Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society



Cowichan Shoreline Stewardship Project

Phase II (2017 - 2020)


The Cowichan Shoreline Stewardship Project is a project to engage community and change attitudes regarding the value of riparian areas. We are attempting to promote a cultural shift from cutting and clearing to protection and restoration of shoreline riparian areas. The project will not discourage development nor recreation usage but will demonstrate how natural ecological functions and human activities can co-exist.

Experience in the Cowichan Valley has demonstrated that regulation and enforcement of riparian areas is expensive and understaffed. Our non-confrontational approach will lead to a cultural shift toward responsible environmental behaviours that will be self-sustaining by the time the project is completed.

By engaging all age groups in a collaborative effort we hope to change attitudes. Change can occur quickly when youth begin questioning parental behaviours.

We hope this project will do for shoreline stewardship what the blue-box did for recycling. The project will provide a high profile example of shoreline stewardship and restoration.

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The Problem

Shoreline habitat is seriously threatened by recreation, residential development, and upland land use practices.   The data clearly shows that we are continuously losing this critical habitat as it experiences serious degradation due to cumulative impacts.

Lake shores, stream shores & wetlands form transitional ecological boundaries between aquatic and terrestrial habitats. These transitional areas are important for fish and wildlife species, since they provide the benefits of ecologically diverse habitats in close proximity to each other. They are important for reproduction, feeding, resting and protection from the elements and predators. Vegetated foreshores also help to protect water quality and reduce erosion arising from heavy rainfall and wave action.

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Our Goal

CLRSS has joined forces with the BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF), the Cowichan Watershed Board, First Nations and local stakeholders to develop a plan and set targets to reverse the current trend of shoreline destruction. Here are our annual objectives for the next 3 years (ending March 2020):

Restoration, we will ...

  • complete 10 (minimum) riparian restoration projects on public & private properties

  • restore 2,500 - 3,000 square meters of riparian habitat area

Education, we will ...

  • conduct at least 75 shoreline visits with lake and river property owners to demonstrate how maintaining shoreline/wetland ecological integrity & diversity is compatible with enhanced property values, lifestyle satisfaction and owner land use practices

  • with each visit, have each resident complete a survey intended to measure their knowledge of riparian protection legislation and to gauge their personal preferences for natural shoreline vegetation

Community Engagement, we will ...

  • engage youth and the broader community in hands-on stewardship activities to promote the cultural & behavioural shifts necessary to ensure long-term shoreline and wetland integrity

Co-Operative Partnership, we will ...

  • continue to work closely with the Cowichan Watershed Board, First Nations, all levels of government and land owners (including privately owned forest land) to more fully protect riparian & wetland habitats throughout the watershed

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How We Will Do It

Our collaborative, grassroots, stewardship approach will engage resource professionals, youth, volunteers, private land owners and the community at large in ecological restoration and riparian education. This program will provide exponential growth of stewardship activities to protect and restore critical habitat without huge expenditures for enforcement and property acquisition. CLRSS and BCCF will work closely with supportive landowners to restore lake and river shoreline properties and use these as practical demonstrations of enhanced stewardship of valuable riparian habitats.

A team of restoration and fisheries experts will develop site-specific prescriptions for restoring aquatic/ riparian habitats on each candidate property. This will be followed by a planting team of local secondary students that will implement the plan under direct supervision of a VIU Natural Resource Protection graduate.

By combining the extensive experience of experts with volunteer and student workers this project will:

  • contribute to species diversity

  • help prevent or minimize erosion

  • maintain water quality

  • preserve ecological integrity


By March 2020, the Cowichan Lake Stewarship Project will:

  • conduct 225 shoreline property visits and interviews to explain the benefits of intact riparian areas and to encourage their protection and restoration

  • restore approximately 1 km (or 7,500 square meters) of shoreline to reverse the current trend of riparian habitat degradation and provide much needed stewardship demonstration sites

  • encourage and form partnerships with private lake and river shoreline owners to provide permanent protection for up to 15 km of sensitive shoreline habitat

  • engage youth and the broader community in our stewardship efforts to foster the cultural shift that is required to protect shoreline ecological values on a long term basis

