With a joint gift of $25,000, Canadian-American songwriter Neil Young and actress Daryl Hannah – both active environmentalists – have given Mountain Road Forest campaign a much-needed boost. In a written statement accompanying their donation, the couple said, “Saving these ecosystems, sequestrating carbon, providing habitats, filtering water, creating oxygen, rebuilding soil and of course brining peace, joy and relief to those who get to spend time amidst these natural gems—is a crucial first step in effectively responding to the climate crisis.”
The 49-acre Mountain Road Forest, located between Beaver, Elk and Prospect lakes, has remained untouched for 50 years. The family who own the property made sure of it. Its patriarch was an ardent conservationist who believed in the importance of setting habitat aside and protecting it from development and destruction. The result is a vast and verdant natural cathedral. They hope it can remain that way, but economic pressures have forced them to put the property on the market.
“So this beautiful forest is the subject of an active real estate listing and at least one developer is waiting in the wings,” said Katie Blake as she hiked along a rolling path dappled by sunlight in the pristine woodland north of Victoria. Birdsong, sunbursts and wafts of arboreal decay filled the air. “We’ve got until Earth Day to purchase the property.”
As director of Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT), Katie knows only too well how rarely an opportunity like Mountain Road Forest comes along: to convert a private lot into an urban forest. If HAT can raise $1.4 million by Earth Day, April 22, 2021, the Capital Regional District (CRD) will permanently designate the forest as a park.
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 imperilled ecosystems. 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. A spring-fed stream that transects the property is part of the headwaters of the Colquitz River system. Species at risk such as Western Screech-Owl and Common Night hawk range on the property. As development pressures on southeast Vancouver Island grow, opportunities to save large areas of these threatened forests are disappearing. This is an important chance to save some of the best of what’s left.
While the forest contains a few simple trails, other human impact, such as invasive species, is minimal. The local community recognizes and cherishes the invaluable ecological and recreational roles this land plays in their lives. Many people walk and tend to the trails. They care for this place in their own way. It is a deeply loved piece of land and the community is rallying behind its protection.
To date, nearly 850 Victoria-area individuals have made donations towards the Mountain Road Forest campaign, totalling a half million dollars. Campaign advocates are hoping Victoria’s businesses may help meet the shortfall. So far the response from businesses has been lacklustre, which is to be expected given the economic downturn. Still, local brands such as Country Grocer and Phillips Brewery have stepped up. Phillips “Benefit Brew” was awarded this year to HAT’s Mountain Road Forest campaign. (Read more) The beer will raise awareness in the community about the threatened forest.
“Although we can still dream,” said campaign fundraiser, Greg Cummings, “at this stage we are unlikely to find 10 business willing to donate $50,000 each, but 100 businesses donating $5,000 each or 500 business donating $1,000 each is still doable.”
The Capital Regional District is prepared to purchase this private property, and has committed $2 million toward the purchase price, but is relying on the public (individuals, businesses, organizations and granting foundations) to make up the difference to demonstrate the viability of this project so that it can proceed.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Katie Blake, Executive Director—Habitat Acquisition Trust