John William Scull – An Obituary

May 10, 1943  July 24, 2020

Born a 4th generation Californian and growing up in Beverly Hills, John used to jokingly describe himself as consistently downwardly mobile but no less happy for it.

His youthful interests became lifelong pursuits. He was drawn to science, particularly astronomy, reading, chess, music, sailing, and camping. He spent time working with his hands and exploring philosophy with his grandparents. It was also the beginnings of an enduring fascination with adventure and the South Pacific that began by sounding out the longest word he could find on the map on the wall  Kapingamarangi  which was eye-level for him at just the right age.

The following years included studying and working in engineering and then experimental psychology with rats, pigeons and turtles in California, Toronto, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Victoria. Along the way, he and his first partner Jeri Covay built a family, became deeply involved in the politics of social and environmental justice, travelled Europe and gathered more lifelong friends. His daughter Kathy was born in Toronto and Charley followed three years later in Brighton.

During his brief stint in Mexico City he miraculously found himself living next door to his best friend from childhood, Juan Bueno. They have been close friends ever since. Juan describes 12 year old John as a tall, lanky carefree kid with a gift for original thinking.

In 1973, his best friend Don Fernandez arranged for him to come to Vancouver Island on a six-week contract at Cedar Lodge, a school for children with learning disabilities. That contract turned into 10+ years and became a source of many more lifelong friendships. He had fallen in love with the Island, exploring it through sailing, camping, and tramping through the woods. It has been his chosen home ever since.

John later went into private practice, worked for Mental Health Centres on the Island and taught psychology at Vancouver Island University. He made time for travel, adventure and deep intercultural learnings with his spouse, Linda Hill; first to Micronesia (including a side trip to Kapingamarangi, the Island of his childhood imagination), and then to the Solomon Islands as CUSO volunteers.

These experiences became endless sources of stories, inspiration and even more friends. But home beckoned and he always came back to the Cowichan Valley, where he and Linda threw themselves into the issues that mattered most to them: diversity, inclusion, community, conservation, eco-psychology and the Earth Charter.

John had a deep sense of wonder with the natural world and an endless curiosity. He took great joy in learning and sharing his wonder with others, (especially his grandchildren) through teaching and mentorship. He appreciated the small and beautiful things in life; word-play, the smiles that appeared when he pulled out one of his tiny ukuleles and the pleasure of biting into a Pirate cookie, with the wind at your back as you’re headed for harbour. His ever-growing family of choice was also a constant source of delight.

John always thought of himself as an exceptionally fortunate man for the life he lived. He spent his final months laughing, joking, and sharing stories throughout his adventure with cancer. He was filled with gratitude that he had a chance to connect with so many of the people he really loved.

As John said, “Family, friends and community are the best medicine”. On July 24, as dawn broke and the finches began to sing, it was time for John to embark on his next journey. He was surrounded by his children, grandchildren and spouse, looking out onto Mount Prevost. His was a life well-lived. He left it a fortunate man and all of us a fortunate family.

John was very proud of his role as a founder of the Cowichan Land Trust. He saw the protection of natural areas as a gift to future generations. You are invited to make a contribution to CLT in lieu of flowers at

Online condolences may be offered at

Friends and community groups are invited to celebrate his life through your own informal gatherings and waffle parties. If you let us know your plans via Sands, we can participate virtually, in person, or in spirit.

Cowichan Valley Citizen, July 24, 2020

Call for Presentations: The Trumpeter Swan Society 24th Conference

The 24th Conference of The Trumpeter Swan Society (TTSS) will be held in Duncan, BC, Canada, on November 16-18, 2016. The conferences of TTSS, that were begun in 1969, provide the only public forum in North America that brings together private citizens, conservation groups, policy makers, swan managers, and researchers to examine the status and needs of Trumpeter Swans in the U.S. and Canada.

The 24th Conference will focus on both the successes and challenges involved with long-term management of trumpeter swans. Special attention will also be given to be the status, management, and conservation of Trumpeter Swans in the Pacific Flyway and potential conflicts between swans and agriculture during winter. Presentations will examine swan conservation accomplishments and lessons learned and discuss the future challenges. In addition, the Conference will include sessions on the biology, habitat concerns, and management of Trumpeter Swan populations throughout North America. Papers and posters on the biology and management of Tundra Swans and Mute Swans or their interactions with Trumpeter Swans are also invited.

We strongly encourage private partners, agency managers, and biologists involved in Trumpeter Swan restoration, management, and research to participate. If you are interested in making a presentation at the 24th Conference, please contact John Cornely at (, Paul Fletcher (, or Jim Hawkings ( for additional information, including presentation guidelines and submission dates.

Save the Walbran old growth forest

More than 95 people attended a special meeting of the Cowichan Valley Naturalists on January 14 for a discussion of the threat to the remaining old growth forests in the Walbran Valley.  While much of the Carmanah-Walbran ancient forest is protected, the central and upper Walbran Valley is still open to logging.  Ken Wu and T. J. Watts of the Ancient Forest Alliance showed slides of this beautiful area and talked about the ecological, economic, scientific and aesthetic benefits of preserving all the remaining ancient forest on southern Vancouver Island and especially this area.  The Cowichan Valley Naturalists’ Society has written a detailed letter which can be downloaded by following this link.  We encourage you to write your own letter to government, newspapers, individuals, and other organizations.

