourage sustainable forest management and protect key environmental values on private managed land.” The owners of the 278 managed forest properties, which range in size from 3.5 hectares to 166,000 hectares, make a commitment to meet five general environmental objectives, covering soil conservation, water quality, fish habitat, wildlife habitat and reforestation. They pay for the program’s operating costs through a levy of 13 cents/cubic metre, and in return they receive a municipal tax reduction. In 2011, on Cortes Island, Island Timberlands paid $5-6/acre, compared to $62/acre for other landowners. On its 1,800 hectares, over 20 years the program will save Island Timberlands $4.7 million in property taxes.

The program is managed by a five-person Private Managed Forest Land Council, consisting of two owner reps, two government reps, and a jointly chosen chair. They make and enforce regulations, make compliance determinations, conduct inspections and audits, review landowner applications, and review annual declarations by the owners. Inspections are made by hired professional foresters at least once every 5 years, and they boast a 99.5% compliance rate, based on a 15% inspection rate. There is no First Nations engagement, no community engagement, no public environmental engagement, no public input into logging plans, and no long-term planning.

Regarding methods of logging, forest landowners are not required to submit a plan for approval, and they are not constrained on their annual timber volumes – there are no sustainable harvest level requirements. They have to follow standards of practice with regard to harvesting, stream protection, road construction/maintenance, and reforestation, and they have to honour the five environmental objectives. The devil is in the details, however:

  • Soil conservation: Owners have to follow set practices with regard to road-building, but not for general logging.
  • Water quality: Owners have to pay attention to Local Water Intakes (LWI), but not to water run-off in a watershed as a whole.
  • Fish habitat protection: streams are classified by width, and whether they are fish-bearing or upstream of an LWI. Tree-retention is required for most, varying from 30 metres for A to 15 metres for C. On streams classified D or E, which are less than 1.5 metres wide, no tree retention is required. Riparian buffers are measured on slope distance without being corrected to horizontal, enabling smaller buffers with less tree retention adjacent to steep slopes.
  • Wildlife habitat: measures must be taken to protect species listed in the Wildlife Act and the Species at Risk Act such as the red-legged frog, but not for non-threatened species.[15] Biological studies are not required before harvesting, so unless an owner chooses voluntarily to engage a professional, there is no formal means by which species and habitats at risk might be identified and protected.
  • Reforestation: newly cleared forest areas must be restocked within 5 years and successfully regenerated within 15 years, but there is no requirement to protect the best or oldest trees that drop seeds of proven genetic quality, allowing natural regeneration while also producing the big dead wildlife snags that have ecological value.
  • There is no mention of any need to consider or mitigate forest carbon loss.
  • There is no mention of any need to protect community drinking watersheds.
  • There is no mention of any need to take measures to reduce fire risk.
  • There is no mention of any need to consider cumulative ecological and hydrological impacts from activities within a shared watershed.

Suggested Changes


How can a broader, more ecologically inclusive perspective be brought to the governance of the program?

  1. We suggest expanding membership of the Council to include more people, bringing in people who have climate, ecological, and ecological forest management expertise, and First Nations heritage.
  2. We suggest forming regionally-based Forest Stewardship Advisory Councils, including participants from First Nations, universities, regional districts, local communities, local mills, forestry organizations and ecological organizations, to meet twice a year to review practices and make recommendations for change.
  3. We suggest that forest owners be required to post their harvesting plans and invite public input prior to operations commencing.


  1. We suggest widening the mandate of the program, adding six new objectives to serve the common interest in ways that are clear and measurable.
  • To ensure that watersheds that are the source of drinking water for local communities produce consistent, high quality, naturally filtered drinking water.
  • To reduce average forest carbon emissions per hectare and increase average forest carbon storage per hectare over the long-term (200 years).
  • To increase climate resilience by means of ecological forest management.
  • To reduce fire risk by thinning and other means at both stand and landscape levels.
  • To engage in long-term 200-year forest planning and set sustainable harvest and thinning rates which will help to advance a regenerating forest along the old growth curve, using ecological forest management methods including landscape planning, canopy retention, multi-age trees, the preservation of wildlife snags, and natural regeneration from identified seed trees.
  • To engage with First Nations and local communities to identify community values, sites of special interest, and locations for hiking and mountain bike trails on ownership parcels larger than 1,000 hectares, in accordance with the spirit of the Right to Roam legislation that was put before the BC Legislature in 2017 to ensure the right of citizens “to access public lands, rivers streams and lakes and to use these spaces to hunt, fish and enjoy outdoor recreation in accordance with the law.”[16]

When considering how forest owners respond to the proposed new mandates, we recommend that a distinction be made between large and small landowners, since there is a big difference between the management of forest land covering 166,000 hectares and land covering 40 hectares.

Site Management

  1. We suggest four site-management changes:
  • 60-metre no-harvest zones along lakes and Class A streams, 40 metres alongside streams Class B and C, and 20 metres along streams classes D and E, all to be measured on slope distance corrected to the horizontal from the high water mark of a stream.
  • End slash pile burning, in accordance with work being done by the Coastal Forest Sector Revitalization Initiative and partners in the Cowichan Valley. We suggest that measures are developed to quantify air quality changes and the anticipated reduction in respiratory ailments, bringing healthcare cost savings.
  • End spraying with glyphosate and other harmful herbicides to eliminate trees that are economically less valuable but still ecologically important.[17] Glyphosate has been shown to increase the risk of cancer to those exposed by 41%.[18]
  • Require a secondary species planting program on recently harvested lands including cottonwood, maple, bitter cherry and alder, mimicking the natural forest succession process and providing important forest ecology properties including wildlife habitat.

