Tzouhalem Protection Project
The Tzouhalem Protection Project is mobilizing the residents of the Cowichan Valley Regional District to actively participate in a permanent protection strategy for an ecologically significant area which is threatened by the pressures of urban growth and development. Estuarine mud flats, mountains, ridges, shoreline, wetlands, creeks, old growth fir, and Garry Oak meadows are all found in the project site.
The study area is home to a range of rare, vulnerable and endangered species of fish, birds, plants and mammals. The area is considered important nesting and feeding habitat for eagles and other raptors such as peregrine falcon and screech owls. Mammals such as deer, raccoon, cougar and elk have also been seen. Native cactus and the only stands of old growth Douglas Fir remaining in the eastern CVRD are located at Stoney Hill. The site also accommodates nesting turkey vultures and the only known nesting rock wrens on Vancouver Island. Mt. Tzouhalem retains one of the last Garry Oak meadows, the Tzouhalem Ecological Reserve, in the CVRD where a diversity of rare wildflowers, grasses, reptiles, insects, birds and small mammals can be found. The shores of the area, Sansum Narrows, are also noted for outstanding ecological significance and are home to major salmon stocks and many rare waterbird and waterfowl species.
As yet, no form of permanent protection has been created for these lands. The Tzouhalem Protection Project is responding to the need for a protected greenway in a unique area of the Valley which is threatened by encroaching development. Protection of these lands provides a valuable link to neighbouring conservation strategies, thus helping to create a greenway that extends beyond the project boundaries. Specifically, our project will help create an extensive greenway by providing a link to three neighbouring conservation initiatives: 1) the Hwi’ lusmut tu Tumuhu Khowutzun (A Natural Resource Inventory of Cowichan Tribes) which will provide baseline studies to help guide future conservation and land management in reserve lands in Mt. Tzouhalem and extending west; 2) protection and stewardship of lands on the east side of Sansum Narrows by the Salt Spring Island Conservation Partnership; 3) the Sea to Sea Green Belt of the Capital Regional District’s Blue/Green Spaces Strategy which is developing a greenway along the southern tip of the island that extends towards the Tzouhalem area. By creating a more continuous area of protection, the Tzouhalem Protection Project will assist long term and effective habitat conservation on southern Vancouver Island.
A specialized and intensive landholder contact program will be conducted in the peninsula bordering Sansum Narrows between Maple Bay and Cowichan Bay. This, combined with a community education and marketing program will yield voluntary stewardship agreements, legally binding conservation covenants, and the acquisition of lands to be placed in conservation holdings in perpetuity. Interested individuals and conservation groups will be encouraged to participate in all aspects of the project. Partnerships will be fostered through presentations at local meetings, and liaisons with relevant community, business and government agencies.