Image (c) TJ Watt Photo taken for Westen Canada Wilderness Committee Usage without prior consent will result in charges 3 times regular usage amount.

Here is the text of the letter:

Dear Honourable Steve Thomson (Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations), Chief Arliss Daniels, (Pacheedaht Nation) and Tom and Dick Jones (owners of Teal Jones),

Request for a joint meeting re our concerns about logging old growth forest in Central Walbran Valley.

The Cowichan Valley Naturalists’ Society members have been exploring the natural history of Vancouver Island for many years. For millennia the land has been cared for by our aboriginal neighbours. We appreciate and honour that in visiting the Walbran area that we are in the traditional territory of the Pacheedaht nation. Most of our club members live in Cowichan Tribe’s traditional territory and to travel to the Walbran we pass through the lands of the Cowichan Lake First Nations and the Dididaht First Nations. Old-growth forests are vital to First Nations traditional uses and spiritual practices.

We have been blessed with some of the best old growth temperate rain forests on earth in our Cowichan Valley Regional District. We wish these to be protected for all time. The Central Walbran has a unique assemblage of these old trees. Our members were active in the creation of the Carmanah/Walbran Provincial Park and are familiar with the history. We would like to clarify that we recognize forestry as a major part of our economy, local and provincial. We have family and friends who work in the industry. We wish to find a peaceful solution to protecting these ancient trees.

These ancient forests sequester carbon, sustain wildlife, provide habitat to endangered species, create tourism and recreational opportunities, supply clean water and provide homes to countless species. Old growth forests are able to provide climate stability. They regulate water services, an important consideration with the drier summers and wetter winters that have been occurring lately. These ancient forests are not replicated by the second-growth tree plantations that are being planted to replace them. It takes a minimum of 150 years to develop a good forest, not the 30 to 80 year cuts currently occurring on the BC coast. With the issue of climate change becoming more and more problematic having old growth forests is increasingly important since these forests ensure areas that will act as heat sinks in the hotter weather and sponges during the longer rainy seasons that are already occurring across Canada. (Mekis and Vincent, 2011).

Found in this area are a number of unique species that fall under the federally mandated Species at Risk Act including Northern Goshawks , Accipiter gentilis laingi (threatened, scheduled one), and Marbled Murrelets (threatened, scheduled one). The Walbran Valley was the first place in Canada where the nest of a Marbled Murrelet was discovered in 1990. In nearby Anderson Lake are found interesting piscovorous (fish eating) large rainbow trout. The kokanee population in Anderson Lake is also of interest and unusual for such a small lake. (Law, P. 1990. A Reconnaissance of Anderson Lake, Ministry of Environment, Fisheries Branch. Unpublished document). Research by entomologists: Claudia Copley, Dr. Zoe Lindo, and Dr. Neville Winchester, on the Carmanah and Walbran area has found that the assemblage of insects in ancient forests to be unique. A rare new species of mite has been found, named after the Walbran Valley, Metrioppia walbranensis, (Lindo, Z. 2015, The Canadian Entomologist 147: 553-563.) No doubt there is other rare flora and fauna still to be found.

Thousands of people have visited the Central Walbran Valley and many thousands more will come if the area is protected. The President of the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce states that these visitors have created a multimillion dollar economy for the coast between Port Renfrew and Tofino. This industry in the long term creates more economic value than the logging of old growth trees. Certainly the issue of jobs for loggers, truck drivers, etc. is a valid concern but could be addressed by investigating carbon credits, doing more value added wood work in BC and continuing to do sustainable logging of second growth trees. We are mindful that Teal Jones is a BC based company providing in BC Jobs, not shipping logs overseas and practicing sustainable logging in BC.

“The benefits of preservation in terms of increased recreational opportunities, non-timber forest products, and carbon sequestration and storage outweigh the costs in terms of lost producer surplus from timber harvesting (Connel, D.J., Saphiro, J. & Lavallee, L. (2015). Old-Growth Forest Values: A Case Study of the Ancient Cedars of British Columbia. )

We support the recent request from the Port Renfrew Chamber of Commerce to the BC government to:

  • Establish an immediate moratorium on planned logging in the unprotected Central Walbran Valley and areas adjacent to the park boundaries, with an intent to eventually legislate protection for the entire watershed.

  • Ensure sustainable, valued-added forestry in second-growth stands which now constitutes 90% of the productive forest lands on southern Vancouver Island.

We wish to reiterate that we are not anti-logging, but we are against logging old growth forests. Please protect these treasures for all time. We wish to request that a meeting be held between your three groups to work collaboratively and be part of a paradigm shift that supports ecological balance in our province.

