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Protecting the Coastal Douglas Fir Forest: Seven Practical Solutions

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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”

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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
Myself
May the birds of truth steal the seeds
of my longing and spread them far
That I may grow
Diversely
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.

Trees

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.

Protecting the Forest for the Future

These are our seven proposed solutions to protect the Coastal Douglas fir forest in our area:

1. The voluntary use of conservation and ecoforestry covenants

protecting the forest for future generations while allowing logging using the ecosystem-based single-tree selection method practiced at Wildwood by the Ecoforestry Institute Society, enabling the forest to recover its old growth character over the next 100 years.

2. The use of a property tax incentive

to reward landowners who are already practising sustainable forest management, or who have placed a conservation covenant on their land.

3. The development of a regional conservation fund,

financed by a small increase in taxes to fund conservation projects on private lands, and to purchase private properties for conservation purposes. The CVRD has such a fund; the RDN does not.

4. A requirement for clustered or carefully-place home-site development

on lots of ten acres or more. Thus, a landowner who owns twenty acres, allowing four 5-acre lots, could develop four homes on four small lots, the rest of the forest being shared by the owners and protected by an ecoforestry covenant.

5. The use of a density transfer

allowing a landowner whose zoning allows for subdivision into two or more lots to sell the development potential to a landowner in an area where density transfer units can be received for an approved development. For example, if you own 20 acres zoned to allow four 5-acre lots, you could sell some or all of the density units, the remaining forest being protected by an ecoforestry covenant. This is currently allowed in the RDN, with density transfers to RDN Area H.

6. Amending the provincial development permit area (DPA) rules:

  • classifying all Coastal Douglas fir forest as an endangered ecosystem, enabling environmentally sensitive DPAs to be established by local governments;
  • requiring a permit for any subdivision, not just for four lots or more; and
  • strengthening the rules to require the clustering or careful placement of development, with the remaining forest being protected by an ecoforestry covenant.

7. The creation by the provincial government of a Coastal Douglas Fir Land Reserve

  • in which logging would be allowed provided it followed ecoforestry principles,
  • landowners’ development rights would remain, but be adjusted to require that any proposed development is clustered or carefully placed, and
  • requiring that the remaining forest be protected by an ecoforestry covenant.

 

 

Swans, Geese, Ducks, Eagles and Beavers

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I spend a lot of time walking through Yellow Point Park and EcoReserve enjoying the wonderful wilderness right here in our neighbourhood. I am awestruck by the ancient trees, inspired by the tenacious lichens, ferns and mosses, delighted by the wild flowers. The Park and EcoReserve are home to so many interesting species.

I love watching the swans land on Long Lake, and the pairs of geese protecting their nests. I enjoy the raucous duck wars during breeding season and the parade of ducklings following their parents through the marsh. The purple martins are beautiful swooping across the water to snatch bugs midair. When the red winged blackbirds return in the spring, their calls echo across the water. Blue herons stalk through the shallows, then strike with lightening speed to capture prey in their long beaks.

Screech Owls and Great Horned Owls

I’ve watched eagles teach their young to fly, performing short awkward flights between huge trees. I’ve listened to Screech owls calling through the forest, been dive-bombed by a barred owl, and seen Great horned owls perched high in sturdy branches of enormous fir trees.

Beavers, Cougars, Bears, Deer, and the little Sundew

The beavers work diligently to reinforce their dams and adapt the habitat to suit their needs, thereby ensuring continued diversity in the forest. Deer and bear feast on leaves and wild berries. The occasional cougar prowls silently through the forest. On the marsh, sundews (little Venus fly traps) capture insects in their tiny maws. The frog chorus is so loud in the spring that it is difficult to sleep.

All of this is possible because our community had the foresight to fight for the preservation of this beautiful Park and EcoReserve. The EcoReserve was created in 1996 “to protect a highly diverse mosaic of ecosystem types, from aquatic, peat bog and forest to dry site ecosystems”. Many of the plants and animals are red-listed and blue-listed species at risk, including the Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem. This habitat should be protected.

It’s very fragile – and ours to lose

We could easily lose the unique features and diversity of this beautiful park and wetland if we don’t protect our forest and watershed. The Yellow Point watershed is very fragile, and officially one of the most stressed aquifers in the province. Yellow Point rests on fractured bedrock, which has limited ability to retain water. Our only water source is rain. We don’t have any rivers, or any connection to the Cassidy aquifer or other water sources. The rain falls on our forest and seeps into our shallow soil. It is caught in many small ponds and catchment basins that feed the streams that flow to the sea. Our forests, mosses and other vegetation hold the water, enabling it to sink into the earth. This groundwater distributes itself through small fissures in the bedrock to our wells.

During the dry months there is no recharge of the watershed. We rely on the ability of our forests and wetlands to retain water. Without our forests and ground cover, the rain would flow rapidly away causing erosion, filling our creeks and wetlands with silt and depleting our watershed. The sun would bake our wetlands and the complex ecosystem would be destroyed.

Disruption, contamination and depletion of the Yellow Point aquifer is a legitimate concern for local residents. Destruction of our wetlands will make us all poorer.

We must protect our forests and watershed to preserve our beautiful Park and EcoReserve, and the wonderful community of plants and animals that live there.

Diane Coussens is a 40-years resident who raised her two children in their home on Long Lake Road.

Tree Time

by Priscilla Brewer

We are finally beginning to understand the tremendous benefits of trees and forests.

We know that trees filter air pollutants and give us fresh clean oxygen to breath. They also store groundwater, purify our drinking water, and capture vast quantities of carbon. They keep us cool in summer, protect us from winter chills, and provide us with food, fuel, lumber, fibres, crafts and medicine. It’s almost as if we need trees to survive (WE DO!).

But trees don’t only benefit humans – they also create and nurture their own ecosystems and support vital biodiversity. Trees immensely help other plants and wildlife to flourish, they keep river habitat healthy, help protect and replenish our watersheds and aquifers, and improve soil conditions for an immeasurable number of below-ground critters.

Trees provide all these valuable services for free, 24 hours a day, without complaining. Yet they are sometimes treated as if they were unimportant objects, appreciated solely for their dollar value.

Incredibly, there has been a recent wave of research that delves deeper into the mystery of trees. New studies and compelling literature suggest that trees can communicate with each other, pass information, share nutrients with other trees and plants, and even recognize and nurture their offspring. This would imply that trees think, care, and feel pain.

Even more mysterious is the idea that trees can help humans on a spiritual level. Around the world, studies have shown that by spending time immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of a forest we can lower our stress levels, improve our memory functions, lower our blood pressure, and reduce anxiety and depression. Many countries consider ‘forest bathing’ a recognized form of health care. Hanging out in a forest can actually make us happier and healthier.

We could all use a little more tree time!
The Yellow Point Ecological Society (Y.E.S.) hopes to inspire local residents and visitors to appreciate the enormous gifts we receive from our precious forests.

Together, let’s speak out to protect what remains of our forest, so that the trees can continue to protect and nurture the complex and biodiverse ecosystem that lives beneath their branches – including us.

Please join us for our monthly Yellow Point nature hikes! Or February hike is on the 11th at 11:00am at the Yellow Point Ecological Reserve (meet at the end of Whiting Way, no dogs please). Our March hike will be at Wildwood, March 11th at 11:00. See you there!

Priscilla Brewer