The Central Westcoast Forest Society turned 20 this year and busted out of its teens with a bang by fundraising over twice its annual average.
“November 2015 marks our 20th anniversary which is a great cause for celebration here at Central Westcoast but we’re also celebrating because we raised over $1 million this year to put towards habitat restoration here in Clayoquot and Barkley Sound,” said the society’s executive director Jessica Hutchinson.
This is the first year the society (CWFS) has reached the $1 million mark, which crushes its annual average of $300,000-$500,000.
With more money coming in, the society was able to dish more out to restore wildlife habitats including a roughly $800,000 culvert replacement project that saw long-lost rearing and spawning grounds returned.
“We successfully installed three culverts on Highway 4 and the Pacific Rim Highway that will now restore fish access so the fish can return to their upstream habitat that hasn’t been accessible for over 30 years,” Hutchinson said adding the new access will allow salmon and trout species to thrive.
“It will help rebuild the populations to historic levels.”
Hutchinson said CWFS also partnered with the Hesquiaht and Ahousaht First Nations to complete habitat assessments, rehabilitated a degraded watershed with the Toquaht First Nation, helicoptered spawning gravel into a creek within the Pacific Rim National Park, spearheaded various volunteer riparian and stream restoration efforts, and monitored salmon populations at Lost Shoe Creek.
She said the community’s support has played a vital role in the society’s success.
“The community has been a great supporter over the last 20 years and really we couldn’t have done any of this work without them. Everyone from the district councils to the schools to individual volunteers coming out and lending a hand,” she said.
“We’re a volunteer led organization and it’s taken everyone’s help and assistance to raise all this money and do all this great work.”
She hopes to see the society’s success continue and is stoked to get started on 2016’s efforts.
“We have a lot more projects planned for the year ahead…We’re hoping that we can bring even more money to the table next year,” Hutchinson said.
“We’re hoping that with the support of the district of Tofino and Ministry of Transportation we’re going to achieve twice as many culvert replacements on Hwy. 4 and Pacific Rim Highway next year and that this is only a sign of the times to come.”
She said one of the society’s major projects in 2016 is the restoration of a Tofitian creek.
“One project in particular we’re very excited about is the Centennial Creek Project in the district of Tofino,” she said.
“People were dumping all their garbage there during the early development of Tofino. They used it to dump stumps and logs and building debris and garden waste and we hope to restore the instream habitat and restore cutthroat trout to this stream that used to support cutthroat trout but hasn’t for many years.”
She said the society has lasted 20 years on the Coast because of the value of its work and the dedication of its supporters.
“We’re a very action oriented organization and we get a lot of great work done so we’ve got a great track record and the society has really evolved with the community over the years; we’re always taking on new members and our staff, as it grows and changes, brings new energy to the organization with great ideas,” she said.
“The organization was conceived and formed with the support of the local Nuu-Chah-Nulth First Nations and their longstanding role in the organization has really helped ensure our longevity.”
She suggested West Coasters are quick to help with habitat restoration.
“People move here and stay here and live here because they love it here and they love the environment and people are really keen to come out and lend a hand to help restore the environment and to help rebuild wildlife populations in this area,” she said.
“Really it comes down to people really valuing the local environment here and therefore valuing the importance of restoration.”
CWFS is offering a slew of ongoing volunteer opportunities throughout the winter and anyone interested in getting involved is encouraged to check out Central Westcoast’s Facebook page or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The society will be celebrating 2015’s success at a ‘Winter Wine and Dine’ fundraising event at Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn on Dec. 12.
“It’s part fundraiser, part good old fashioned celebration,” Hutchinson said.
“This is an opportunity to put on your party dress and put on a smile and come out for a good cause for a good organization and for a good time.”
Tickets to the event can be purchased at the society’s Ucluelet office, 1920 Lyche Road, or the Wickaninnish Inn.