Environment

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The popularity of the Comox Valley makes matters worse. The Valley is one of the fastest growing areas in British Columbia. The population is projected to reach 78,373 by the year 2020, representing a population increase of 19% (BC Stats information as of May, 2007).

CVLT clearly has its work cut out. But it is not alone.

The Comox Valley Land Trust is one of 32 locally-based land trusts in BC. Also, there are two province-wide land trusts, as well as one Canadian land trust. The oldest land trust active in BC is an international one, Ducks Unlimited. Land trusts often work together on conservation, stewardship projects, and campaigns, and it is common for two land trusts to act as co-holders of a covenant, providing an extra level of assurance and sharing the responsibilities involved.

Beyond all the work involved in seeking out, setting up, and overseeing covenants, CVLT has been very active in setting up partnerships in the community.

“Our strategy is to expand to be a real voice for conservation in the Comox Valley,” says Minard.

One of CVLT’s most exciting projects is the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy. The goal is ambitious: to ensure that all land-use in the Valley serves conservation values.

CVLT has set up a Conservation Strategy Steering Committee, which is working with regional and municipal planners, engineers, politicians and community groups to develop a new way of doing business. A big part of the conservation strategy work involves creating clear information about conservation issues, such as maps of sensitive ecosystems, identification of areas identified by the community as high-priority for conservation, maps of protected lands (parks, greenways, wildlife and ecological reserves, and covenants), and wildlife information.

Minard says local authorities and residents have been receptive to this initiative. As CVLT makes more partnerships and gets involved in more projects, it becomes more influential.

“We do seem to have government’s ear,” he says. “For instance, they are referring development proposals to us for comment.”

This is proof, says Minard, of the power of working in a group. While individuals can, and have been, very powerful in the environmentalist movement, he feels that the coordination that groups provide is invaluable.
“In the past, the most passionate people would go to city hall. Definitely, a clear, articulate person can do a lot, and here in the Valley we’ve had very effective people like Melda Buchanan. But even more effective is collaboration and partnerships. You can speak for large swathes of land.

“Perhaps the most effective thing people can do is get involved with an organization. There’s one for every creek in the Valley, and each of those are part of the Comox Valley Environmental Council.”

Minard says that even those who seem to be “the enemy” of environmentalism can turn into partners. He cautions against a confrontational approach, instead advocating dialogue. Ultimately, he says, we will be more powerful if we can find common ground—and this isn’t as hard as it may seem.

“Every individual, even the most irascible of developers, when you talk one-on-one with them, wants the same thing as me—a nice healthy planet with some security, and a good chance of jobs for our grandchildren. We want the same thing, but we go about it differently.”

CVLT’s love of partnership was very evident in their recent fundraising event, Celebrating the Lorax, held at the Comox First Nations Band Hall and Big House this past April Fool’s Day.

“This was our answer to galas. These events are usually raising money for one specific organization; they are dressy, kind of staid events which seem to be losing their popularity,” explains Minard. CVLT decided to do something very different—something livelier that would reach out beyond the established base of supporters.

“Board member Vivian Dean had encountered the Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax, and in all her creativity thought that we could get kids involved,” says Minard.