Wildlife and Species at Risk

  1. If a biological or ecological study is not conducted it is not possible to identify species at risk before harvesting. Given the urgency of the global ecological crisis, regarding which the International Union for the Conservation of Nature reported in July 2019 that a third of all assessed species are now red-listed as being in danger of extinction, we suggest that a study by a professional biologist prior to harvesting is required, and that criteria for the protection of identified endangered species and their habitats should be codified.[19]

Watershed Protection

  1. In order to protect community drinking water supplies that depend on the hydrological integrity of a watershed as a whole, not just on Local Water Intakes, we suggest that the community watershed guidelines that were grandparented into the Forest and Range Practices Act in 2004 be written into the legislation governing the Private Managed Forest Lands, and that a hydrological study followed by sign-off from the relevant Regional District be required before harvesting in a community watershed can occur.[20]

When the Forest Practices Board studied community watersheds managed under the FRPA in 2014, they found that:

  • Requirements to protect drinking water were not clear or well understood.
  • Commitments made in forestry plans were not always enforceable.
  • Greater emphasis needed to be placed on erosion and sediment control on forestry roads.[21]

In support of the FPB’s recommendations to ensure that the government’s objectives for community watersheds are achieved, we suggest that the Private Managed Forest Lands Program:

  • Clarifies requirements for the protection of water.
  • Defines the concept of cumulative hydrological effects.
  • Requires publicly available harvesting plans to include hydrological analysis which includes cumulative hydrological effects.
  • Ensures that professional reliance assessments are meaningful.
  • In partnership with Regional Districts, monitors water quality in community watersheds and tracks their status.

We further recommend that members of the Private Managed Forest Lands Council urge the government to fully implement the Water Sustainability Act, which would go 60% of the way towards protecting critical community watersheds.

Ecological Restoration

  1. We suggest that large forest land owners be required to set aside a financial reserve in a Private Managed Forest Lands Program Account for the purpose of ecological restoration following defined damage, those moneys to be foregone if the restoration does not proceed, or if the consequences of the damage before restoration have to be offset (for instance) through municipal water treatment. Carefully defined criteria will be needed to evaluate damage and create financial and legal certainty.

Other Suggested Changes

  1. Silviculture Savings Account: Considering the uneven annual flow of income to land owners owning smaller parcels of forest, resulting in higher taxation in harvest years and lower taxation in non-harvest years, we suggest that the Ministry of Finance create a Silviculture Savings Account, similar in character to an RRSP or RESP, allowing earnings to be stored and taxed when they are withdrawn, unless the withdrawal is for a silvicultural investment.
  2. Conservation Tax Incentive Program: Considering the ecological values that are enhanced by the practice of ecological forest management, retaining the canopy and managing a forest with the intent to restore old growth qualities, we suggest that the Ministry of Finance consider creating a Forestry Class Exemption, and/or a Conservation Tax Incentive Program similar in spirit to the Agricultural tax reduction.
  3. Density-transfer: Considering that some private forest land owners may have no intention or desire to develop their land in accordance with their permitted residential densities, we suggest that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs develop a province-wide set of density-transfer regulations, enabling forest land owners to sell their density rights into other approved areas.
  4. Two hectare lower limit: Considering that many small land owners may be interested to harvest timber from their forest lands in a sustainable manner, we suggest that where landowners become members of a locally established forestry association or cooperative, as is common in Finland, the lower limit for the program be reduced from 3.5 to 2 hectares.

Other Forestry-Related Suggestions

We would like consideration for these related suggestions, which may or may not fall under the Private Managed Forest Land Program’s remit:

  1. Trees as a Farm Crop: On private land classed as farmland, we suggest that the Ministry of Forests work with the Ministry of Agriculture to enable trees to be declared a farm crop for farming purposes, enabling forest-farmers to qualify for the agricultural land tax credit. The current list of qualifying crops only includes Christmas trees and the intense cultivation of plantations of poplar and willow.[22]
  2. A Forest Thinning Incentive Program: We suggest that the Ministry of Forests work with the Ministry of Finance to develop a forest thinning incentive program to reduce fire risk, increase multi-age species representation, and advance a forest down the oldgrowth curve.
  3. A Forest Carbon Incentive Program: We suggest that the Ministry of Forests work with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Finance to develop a Forest Carbon Incentive Program, establishing regulatory mechanisms and financial incentives to reduce average carbon emissions per hectare and increase average carbon storage per hectare, to contribute to the missing 25% of emissions reductions in the province’s CleanBC 2030 goals.[23]
  4. Transition to Ecological Forest Management: We suggest that in light of the urgency of the climate and ecological emergencies, the Ministry of Forests work with the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at UVic and the UBC School of Forestry and the Ministry of Finance to develop a ten-year transition for all forests in BC to ecological forest management. The knowledge base already exists through fifty years of ecological forest management science, some of which was well-expressed in BC’s old Forest Practices Code. We suggest using incentives for five years, followed by a regulatory approach if the incentives do not produce the needed results.


Contact: Guy Dauncey, President.   250-924-1445

[1] Global Deal for Nature:

[2] Private communication from Rick James, Comox Valley resident.

[3] TimberWest:

[4] Island Timberlands:

[5] Mosaic Forest Management:

[6] Managed Forest Council Annual Report, 2017/2018.

[7] Trucks 17 metres long, distance 1,819 kilometres

[8] New York City:

[9] Narwhal:

[10] Cowichan River:

[11] Carbon storage:


[13] Sierra Club:

[14] BC forest carbon emissions:

[15] Wildlife guidance:

[16] Right to Roam:

[17] Glyphosate:

[18] Glyphosate:

[19] IUCN Study:

[20] Community drinking water:

[21] Forest Practices Board:

[22] Qualifying agricultural use:

[23] CleanBC: