Cowichan and Quw’utsun, Forest Conservation: Inspiration, Invitation, Initiation

‘Uy’ skweyul Quw’utsun, Hello North Cowichan:

It is said, “What we don’t know can’t hurt us.”  I beg to differ.

When it comes to our two communities, living side-by-side yet as if separated by a great wall— living in one Valley surrounded by six mountains of forests — what we don’t know about each other and our community forests is not only hurting us but, as our legacy, could be devastating for our children and future generations.

Ignorance is not bliss.

It’s time to go beyond politics to reach out to each other as people. To survive as a species, we must come together to protect the forests we can protect, while there is still time.

The question is: How do we bridge the gap to make this great leap— say of consciousness? Surely it will take a miracle. Low and behold, this very miracle has just happened.

Enter the forests.

Noon, March 3, the Municipality of North Cowichan releases the results of our 4 year pubic consultation about the management of our Forest Reserve — The Six Mountain Forests. Once again, in meetings and surveys the public has come out overwhelmingly (76%) for conservation.

Through our consultation, please know, Quw’utsun, the wall is breaking down. Beyond barriers of power and politics, you are surrounded by people of diverse cultural and racial backgrounds expressing values in alignment with traditional First Nations wisdom regarding the forests:

We understand that from the micro to the macro, from mycelia to canopies, to plant spores and stardust carried on the ethereal winds, and including all living beings — we are one. We are interdependent and dependent on forest ecosystems for survival.

For 4 years, through consultation, we have spelled out our wishes to our Council:

No more logging of our community forests.

No more logging roads, no how— no more dividing, fragmenting our rare, critically endangered, mature Coastal Douglas-fir forests.

Leave all trees in the forests as food, nourishment, habitat — we have already taken too much.

This is not about money, though through carbon credits and a world-class Centre of Conservation our communities stand to earn millions more than by logging.

Protect the forests to become old growth.

Protect biodiversity, wildlife habitat, watersheds, trails, and culturally significant areas to the Quw’utsun.

And please know, Quw’utsun, we want open consultation with you, our neighbours. It’s all on the record. We want truth and transparency.

There is a way. It’s called the Rights of Nature, an international movement growing in the world. It’s about partnership, through stewardship, going beyond ownership.

There is a legal way to protect nature. Just as ships, corporations, and churches may claim legal personhood with inviolable rights, so too may ecosystems.

In the beginning, all our ancestors understood we cannot own nature. To divide forests is to divide and separate ourselves. We must end the division.

United, our 2 communities have the power to protect our Six Mountain Forests. We can’t afford to do otherwise, and yet for our efforts we will be paid richly.

Through our Centre of Conservation, in partnerships with universities, colleges, governments, lucrative funding could pour into our Valley.

Recently, Premier Eby announced the BC forests are “exhausted,” and allocated $10 million to the Buckley Valley Research Centre of silviculture (sustainable logging).

There is no Conservation Research Centre, comparable to what we could create, in the nation — none with 5,000 ha of forests, including the most rare, endangered forest in the province (of 2 most endangered in Canada).

Through conservation we are poised, next in line for grants.

We are arrived at a historic moment. Together we may act as visionaries, as a ray of light in the darkness of hundreds of years’ division.

It is the moment to break through the wall. Like dominoes, once one begins to fall, all may follow. What greater inspiration and invitation than knowing that change in the world begins in our home.

As for initiation into this “new way” of conservation, ancient to the Quw’utsun— how else but by coming together may we learn the ways of nature, of millennia, and the science of today.

Icel Dobell
Where Do We Stand