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Lantzville mulls FOG (future old-growth) zones

The new zone, where trees are protected, could be the first of its kind in the province
Trees in the Foothills parkland at Lantzville. The town is planning for two initial FOG areas covering 10 to 12 acres. VIA IAN SAVAGE

Lantzville is preparing to establish havens for future old-growth forests, where big West Coast trees can thrive for hundreds of years.

The district plans to set up two such areas within its rugged and scenic Foothills parkland, donated by developer Lone Tree Properties, under a new “future old growth” (FOG) zone that would be permanently ­protected.

Council members have voted unanimously in favour of the first two readings of the new bylaw, and a public hearing is set for April 10. Coun. Joan Jones called the plan “truly ­forward thinking.”

Planned new FOG zones are in environmentally ­sensitive habitat and were already ­earmarked by the district’s ­official community plan for preservation.

The initial two FOG areas will total 10 to 12 acres, said Coun. Ian Savage, who believes the new zone is the first of its kind in the province. He hopes other municipalities will follow suit.

Savage said he came up with the idea a few years ago while looking for solutions to combat the loss of old growth on B.C.’s coast. A visit to old-growth forests in Haida Gwaii cemented his commitment.

“It’s almost a spiritual experience when you’re walking through them,” he said, adding the beautiful old giants “almost feel prehistoric” in an environment with sparse undergrowth, mossy walkways, old fallen logs and a unique ecosystem.

It was “irresponsible” not to have preserved more of Vancouver Island’s old-growth forests, Savage said.

“The solution is to create more old growth forests and ensure they are protected.”

His vision is to see “islands” of old-growth areas thriving close to communities where generations of people can visit and appreciate them. Seeing old growth will hopefully inspire people to preserve and protect the trees, he told council. “It’s a long-term project obviously.”

The District of Lantzville is immediately north of Nanaimo with a population of 3,800, according to the most recent census.

Just over 800 homes are approved in the Foothills plan, which is being built out over many years. The first phase of the development was rolled out in 2017.

The project includes single-family houses, residential acreages, multi-family homes and neighbourhood villages.

Lone Tree donated 1,100 acres of parkland to the municipality that includes grasslands, meadows, trails and everything from saplings to “beautiful old trees,” Savage said. But some of the area was cleared years ago.

The park is already a popular hiking area and other recreational use is planned.

Savage cited a 2013 scientific paper focusing on the age of trees on Vancouver Island. Some old-growth areas have trees 150 to 450 years old, and even giants up to 850 years old, although trees that are more than 350 years old are less common.

Major long-lived species on the Island include yellow cedar, western red cedar, mountain hemlock, Douglas fir and western hemlock, which could be planted in FOG zones, Savage said.

Additional mapping of old trees in Foothill parkland will be carried out, said Savage.

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