We wish to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss our concerns. Once these old growth trees are cut they cannot be replaced. Our motto is: “As naturalists we speak for nature since it cannot speak for itself.” We would very much appreciate the opportunity to speak with all of you and find a win-win situation for the trees and people.

Here is a guest post from Ovidiu Popescu in Romania.  He has helped create a new website,, aimed at increasing environmental awareness.  It is good to know we have allies around the world and to be reminded occasionally of the fundamentals of environmental stewardship.

How You Can Help Wildlife

There are a lot of wonders in the world and among them are wildlife species. While most people think that there is an abundance of wildlife species on our planet, the truth is, their numbers are declining rapidly due to land use changes, pollution, climate change and uncontrolled hunting and trapping. If we don’t take action now, more species will become endangered and even extinct. Each one of us plays a crucial role in protecting wildlife and their habitats. Whether you choose to get involved with hands-on volunteering to monitor endangered species and help with habitat preservation or whether you want to share knowledge and raise awareness, there’s a little something for everyone. Here are a few suggestions on how you can make a difference every day.

1. Create a wildlife-friendly garden

No matter how small is your yard, you can still grow a few plants that can reduce the risk of native biodiversity loss, offer shelter and food for insects like butterflies and bees, as well as to other wildlife such as hummingbirds. In fact, even a window box with the right types of flowers can support some species. Don’t forget to identify invasive plants and remove them from your yard.

2. Clean boats and other outdoor gear

Clean your boat, trailer, tires, fishing gear and other equipment frequently to prevent moving invasive species, like insects or plants, from one area to another.

3. Do not litter

Garbage is often harmful to animals. Discarded gum, for instance, has been well known to kill birds. Food leftovers from garbage bins may be eaten by wild animals, but they do better on a natural diet of food that grows wild in the nature.

4. Be an educated consumer – Reduce, reuse, recycle

Avoid buying products like tortoise shell, corals, or ivory made from endangered animals, and don’t eat shark meat in restaurants.

Bring your own reusable bag to the food store and try buying goods with little if any packaging. You will realize quickly how much less garbage and waste you produce.

5. Volunteer

This is a great chance to give something back to the environment. We can be much stronger wildlife helpers when we work together. Join clean-up events, maintain trails, monitor birds, make storm drains, remove trash and invasive species of plants. Small actions like these are truly what makes the world a better place. Nature Cowichan also welcomes volunteers to help with membership management, fundraising, office support, publicity, public events, newsletters and many more.

Swan and Goose Count, January 14th

The top cat was back this week and this old moggie was not going to allow the antics of last week, so i rounded up the troops in the car park and told them in no uncertain terms the fun was over and that the 6 counters were to follow my instructions to the fullest, they in turn just laughed at me.
Our count had a wonderful day with many great sightings and good numbers of birds. Just under 500 Trumpeter Swans and an almost identical number of Canada Geese as last week at 804.
Somenos Marsh did not show us too much this week, but the lake was different with over 100 Trumpeters and a nice group of Ruddy Ducks over on the far shore.
We left here and headed along the highway and we hadn’t gone a km when i spotted some swans on the west side of the road, we all jumped out right in front of the Toyota dealership binoculars at the ready and peered over the road and i was astounded to see 24 Great White-fronted Geese along with over 50 Trumpeters. I looked around to see 2 car salesman heading back to the warmth of the office, i guess they thought we were looking at the second hand car lot, then realized we were only birdwatchers.
Then on to Quist’s Farm where a few swans were had along with some Bald Eagles and small flock of Killdeer which were disturbed by a over flying eagle.
It was then that i gave in to the ladies wishes, yes i do have a soft spot for them. Due to last weeks diversion along Crofton Road i thought that it would be best to check this location out again and we were rewarded with just under 60 Swans, if some of you look at the files attached this number is added into the Quist total for my easy adding.
It then went slow for the next few stops with just a few flocks of Canada Geese added. 5 swans were added along Drinkwater Road in fields that were contentious over the Christmas period because of hunting.
After our break we headed over to Sahilton Road, but sadly this area has not been good for a while now and only offered up a few birds.
It was here that the ladies started to turn on the charm and flaunted truffles and chocolate covered berries at me and sadly i succumbed and was under their witching control.
We headed for the west side and ended up on Riverside Road due to a tip from our trusted driver who had spied some big white birds in a field, when we arrived we found 19 adults and 7 immature swans. More truffles were forthcoming and i was truly hooked.
Bench Road was next and as has been the norm the swans were way down the field making hard to count, let alone identify, but in the end we had just under 50 swans and 60 geese.
Dougans Flats gave us another 25 swans, but nothing else.
St Catherines Road came through with a nice assortment and 26 adults and 23 immature made for a great percentage.
We hit Koksilah Road east and found a few birds and then moved around to the other side on Wilmott Road where we were lucky to spot another group of swans, so we lept out of the vehicles and this time it was obvious who it was who caused so much trouble last week as she left the rear end of her vehicle stuck out in the road, blocking two pedestrians from their afternoon walk. By this time i was across the road and had spotted our second bonus of the day, the Sandhill Crane was there with his Trumpeter buddies, i quickly alerted the group and many distant and misty pictures were taken. I was going to mention here about Deb, but she is such nice person, Deb your problem is safe with me, so sad.
Down into the Bay we went and spotted a Sharp-shinned Hawk just before we turned onto the Dock Road and out in the bay we had just 3 Swans and not much else to spout about. Kurlene tapped me on the shoulder and told me she thought she had a Northern Harrier across the other side of the road, but she mentioned some light patches in the wings, well this pricked my ears up as Short-eared Owls have light patches in the wings. These two species can be hard at times to tell from a distance. We slowly drove back down the road and then magically i spotted the tell tale moth like flight of a a Short-eared, so cars were abandoned and all were out to watch this wonderful owl go back and forth in front of us before it darted into the grass and sat just out of sight for a while before taking off back over the fields to look for it’s supper. A few snaps were taken, but it would have been nice if it had come closer. Finally at the end of the road a immature Coopers Hawk decided to be really friendly to us and sat and admired us from a oak tree.
What a fitting end to a wonderful day, everyone left with a smile on their face and i have to admit we run about an hour late this week due to unforeseen circumstances, which we will take any week.
There are a few pictures attached this week, big thanks to Barry.
Sorry if this weeks post is a little large, hope you all enjoy it.

Happy Birding

2014-15 Swan and Goose Count.xls

2014-15 Raptor count.xls

Swan and Goose count Jan 7th 2015

The first count of the new year is under our belt, but not without a few problems, firstly i went down with a bad bout of the flu and was unable to take part, but i did manage to get down to drop off the tally sheets and the walkie-talkies and i new then that trouble was afoot. There was poor Bob surrounded by 4 women, i put my trust in Kurlene to run the route and make sure that all went smoothly. Not sure if it was the medicines that i was taking for the flu or the thought of Bob being left in the lions den, but i had nightmares that night which involved thousands of swans in Somenos attacking the group and dragging them off.
I awoke in the morning and was relieved to find a e-mail from Kurlene with details of the count. It appears that they had found high numbers of swans this week with over 550 birds in total. The two best areas were once again Sahilton and Bench Roads.
The trouble is that when the cats away the mice will play as was the case this week as the group went off the route to a location just up off the Crofton Road where they added over 50 swans, they also appear to have had so much fun that the count took nearly 2 hours longer to complete. Add to this the total disruption of traffic flow somewhere when they all vacated the vehicle in the middle of the road with doors wide open to view a Coopers Hawk, this in turn caused some road rage as drivers voiced their opinion of the birders.
The group also failed to register the locations of the raptors so when you view the attachments you will note a few gaps as too the whereabouts of just under 100 hawks and eagles.
There is also a gap for the 1st of January as i have yet to complete the Christmas Bird Count numbers, hopefully all will be back to some normality next week
This is a short report this week as i am still suffering from the affects of the flu and the lack of information about what really took place this past Wednesday. But i hope to be well enough for next weeks count where i will attempt to whip the troops back into shape, i think we will start with a few pushups in the dog park before we leave for the count.

Take care and a Happy New Year to all

Swan&Goose count Jan.22nd

This week 4 participants headed out for the count and it was not long before we hit some good numbers of swans and geese. The DU pond at the Forest Museum had 7 Mute Swans and then Somenos Lake had just over 80 Trumpeter Swans and just under 100 Canada Geese. The lake was virtually void of ducks, not sure whats happening out there, but guess it’s lack of food?

A few swans were at Quist’s Farm and a handful of geese. A good flock of American Wigeon were feeding in the fields. We headed on round to Westholme Road where a large eagle type caught our eyes as it soared over the road, an abrupt stop had me out of the vehicle and squinting up into the sky, where low and behold we had a adult Golden Eagle that circled a few times before letting loose and drifting right out over our heads.

As always there was much conversation going on in the vehicle on all matters of life, none of which were really solved but it does make for some good laughs at times.

Highway 18 was our next good stop, here a big group of Canada Geese had congregated on a farmers field and right away closest to us I spotted 8 Greater White-fronted Geese, I gave a quick lesson on how to identify adults from immatures and pointed out that hunters refer to the adults as speckled bellies due to the dark bands that they have on their undercarriage. After a few scans it was estimated that there were 750 Canada’s which was down from the last time we found a big group in the same field.

On another matter:

There are times when all celebrities get some fan mail, so I was a little surprised that I get a few e-mails saying how wonderful they find my reports, well I’m not really up to Bieber standards but I get my share. Now and again I get stopped in the street by ladies who say I know you your that birder guy and how much they enjoy my little essays. Also of note are groupies that seem to follow stardom, this can at times be most welcome. I don’t get women’s things of a personal nature thrown at me, more like checklists and bits of scrap paper with field notes and bird lists on them. The occasional scream when I point out something good and yes the hug of thanks.

