How do environmental policies in the Comox Valley affect the people who live there? Where are the mature forests in that area, and how can they be considered in land-use decisions? Where are the carbon reserves in the region, and what part can they play in local carbon sequestration? What services – such as flood mitigation – does nature provide to the Comox Valley region “for free” that need to be acknowledged?
These are some of the questions that are being answered in the latest version Nature Without Borders, a document produced by the Comox Valley Conservation Partnership (CVCP), which is administered by the Comox Valley Land Trust.
CVCP is an umbrella partnership that brings together 29 local nonprofit Non-Governmental Organizations to work proactively with local governments to affect policy changes in the interest of environmental concerns. Nature Without Borders has been an important piece of that work over the years.
“Nature Without Borders has been really well received by local governments,” says Executive Director of Comox Valley Land Trust, Tim Ennis. Recently the City of Courtenay, the Village of Cumberland and the Comox Valley Regional District have been looking to update their Official Community Plans and Regional Growth Strategy. “In every case,” Tim says, “the local government staff that are involved with those projects have reached out to us to ask if we had an updated Nature Without Borders that could support them in their work.”
The last iteration of the plan was published in 2013, so in the past year CVLP started working on an update.
“A lot has changed since 2013, at least in terms of traction on certain types of issues. For example, climate change is way more prominent now in the minds of policymakers—and in the mind of the average person. It has long been prominent in the minds of conservation biologists, but it's taken this long for the topic to get some traction. Things like that were not as emphasized as they could have been in the second edition of Nature Without Borders, so we realized that there was significant potential to update the document and the plan in a way that reflected these more modern priorities.”
CVCP was fortunate to attract the support of the University of British Columbia’s Sustainability Scholars Program this past summer to help put together some of the data needed. “UBC funded four grad students, all PhD candidates, to work with us for a summer work term to help us advance the scientific analysis behind an updated Nature Without Borders.” Each student tackled one of the questions listed at the beginning of the article, and their help and expertise has been invaluable, Tim says. “We're attracting an extremely high level of talent to the valley, and to our project. We're absolutely thrilled with the opportunity and the outcomes of the work that they've done for us.”
Another key part of bringing the latest version of Nature Without Borders to fruition was a sponsorship from First Credit Union. “First Credit Union stepped up to help support us in taking the body of work that the students have done and moving it into a complete and updated conservation plan for the valley. As a result, we're looking at a document that will really have a meaningful and long-lasting impact on the way our community continues to develop in the future.”
Help from partners and supporters is essential to the viability of the work CVLT does, Tim continues. “We're a nonprofit organization, so if we have ambitious ideas about wanting to take on a project, like providing science-based information to our local communities, we need to go on the hunt for funding support to enable that work. We've been fortunate over the last 10 or so years to have attracted the attention of granting agencies and others that are on the same wavelength about developing our communities in a sustainable, livable fashion. But there are a lot of important needs in our community so it's increasingly difficult to bring in the resources that we need. It's always wonderful when we connect with other groups that are interested in the same vision and are interested in helping us achieve our goals.”
Tim invites organizations and individuals alike to connect with CVCP online, or at a special event. “There's a lot of really great work happening out there, and people would find it inspiring to get behind some of these projects that are really successful if they knew a bit more about them.” Anyone interested in learning more can connect via social media (Facebook and Instagram) or the website https://www.cvlandtrust.ca/.