A group that works to ensure the health and protection of the watershed in the Lake Cowichan area has won an award and a $10,000 grant from the BC Conservation & Biodiversity Awards Foundation.
In partnership with the BC Conservation Foundation, the Cowichan Lake & River Stewardship Society was one of 13 award recipients from across the province in 2022 that was recognized for its work restoring riparian habitat in the area.
The award recipients are B.C.-based charities and non-profit organizations who were honoured for their work contributing to the improvement of the natural environment of B.C. and the preservation of its wilderness and biodiversity.
The awards focus on land and ocean-based initiatives, clean air and water, climate change, and science-based studies.
The Cowichan Lake & River Stewardship Society, in partnership with the BCCF, has worked with more than 40 shoreline lake and river property owners over the years in the Lake Cowichan area removing invasive species and planting native plants in their place as part of the Cowichan Shoreline Restoration Project.
The project has employed a project manager and crew of four secondary students every summer for eight years who have carried out more than 300 volunteer interviews with shoreline property owners in the area, educating them on riparian issues.
“We are well on our way to meeting our project goals, which is to promote a ‘stewardship first’ culture by protecting and enhancing riparian areas,” the society says on its website.
At its inception, the Cowichan Shoreline Stewardship Project was meant to engage the community and change attitudes regarding the value of riparian areas in an attempt to promote a cultural shift from cutting and clearing, to protection and restoration along the lakeshore.
The society’s website says the project is not meant to discourage development or recreation usage, but is intended to demonstrate how natural ecological functions and human activities can co-exist.
“Experience in the Cowichan Valley has demonstrated that regulation and enforcement of riparian areas is expensive and understaffed,” the website says.
“Our non-confrontational approach will lead to a cultural shift toward responsible environmental behaviours that will be self-sustaining by the time the project is completed. By engaging all age groups in a collaborative effort we hope to change attitudes. Change can occur quickly when youth begin questioning parental behaviours. We hope this project will do for shoreline stewardship what the blue box did for recycling.”
Society spokesman Danny Swainson said the $10,000 award will help the society fund a new vision for the project, which began in 2014.
“The first stage of the project is now over, and now we’re searching for long-term funding to allow us to continue into the future,” he said.
“In the grand scheme of things, $10,000 isn’t a lot of money, but we consider it a good first step into securing funding to continue our work.”
Dennis Perry, a spokesman for the BCCB Awards Foundation, said he’s proud to announce this very first group of BC Conservation & Biodiversity Award recipients.
“The responses, project quality and enthusiasm from all of the applicants really wowed us, which is quite the achievement given the credentials of the scientists, professional conservationists and educators on our selection committee,” he said.