Now back to the facts:

After quick break at our rest stop we got skunked at our next 4 or 5 stops and so it was Dougans Flats before we found anything to enter on our sheet, over 70 Trumpeters were added and two handfuls of geese. Again we quickly moved along not finding anything until we hit Koksilah Road east when the fields showed much brown and white. 14 tiny Cackling Geese were close in for our inspection a couple of these showed the glint of a white collar that one would see on Aeulutian type which do show a distinct white band around their necks but I think they were not up to snuff for a positive identification. We added about 500 Canada Geese and just over 30 Trumpeter’s before moving on.
A couple more Mute Swans were had in Cowichan Bay village and 35 Canada’s on Dinsdales Farrm.
We hit the Dock Road in high hopes of adding a few more raptors to our days tally but other than a few more Bald Eagles nothing else was seen. Out over towards Khenipson Road on the other side  of the bay we had 17 Trumpeters and 4 unidentified sleeping swans. Ducks were at a premium out on the water but we did manage a few Greater Scuap in amongst the Bufflehead.

Along Tzouhalem Road we added 7 more swans to bring our totals up to a respectable level and then it was back to the dog park where yes the men are still working on the footpaths on this never ending Beverly Street make work program.

Thanks to my fellow counters for their good humor.

hi to all my fans and until next week keep on looking.


Coastal Waterbird Survey, December 8, 2013, South Side of Cowichan Bay

Gail Mitchell, Hilary Stead, Kathy Coster, Linda Hill, Jane Kilthei, and John Scull gathered on a cold but beautiful Sunday morning to count the birds from Hecate Park.  The bird list can be found at  The new bird for the day was a Killdeer who appeared to be uncomfortably cold.  After the count most of us adjourned to the True Grain Bakery for coffee.


2012 Bursary for Graduating Secondary Students

The Cowichan Valley Naturalists’ Society is pleased to announce another $500 bursary open to graduating secondary students from the Cowichan Region who have a history of volunteer work with local conservation organizations and who intend to pursue post-secondary studies in a field related to conservation.  Application guidelines and available here and a printable application form is available here.  Applications may be submitted directly to the CVNS or to your school counselor.  The deadline for applications is March 31, 2012.

North Cowichan Council Survey

We asked the candidates for North Cowichan Council the following questions:

  1. Do you believe local government should invest significant funds in nature interpretation for tourists and local citizens?
  2. Do you believe the CVRD should have a Regional Growth Management Plan?
  3. Would you support a bylaw to protect large healthy trees on private property?
  4. Would you support a bylaw to prohibit cosmetic uses of herbicides and pesticides on private property and in parks and public spaces?
  5. Do you support increased funding to increase the frequency and coverage of public transit?
  6. Would you support our local government enacting shoreline protection bylaws?
  7. Under what conditions would you support removing land from the Agricultural Land Reserve?
  8. Do you have any other comments about the relationship between local government and the natural environment?
  9. How can we learn more about you?

They all answered with “yes” to the first six questions except that Pat Barnes answered “no” to Question 3 about protecting trees and Barb Lines reserved judgment on Questions 3 and 4 (pesticides). Here are their responses to Questions 7 and 8:


Tom Masters Only where the land in question is clearly not suitable for agriculture. Local governments can and must incorporate provisions to protect the natural environment in all development approvals; must ensure measures to combat pollution of the air, water and land found in official community plans are rigorously upheld; and conduct their own operations in accordance with environmental protection principles.
Kate Marsh I understand there is a policy in North Cowichan’s OCP not to support the removal of any land from the ALR unless it is replaced by other land of at least equal size. Each such proposal would have to be considered on its own merits.I do support the proposal of the Providence society to remove a portion of land from the ALR to provide affordable housing. And they are putting in another portion, slightly larger and according to Jack Hutton, more arable.I think it makes sense to swap out ALR land in this case because the land that is being developed isn’t prime growing land and the Sister’s of St Ann are in favor of the development, and we all know, we need this type of housing and it’s a perfect location. The idea that a Hospice might also be housed there very much appeals to me. The entire plan should benefit the whole area.If it is prime growing land – it should not be taken out. I feel we need more local food production and capacity, not less. I’d like to see NC release any ALR land it owns for long term lease by young farmers to grow food and our local economy.

I’m concerned about ALR properties being purchased and large homes being built in the middle of them, and the land not being farmed. Local food security is one of my deepest concerns and part of what I call ‘real economic health’.

Local concerns should be listened to, not just at the local level but at higher levels of government.One of my big concerns is the lack of funding or will to deal with the ever increasing problem of invasive species. North Cowichan council had $ 5,000 in their budget to deal with this problem. I recently found two federal programs with significant and ongoing grant money available to deal with invasives and suggested the municipality apply for some. It was referred to their forester.I’m concerned about the definition of managed forest to the municipality. I recently attended a section of managed forest, that had been replanted almost 10 years ago, and the trees were only about 2 feet high. This is not sustainable forestry.I feel we have an obligation to inventory our ecological assets and assess how they are doing.

I want to qualify my answer to the question about investing significant funds in nature interpretation. I believe to do something sustainable we must bring the public along. I don’t want to be a one term councillor, I want to help to education the public about the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of nature. The big issue in some people’s minds is taxes and keeping them affordable. I agree that is necessary.

