BEAT: Discovering the Thriving Koksilah

Saturday, November 19, 2016 - By: Gina B, Mackenzie ‘16

On a damp West Coast November day, a couple of BEAT members trekked their way through damp bush, avoiding puddles, admiring wildlife, and took in the incredible sights, sounds, and smells the temperate rainforest has to offer. Before them emerged an incredible sight: deep in the forest emerged a beautiful grove of old growth trees, reaching into the sky as far as the eyes could see. Giant Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars towered into the sky, dwarfing  comparatively small human beings. Out of the way down a long, bumpy gravel road past Shawnigan Lake is a hidden gem: the home to some of BC’s largest and oldest trees, giants of the temperate rainforest that have been around since the fourteenth century. 

In the late 1980’s, BC’s clear cutting program and exports of large tree Fir and Cedar lumber was at an all-time high. On the banks of the Koksilah river, hundreds of trees were (and still are) being cut down. A pair of fallers, wielding destructive chainsaws, came across this grove of stunningly large and beautiful trees and refused to cut them down. 30 years later, this incredible grove is still standing deep in the heart of the Shawnigan temperate rainforest. The densely populated ecosystem is the perfect balance of every biotic and abiotic factor in a West Coast forest: the ideal amount of rainfall, sunlight and nutrient-rich soil creates the perfect environment for these incredible trees, trees that are hundreds of years older than any human.

The Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars range from 600-800 years old, some being 6 or more feet in diameter, and one Douglas Fir is a record-setting 81 meters tall: the tallest tree in BC. These trees are the same that could be used for First Nations canoes and structures: around when Hudson’s Bay colonized the Island, around for every bit of history this island has.

Yet still, these beautiful trees are at risk at being clear cut for lumber. Incredulously, forestry companies still want to end the life of some of the oldest and tallest organisms to grace BC’s stunning coast. But there is a group of people from the local community wanting to stop it, and here at Brentwood BEAT is supporting them. This plot of land is still owned by a logging company, and we are urging the provincial government to take charge and protect this incredible grove.

Walking through this incredible ecosystem, seeing trees stretch to the sky as far as the eye can see is breathtaking. The rich forest floors is crawling with biodiversity, from fungi to birds to bears. Taking in this forest really put into perspective what as a community we are trying to protect, and was a beautiful way to spend a Sunday in the beautiful temperate rainforest. 

Gina B, Mackenzie ‘16

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