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Who Will Lead the Project

In this second 3-year phase of the CSSP, work will continue as before under the Pilot Phase with one major exception. The BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF) who supported the Pilot Phase with funding and advice, will take over management of the Riparian Restoration segment of the project. This will include hiring of a Project Manager and local secondary school students as workers.  Importantly, BCCF will manage applications for funding grants and the reporting that must be done for these grants.  BCCF will continue ongoing monitoring of sites restored under the Pilot Phase while the CLRSS will manage all other aspects of the CSSP, including riparian visits and identification of suitable participants for riparian restoration.  The CLRSS and BCCF will continue as essential partners in the CSSP with the goal of permanently protecting the foreshore.

The project team will consist of the following dedicated people:

Diana Gunderson (B. Ed) CLRSS Board Member

(email: )

Experience: 3 years leadership of the CSSP Pilot Phase. 30+ years experience in higher education.

Organization: CLRSS

Role: provide leadership on Landowner Education, Community Engagement & Riparian Protection; liaison with BCCF on Riparian Restoration.


Jean Atkinson (B.Sc., M.Sc.) - CLRSS Secretary

(email: )

Experience: 3 years leadership of the CSSP Pilot Phase, 30+ years experience in higher education.

Organization: CLRSS

Role: provide co-leadership on Landowner Education, Community Engagement & Riparian Protection.


Craig Wightman (B.Sc., R.P. Bio.) - Restoration Consultant

(email: )

Experience: 46 years experience in fish biology and environmental management

Organization: B.C. Conservation Foundation (BCCF)

Role: Technical Advisor & BCCF's CSSP Coordinator (funding, reporting, QA/QC). Project review & consultation; writing and managing funding applications/grants; inter-agency liaison.


Christine Brophy (Dip. Resource Management Officer of Technology, Bachelor of Natural Resource Protection)

(email: )

Experience: 3 years Project Manager of the CSSP Pilot Phase.

Organization: BCCF

Role: CSSP Field Manager. Planning, implementing and monitoring restoration work by student crew; media and public relations.


Peter Law (B.Sc., Habitat Biologist - retired), Project Consultant

(email: )

Experience: 30+ years experience with the B.C. Ministry of the Environment, responsible for Riparian Area Regulation (RAR) assessment on Vancouver Island.

Organization: BCCF

Role: Riparian area regulation consultation; assisting and advising the CSSP Field Manager; inter-agency liaison.


Dave Polster (M.Sc., R.P. Bio.)

(email: )

Experience: Bioengineering expert. 2013 recipient of the John Reiger Achievement Award for excellence in environmental restoration. 30+ years of restoration experience.

Organization: Polster Environmental Services Ltd., Duncan, BC

Role: Technical Advisor. Planning, advising and QA/QC of all riparian restoration activities.

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How We Will Fund the Project

Project work will be funded primarily by grants, but also by owners of restored properties. We would like to thank the following sponsors whose generous funding make this project possible:


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Project Progress & Reports

We are now into our second year of the post-pilot project.  For a report on what we have accomplished in our first year, please see . . .

2017 CSSP Project Report


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The Roots of the Project

In the spring of 2013 the Cowichan Lake Shoreline Workshop generated the following ideal vision of what the social, ecological and industrial environment of the Lake could look like by 2023:

  • collaborative government that supports local watershed management

  • healthy watershed ecosystems that support a healthy community with a vibrant economy

  • an informed community that understands and cares about and for its watershed

  • a regulatory and financial framework that ensure compliance and watershed integrity

  • decision-making and public education that are fuelled by best-available science, community knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge

This two day workshop was the impetus for the creation of the Cowichan Shoreline Stewardship Project.  Members of our group attended along with forty-five others representing a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including:

  • government (civic, provincial, federal)

  • environmental groups

  • recreational groups

  • industry

  • real estate

  • academia 

To see the full report Outputs from the Workshop click here.

A 3 year pilot project was begun and subsequently completed in the fall of 2016.  For details of what the pilot project accomplished please see our CSSP Pilot Project page.

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Last updated: 09/10/18.