So near and yet so far...
“The owners have extended our deadline to July 20th,” says Katie Blake as we hike along a rolling path in a mossy woodland dappled by sunlight near Prospect Lake. The air is imbued with wafts of arboreal decay, children’s laughter and owl hoots. “You see, this beautiful forest is the subject of an active real estate listing and at least one developer is waiting in the wings.”
As Executive Director of Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT), Katie knows only too well how rarely an opportunity like Mountain Road Forest comes along: to permanently protect a large property in this region. The costs are high and so many hands are necessary. The family who own the 49-acre property have left it untouched for 50 years. The result is a natural cathedral. They hope it can remain that way, but economic pressures have forced them to put the property on the market. If HAT can raise $1.4 million, the Capital Regional District (CRD) will acquire the forest as a park.
Over the past seven months, HAT has raised more than $1 million towards property’s purchase price of $3.4 million. With $2 million coming from the CRD, the campaign is more than 90% complete; only about $375,000 remains to be raised.. More than half of the million dollars raised to date came in donations smaller than $5,000 from individuals living in Greater Victoria.
The Prospect Lake community recognizes and cherishes the invaluable ecological and recreational roles this land plays in their lives. Many people walk and tend do the trails, and care for this place in their own way. It is a deeply loved forest and the community is rallying behind its protection.
Not since human-induced climate change began to heat things up has there been a greater need for re-wilding the planet, to grow more forests and carbon-sequestering sinks, and to protect our existing wildernesses.
Mountain Road Forest is a magnificent example of mature second growth Coastal Douglas-fir forests, along with Garry oak meadow, rock outcrop, and arbutus stands, all of which are some of Canada’s most rare and imperilled ecosystems. And species at risk such as Western Screech-Owl and Common Night hawk range on the property. The property contains pockets of old growth trees, and as old growth forests disappear, preserving these mature second growth forests will be key to renewing old forests over time.
“Saving these intact ecosystems,” wrote Daryl Hannah and Neil Young, after donating $25,000 to the campaign in February, “is a crucial first step to effectively responding to the climate crisis.”
Katie is delighted by how the campaign has gone so far but is still focused on reaching HAT’s target. “We’re so close to our goal; we’re looking for the heroes who will close this campaign,” she says as she leans against one of the forest’s huge cedar trees. “We still need to raise $375,000 dollars in three weeks. That’s a big task but it’s within reach.”
In these last weeks, Katie and HAT are reaching out to the community for one final funding drive. Please help them reach their target so they can ensure Mountain Road forest remains protected forever. And then we may all breath easily again. Please contact HAT at email@example.com, or see the website at http://mountainroadforest.ca for more information.
"It is precisely saving these intact ecosystems, particularly old growth forests, whether small or large, as they perform so many functions — sequestrating carbon, providing habitats, filtering water, creating oxygen, rebuilding soil and of course bringing peace, joy and relief to those who get to spend time amidst these natural gems — as a crucial first step in effectively responding to the climate crisis."