Yet much of our projects are paid for by senior levels of government and their prescribed grants. I would lobby for us to have more autonomy and decision making around what we do with monies we are ‘granted’ by the province and the federal government.
After all, they get all their income tax dollars from people in towns and cities all across the country, we should have a say in what we use our money for at the local level, even if they are cutting the cheque.

I’d like to see us get some regional funding for nature interpretation and pubic education.

Locally, we know (or should know) the state of our environment and must protect it where we can. I am in favor of protection Echo Heights for instance. Selling part of it would net some short term cash, but the over riding principle is coastal Douglas fir ecosystems are rare and imperiled and must be saved. Even the province states this, they just won’t provide any funding to do so. I wrote a proposal to the province suggesting the province tie grant money for other projects for NC to the condition of saving Echo Heights and was told the idea had great merit, but all grant money was already spent.

Roger Hart Exchanging poor agricultural land within the ALR for an equal or greater amount of good agricultural land that could be placed within the ALR.However, in general terms we need to be expanding the ALR, reducing the Urban Growth Boundaries (e.g. Echo Heights), increasing parkland (including lakes) and making better use of our municipal forests (e.g. carbon credits, food security, and sustainable forestry). We can learn from other municipalities that are much more proactive than North Cowichan. We already have an Environment Commission within CVRD, but we need to give a Nortth Cowichan Councillor an Environmental Portfolio to start making things happen in a timely manner.
Pat Barnes If the land is not viable for growing crops or is very small, those would be two conditions that I would consider before removing land from the Agricultural Land Reserve Local government is there to look after the community. The community includes everything from infrastructure to the natural environment.
Ruth Hartmann None I live in the outdoors, as does my husband and family. I truly believe there is the swing to be more considerate and understand what it means to protecting our environment and what it is all about. Yet slow ..but sure. We are all taking an interest in educating those who would appear to be old school and don’t care. That old fashion attitude of entitlement. What I mean by that is for years it was thought to be endless…trees, fresh water, fishing. And many raped and pillaged for some time. Now through education, I like to think the pendulum is swinging in the other direction.
We “all” have to make a commitment to work on protection.
Hilary Huntley I can’t see any really good reasons to take land out of the Reserve status. For example, the ball fields were built on land that was low lying (according to the guys who lives there and cut hay there) and the grass infrastructure could have been made in a way that was responsible ie run off, fertilizers, cutting waste plan etc. The Forest Discovery Centre was removed and a large parking lot and buildings were approved, at this time there was no consultation about preservign the trees that are there!! Once the designation of Ag. Reserve has been removed the land is dropped from the radar and the developers do what they please!! This us upsetting. There is a lot of work that needs to be done to have a greater understanding of what exactly the municipal level can do, from protecting Heron Rookeries, Giant Hog weed removal, shoreline clean up, Scotch Broom removal, required riparian protection prior to development approval, plots set aside for community gardens, wet land reclamation and awareness, and eel grass programs, so that a small amount of volounteers who actually go out and do the work can help the government learn what can be done. I would like to see these dedicated volounteers find support in the local government.
Robert Douglas Being a proponent of local food security, I am strongly opposed to removing land from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) for residential, commercial and industrial development.However, there are certain rare situations where removing land may be acceptable. For example, if the land being removed is of low-quality and is being replaced by higher-quality farmland that is of greater quantity, then a case could be made for removing it from the ALR. That said, there are very few cases of that nature. Both North Cowichan and the CVRD, with their power over land use planning decisions, should take on a much greater role in promoting environmental stewardship and mitigating climate change.Our natural environment is facing growing challenges, which are only expected to become more severe in the coming years. We continue to dump sewage in the Cowichan River, and pursue a land use model that’s leaving our farmland and forests spoiled. With climate change expected to worsen over the next decade, extreme weather events will become more frequent, with droughts and water restrictions hitting us in the summer and flooding and power outages in the winter.We are approaching or have already crossed the region’s natural thresholds, yet many of our local leaders are content to continue with the existing approach to growth and development.The human utilization rate of the region’s land base has grown significantly since European settlement, with our footprint now covering more than 75% of the total landbase (including logging and development). Meanwhile the level of protected areas remains extremely low, with overall representation less than 8%, which is far less than the provincial average (14%). This is well below what is needed to maintain ecological values down the road – the scientific evidence suggests close to 50% of the landscape should be managed with an emphasis on conservation if biodiversity and ecosystem services are to be effectively maintained.

