Mary Lake: Help Save Original Coastal Douglas Fir Forest

It is not often that people have a chance to help preserve a bit of the original Coastal Douglas Fir (CDF) ecosystem here on Vancouver Island. Mary Lake, in the rural and rugged Highlands district outside of Victoria, B.C., presents such an opportunity.

A group dedicated to preserving Mary Lake, and the surrounding 107 acres of undeveloped forest, are attempting to raise the money to purchase it. See more here, and consider lending them a hand in reaching their worthy goal of saving some of this beleaguered ecosystem.

The CDF ecosystem is tiny, the smallest eco-zone in B.C., yet it holds a greater variety of plant and animal life than any other ecosystem in the province. The zone is restricted to a small strip of southeast Vancouver Island, as well as parts of the Gulf Islands and bits along the coast on the mainland. On the island, this vanishing ecosystem runs through the rainshadow created by the Vancouver Island and Olympic ranges.

This dry strip along the east coastal plain, until fairly recently, contained some of the biggest trees in the world. The size and scope of the original forest was an irresistible economic gold mine to early European settlers. Today 99% of one of the world's most productive and massive forests is gone.

Even the 1% that remains is being exploited before it too disappears. Only about 5% of the CDF zone is protected in parks - the B.C. government's goals is 12%.

The government has known for a long time that the CDF forest is in peril. In 1999 the B.C. Ministry of Environment stated in its Ecosystem at Risk brochure that "nearly every type of old growth Douglas-fir forest on British Columbia's dry coastal plain is now rare or endangered".

Knowing this, the government gave the go-ahead earlier this year for logging to commence on District Lot 33 in Nanoose Bay. Lot 33, a 64 hectare plot in the CDF zone, contains huge old growth Douglas-fir and Western red-cedar. It has never been inventoried for its biological wealth, and is prime habitat for the Marbled murrelet and Spotted owl.

Industrial use, logging, and increasingly, residential development, threaten the dry coastal plain that lies next to Georgia Straight.

Indeed, it is residential development that threatens the Mary Lake forest in Highlands. But we currently have the opportunity to save this 107 acres of endangered forest. Please consider donating, and/or volunteering. Also, consider writing to our elected officials to tell them that you do not want to see Vancouver Island's CDF forest go extinct on their watch.

Where is Mary Lake? 

Mary Lake is in the district of Highlands off Millstream Road, a 20 minute drive northwest of Victoria, B.C. The land is currently private, and having not visited yet, I can not say what access is like. However, I did see somewhere online that said that there are area trails that locals have been using over the years. As always, be respectful when visiting the big trees.

View Mary Lake, Highlands, B.C. in a larger map

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