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Jack Minard of The Comox Valley Land Trust

Jack Minard of The Comox Valley Land Trus

Photo by Boomer Jerritt

On a March day earlier this year, more about Jack Minard walked into Courtenay City Hall with four dead trout in a plastic baggie. He made his way to the engineering department and plunked the baggie down on the counter.

“What can you do about this?” he asked.

Minard’s eyes sparkle as he tells me this story, viagra sale months later, around a big table in the 5th Street office of the Comox Valley Land Trust (CVLT). Minard is the CVLT Executive Director, and it was in this capacity that he was so dramatically alerting city officials to the problem of dying fish in Finlay Creek.

He hastens to explain that this wasn’t an act of hostility. “I have a really good relationship with the engineering department and I didn’t have to do anything as dramatic as that… but, well, I just had to,” he says with a laugh.
The story is, of course, a fun one, but it also says something about how a land trust works.

A land trust is a non-profit organization committed to the long-term protection of natural and/or cultural heritage. A land trust may own land itself, or it may enter into conservation covenants (see sidebar) with property owners to protect or restore natural or heritage features on the owner’s land.

Land trusts also engage in stewardship, restoration and management of lands, as well as public education, political advocacy, and community organizing to promote their environmental values.

A land trust covers almost all the bases of what we imagine when we say, “environmental activism”—from scientific study to get-your-hands-dirty work on the land to meetings with politicians; from counting fish to changing policies.
Pretty much all of those activities were represented by Minard’s bag of dead fish.

The fish came from Finlay Creek in Sandwick Forest. CVLT has been working with the Sandwick Waterworks Improvement District to ensure that this 31-acre forest, which includes cedar trees more than 150 years old, will become park protected by a conservation covenant. Finlay Creek runs through Sandwick Forest and is a critical element for healthy fish production in the Tsolum River.

CVLT has a group of volunteers that monitor Sandwick Forest, as well as a group for every other property they are involved with. They pick up garbage, report vandalism, and keep an eye on natural features of the property.
When a CVLT monitor found dead fish in the creek, CVLT knew something was amiss. When they went to investigate, they counted 30 dead trout. Something was very amiss.

The problem, says Minard, is that a portion of Finlay Creek has been built over. “It actually goes from Home Depot under the Aquatic Centre and keeps going under the subdivision to Sandwick Park; it’s all been put underground with a system of pipes and drains. So if anywhere in the system someone puts something down the drain, we get dead fish.
“What we need to do is educate people,” says Minard. But a good education program needs a concerted effort with strong leadership and financing. That’s why he went to the City of Courtenay with a bag of dead fish—to get the municipality involved.

“We’d like to see the city not just sharing costs but also taking the lead,” says Minard. Thus far he’s not entirely satisfied with the City’s response, but he’s not giving up. He did get noticed, and this has initiated discussions about some kind of partnership.

“We did talk about the City helping to pay for a neighborhood campaign educating people about pouring things down the drains. Something is going to happen, although not with the level of municipal leadership we’d hoped for,” says Minard.

Sandwick Forest is one of 10 covenants that CVLT holds, with an 11th currently in the works. Four of these are parks, open to the public, and the others remain private, focusing solely on ecosystem and wildlife protection. “Eleven covenants is a lot,” says Minard, proudly. “I don’t know of any other small conservancy that has taken on that many.”

CVLT was founded in 1999 by Shirley Ward and Diana Caldwell, two neighbours who were both concerned citizens. In particular, they were concerned about wetlands being drained, about massive use of pesticides, and about ecosystems dying out. They began to research the possibilities for creating a local organization that could garner a broad base of support, gather together diverse interests, and make a lasting difference to the environmental health of the Valley. The result was CVLT.

The CVLT website sets out compelling evidence of the need it intends to address: only 13 per cent (approximately 23,500 hectares) of Comox Valley land is protected; and more than 90 per cent of that land is within Strathcona Provincial Park. Unless steps are taken to address this, the Valley will see a continuing loss of biodiversity, which will eventually undermine nature’s ability to provide essential environmental services. Clean air and water, healthy soils, local food production and natural resource industries are at stake.