If elected to North Cowichan Council, I would promote a sustainable approach to growth and development. My priorities would be to:

•Ensure all land use planning decisions in the municipality are informed by the Cowichan Environment Commission’s 12 Big Ideas.
•Work with the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) to develop a regional energy plan that will recognize the reality of peak oil and recommend strategies to reduce energy consumption and promote renewable energy production.
•Encourage North Cowichan to focus growth in existing communities; encourage well-designed and compact neighbourhoods where residents choose to live, work, shop and play in close proximity; ensure neighbourhoods have safe infrastructure for walking, cycling and transit.
•Protect environmentally sensitive areas and agricultural lands from development.
•Pressure North Cowichan to implement policies to encourage green building by establishing a green building policy for civic buildings, applying for membership in green building organizations, developing a sustainability checklist for the development approval process, establishing in-house green building expertise, creating a website to provide homeowners and developers with information on green building, lowering development cost charges for green building, and offering financial incentives for green design.
•Urge our Municipality to hire an environmental youth team specifically to remove invasive plant species.
•Encourage North Cowichan to develop a green infrastructure program to improve management of stormwater runoff and contain winter flooding. This program would encourage the use of bioswales, pervious paving materials, green roofs, and other techniques to promote the natural infiltration of rainwater.

Geoff Hincks In general, I do not support removing land from the ALR. I am sorry that I am unable to answer more of your survey questions because I believe a simple yes or no response is not sufficient to accurately express my views on these issues.
Barb Lines I would support a trade of equal amounts of non-arable land and arable land. That being said, I would welcome examples of where that has happened and how well it worked. The goal would be to keep land in the ALR.. Local government plays a huge role in what happens to the natural environment whenever they make land use decisions. Research, opportunities for groups such as yourself to have input, and a commitment to preserve as much as possible will guide my decisions.I support the stance of the Official Community Plan re.Preserving our rural setting. “…by continuing to implement policies that reduce development pressures on rural landscapes (eg. careful growth management, buffering and waterfront protection policies), and that support the working landscape while protecting sensitive ecosystems.”I will research the policies mentioned above re. tree protection and use of herbicides and pesticides on private property, as I am not ready to give a yes or no answer.

North Cowichan Mayor Survey

We asked all the candidates for mayor of North Cowichan the following questions:

  1. Do you believe local government should invest significant funds in nature interpretation for tourists and local citizens?
  2. Do you believe the CVRD should have a Regional Growth Management Plan?
  3. Would you support a bylaw to protect large healthy trees on private property?
  4. Would you support a bylaw to prohibit cosmetic uses of herbicides and pesticides on private property and in parks and public spaces?
  5. Do you support increased funding to increase the frequency and coverage of public transit?
  6. Would you support our local government enacting shoreline protection bylaws?
  7. Under what conditions would you support removing land from the Agricultural Land Reserve?
  8. Do you have any other comments about the relationship between local government and the natural environment?
  9. How can we learn more about you?

Three candidates responded. They all answered with “yes” to the first six questions except that both Tom Walker and John Lefebure did not respond either way to Question 3 about protecting trees. Here are their responses to Questions 7 and 8:


Tom Walker Possibly only if there was no net loss of ALR lands.
The ALR legislation is needed.
Local Gov’t has a great influence on natural environment.
Clayton Balabanov Only if the land has no agricultural value. Each level of government has an important role to play in helping to protect our environment.We need to pass a bylaw to allow electric cars, we need a tree bylaw, Echo Heights needs to be a ecological reserve… I have supported that for many years!
Jon Lefebure Removal of land from the ALR should only occur under special circumstances. The Agricultural Land Commission has allowed it when there is a Community benefit, the land is of poor agricultural quality and when an equal or greater amount of land is added to the ALR. I support the Commission’s efforts to increase the amount of land in the ALR and ensure there are adequate buffers between ALR and non-ALR Lands.Local government has the opportunity to be creative within its land use processes and in respect to land it owns, to add to the ALR. Our food security will one day depend on our actions now , not just to preserve the ALR but also to build it up. We all have an inherent responsibility to safeguard our natural environment. Local government must be a leader in recognizing our impacts on the environment and in trying to prevent or reduce negative impacts. This can happen at several levels, education being one of the most critical. Regulations and incentives can also be used to effect positive change.There is a question about trees on private land above that I could not answer yes or no – I believe we need more discussion. However, I can say that I would very much like to promote the planting of trees in general so that they are there for future generations. Incentives would work well for this purpose.

Duncan Election Survey

We asked all the Duncan candidates the following questions:

  1. Do you believe local government should invest significant funds in nature interpretation for tourists and local citizens?
  2. Do you believe the CVRD should have a Regional Growth Management Plan?
  3. Would you support a bylaw to protedt large healthy trees on private property?
  4. Would you support a bylaw to prohibit cosmetic uses of herbicides and pesticides on private property and in parks and public spaces?
  5. Do you support increased funding to increase the frequency and coverage of public transit?
  6. Would you support our local government enacting shoreline protection bylaws?
  7. Under what conditions would you support removing land from the Agricultural Land Reserve?
  8. Do you have any other comments about the relationship between local government and the natural environment?
  9. How can we learn more about you?

Here’s how they answered:


Paul Fletcher and Phil Kent gave the same “yes” responses to the first 6 questions, so whoever is elected should be held to these actions. Here’s what they said on the last two questions:

Paul Fletcher

When the land is not viable for agriculture and when other land is added to the ALR. In other words keep the actual land inventory stable without losing more ground to grow food.


