Is there any valid reason why the Leech River valley should not be preserved in its entirety and honoured as a protected park?
The Leech and Sooke Rivers meet at what was once known as Leechtown near the terminus of the Galloping Goose, just south of Sooke Lake, the source of our drinking water.
A hike westward along the riverbank reveals gigantic maples and other massive trees. In several spots, the elegantly-contoured rock formations mimic what we see in the nearby Sooke Potholes. This hike culminates in a jaw-dropping view of the majestic Mount Jack, one of the highest peaks in our region.
Unfortunately, a long stretch of this river valley is not protected and faces imminent threats from logging operations.
It may astonish you to learn that there are still active logging operations within a five-kilometre radius of our drinking water supply. (In addition to the logging taking place in the Leech river area, the forests in and around Old Wolf Lake just east of the Galloping Goose are being logged – you may have seen the imposing fenced-off area to your right as you approach the end of the trail.)
In the midst of climate catastrophes and calls internationally for more forests to be preserved as a front line defence against runaway global warming, we need to demand an immediate and unequivocal stop to logging within the CRD.
It is time for the Capital Regional District and concerned citizens to pressure the province and the logging companies to now set aside these forests in the CRD for future generations – they have offered us so much already.
The CRD already had the foresight to sequester a vast tract of forest to the north of the Leech River in what is now referred to as the Leech Water Supply Area. But for some reason, a five to six-kilometre stretch of the river east of Mount Jack was left exposed.
What is the point in protecting a portion of the river valley if another section faces widespread erosion and silting, wildfire threats, and loss of cherished homes for wildlife? The entire river must be protected given that it also flows straight into the Sooke River, a critical wild salmon habitat.
West Leech Main, the logging road that runs along the south shore of the river, should be transformed into a multi-use trail. Closed to vehicular traffic, a simple unobtrusive footbridge over the Sooke River could facilitate access to hikers and cyclists straight off the Galloping Goose.
The small clearings around old Leechtown at the confluence of the rivers could also be re-purposed into simple rugged wilderness campsites, perhaps managed by the T’Sou-ke Nation as is the case downriver. This could provide visitors with an additional outstanding wilderness experience in our area, contributing to the local economy.
It’s time to get serious about forest conservation. Protecting the Leech River, whether it is through a regional park or co-managed with the T’Sou-ke Nation, is an achievable goal. If it’s not protected, it will be developed. All it takes is for the conversations to begin with the right people – so write your letters to CRD directors and MLAs, phone them, meet up with them. These forms of advocacy really do make a difference.
Let’s be bold and uncompromising with this. The forests need us. For the sake of future generations and the benefit of all sentient beings, we must act immediately.
J. Ocean Dennie is the founder of the Facebook group Friends of the Sooke Hills Wilderness.