The bottom of Somenos Lake has a new owner in a deal that is a legal first and a positive template for future arrangements. TimberWest Forest Corp. announced Nov. 7 that it was deeding the lake to conservation group Ducks Unlimited Canada.
“Never has an entire lakebed been legally surveyed and donated to a single non-government organization,” says Leslie Bogdan, Director of Regional Operations BC/Boreal Region, Ducks Unlimited Canada. “This is a testament to the 15-year long partnership cultivated between TimberWest and Ducks Unlimited Canada. We are grateful for this opportunity, and the remarkable contribution Somenos lake bed makes to conservation on Vancouver Island and the community of North Cowichan.”
If owning a lake bottom sounds as odd as owning the Brooklyn Bridge, there is an explanation. Typically water bodies are owned by the Crown, but on Vancouver Island, there are some anomalies due to the early land grants. Twenty per cent of the Island’s land mass was granted to Robert Dunsmuir and partners between 1884 and 1925 to build the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway, a process that essentially drew a straight line up the middle of an Island map and gave away everything to the east of it.(read the history)
Local environmental groups say it was worth the wait. “This is great news since the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society initiated this idea in 1992 and it has taken this long to be finalized,” said Paul Fletcher SMWS president and co-founder. Fletcher still has the poster announcing the transfer of the lake property 24 years ago. Back then the land owner was unaware of how arduous the unusual transfer process would be.
“We are thrilled that our 15-year partnership with Ducks Unlimited brought to fruition the conservation of hundreds of species in the heart of the Cowichan Valley,” says, Jeff Zweig, President and CEO of TimberWest. “Somenos is a special place for many bird species, and it is an iconic location for outdoor enthusiasts, bird-watchers and hikers alike.”
The management of Somenos lake bed will be a shared responsibility with Ducks Unlimited Canada and their partners, said the news release.
One of those partners may be The Nature Trust of B.C., which already owns some of the land in the Somenos March Conservation Area. “We have a clearer direction of where we’re all going,” said Tim Clermont, the Crown land securement and conservation land manager for the Nature Trust, “This allows us to bring conservation to the entire lake instead of just the Nature Trust properties.”