Local governments generally do not seek the views of Naturalists in any decision making. I would have a naturalist on both the Environment Committee and Advisory Planning Committee. For example, when the city wanted to cut the danger trees down in Rotary Park, Derrick Marven was consulted re the best time of the year to do this to have the least amount of impact on wildlife.

Phil Kent

I would not generally support the removal of land from the ALR. In some rare instances with small acreages there may be conditions which would allow consideration of removal dependant on surrounding uses and soil with very low or no agricultural potential. There should also be a process that might add new ALR land, where it may be held in a reserve for another purpose, that could be traded for new agriculture land if that was determined as a more appropriate land use.

Local government is in the best position to influence our impact on the natural environment through well considered land use planning and decision processes. Local Government should also advocate for responsible resource use of the land bases and watersheds that provide essential eco system services to our communities and all others species. As local government, we can communicate and learn together with the community, the important context of real costs, benefits and opportunities of preserving and enhancing the natural environment.


We had responses from 7 candidates, as with the mayors, they mostly agreed on the first 6 questions, except for Michelle Staples who did not favour government support for nature interpretation. Below are their answers to the questions on the ALR and on the relationship between government and nature. We can say nothing about the opinions of the candidates who did not respond.

Ranjit Dhami Only when there is no doubt that the land can not be used for agriculture. Everything impacts the environment, before we act that thought should always be first on our minds.
Jen Holden Only in the case of for example, Providence Farm, where a small section of the ARL would be subdivided to create affordable, eco housing that would support our most vulnerable citizens. Farms are location for community and resiliency building so i would like to see support given to those farmers/organizations who wish to make their farm inclusive to more people. There would have to be very strict limits to how many units, and they would have to have extremely low impact on the environmental and also contribute back to the eco system (green roofs, geothermal heating, rain catchment system, compostable toilets, ex..) we are at a cross roads,our communities are stretching beyond their natural limits and I believe that Local government needs to start playing a more proactive and innovative leadership role to ensure that we are planning for a future where all our community can thrive within its natural limits. I believe in resiliency building, which means all stakeholders in our community working together. Local government needs to do a better job at facilitating dialogue and collaboration in order to become a sustainable and resilient community. I believe that youth need to play a more active leadership role in local government, we are the next generations of stewards for our community and natural environment, and we need to have equal voice in the creation of the future we will be fully responsible for.
Cassandra Barfield Decisions we make need to be done with respect for our environment both now and for future implications.
Dana Arthurs At this point I would not support any changes.
Agricultural land should be preserved just as green space for parks should be.
I was elected to the Area I parks and recreation commission every two years for five years. I served 11 years on the commission with four and a half years as the Chairperson. In that time and to the best of my knowledge it is still common practice to ensure green space is protected when developers come into the community. We never once agreed to taking funds instead of land. As such Area I has many protected spaces that are zoned as park land.
I am a strong advocate of ensuring trees and space are protected for the community.
Judy Stafford At this point, I would be extremely hesitant to support any lands being removed from the ALR. My only real concern is that as new bylaws, such as those suggested here, are introduced that they be handled in a very open and communicative manner with the public. A significant amount of education has to proceed any suggested bylaws – case in point in Cowichan Bay when it was suggested that a shoreline protection bylaw was in the works I understand some residents proceeded to cut down trees in anticipation of being told they would not be allowed to do that in the future. This kind of preemptive action needs to mitigated however possible.
Sharon Jackson This would obviously have to be on a case by case basis. I think the development of the ALR was one of the wisest things ever done to protect land in this province, and I would be extremely cautious about removing land for any but the most critical of reasons. I cannot imagine what those reasons would be. Interestingly, there have been studies done which actually attach a monetary value to urban forests, wilderness areas, lakes and ponds. I think once local governments understand that preserving and protecting the natural environment actually has economic value, they might be less likely to take it for granted.
Michelle Staples Having owned property in the ALR in the past I would support changes to ALR land restrictions that do not support the sustainability of family farming but not removing ALR status from land.
I would support it in situations where due to the fragility of the ecosystem or water basin on ALR land the land be taken out in order to protect it and situations pertaining to Aboriginal land treaties.
Every infrastructure decision local governments make have an impact on the natural environment. local governments play a fundamental role in protecting the environmental health of the lands, air and waters of its communities and those around them. Land know no boudaries so what we allow into our rivers and streams reaches out to all of our neighbors.It is the responsibility of alll governments to ensure that every decision they make considers its potential effects on the environment and works to enhance and support the environmental impacts rather than placing them in jeopardy by viewing them as seperate.


New bursary for graduating secondary students

The Cowichan Valley Naturalists’ Society is pleased to announce a $500 bursary open to graduating secondary students from the Cowichan Region who have a history of volunteer work with local conservation organizations and who intend to pursue post-secondary studies in a field related to conservation.  Application guidelines and available here and a printable application form is available here.  Applications may be submitted directly to the CVNS or to your school counselor.  The deadline for applications is March 31.