Comox Valley on Vancouver Island: Incubator Region for Collaboration Precedents (#2 in a series)

Note to Reader:

On November 5, 2019 the Partnership released the first in a series of bi-monthly preview articles about Comox Valley 2020, the third in the Vancouver Island Symposia Series on Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate. These preview articles will progressively reveal details of the modules that comprise an inspirational program on Climate Change, Collaboration and Landscape Restoration. 

The first two articles set the scene by describing the historical context for Comox Valley 2020. They provide insight into why the Comox Valley has long been considered an incubator region for provincially significant ‘collaboration precedents’ in British Columbia. Story #1 is the view through an inter-regional lens. Story #2 is the perspective of the Comox Valley Conservation Partnership.

The Symposia Series is a building blocks process: Nanaimo in 2018; Parksville in 2019; and next, the Comox Valley in 2020. Each event builds on the last and points the way to the next. The unifying theme is the power of local government collaboration with the stewardship sector.

Today’s Story #2 is an historical narrative. Co-written by David Stapley and Tim Ennis of the Comox Valley Conservation Partnership, the spotlight is on what happened on the ground in the Comox Valley to build collaborative relations between the stewardship and local government sectors. Notable actions that increased stewardship sector influence in local government decision-making processes are also introduced.

The symposium format provides a neutral forum for local elected representatives, local government staff, stewardship groups and others to ‘convene for action’. Mission Possible is when a convergence of interests motivates all the players to set their sights on the common good, challenge the old barriers of jurisdictional interests, and collaborate as a regional team to ‘improve where we live’.

Are you curious to learn more about the Comox Valley experience? Do you anticipate that you might wish to attend Comox Valley 2020? If your answer to any of these questions is YES, then SAVE THESE DATES: April 22 through 24, 2020. Join us in the City of Courtenay!

To Learn More:



Comox Valley Conservation Partnership – “One common forum to promote and advocate for innovative local government policies, strategies and initiatives that support transformative change towards environmental sustainability,” wrote David Stapley and Tim Ennis

A program of the Comox Valley Land Trust, the Comox Valley Conservation Partnership (CVCP) was formed in 2008, after concern was raised that there was no regional plan in the Comox Valley to prioritize and protect sensitive ecosystems on private land.

The CVCP brings together local community-based groups and other stakeholders to support their projects and provide a voice for the value of conservation in the Comox Valley’s natural areas.

Boots on the Ground

“The Comox Valley conservation and stewardship (ENGO) sector operates in a space outside of government and industry that is firmly rooted in the social fabric of the community and is deeply connected to the land and waters of the Comox Valley through ‘boots on the ground’ experience,” state David Stapley and Tim Ennis in setting the context for this historical narrative.

“The Comox Valley experience highlights a coordinated approach by the ENGO sector under the umbrella of the Comox Valley Conservation Partnership (CVCP) that brings together over 20 local ENGO and ratepayers associations into one common forum to promote and advocate for innovative local government policies, strategies and initiatives that support transformative change towards environmental sustainability in our communities.”

Nature Without Borders

The CVCP was formed based on a recognition within the ENGO sector that there was a critical need for a regional, coordinated conservation plan that spanned local government jurisdictions within the Comox Valley to address the rapid loss and fragmentation of sensitive ecosystems.

“The Comox Valley Land Trust played a leadership role in the 2009 publication of Nature Without Borders (NWB), a science-based conservation plan that identified critical areas of conservation priority and established a blueprint for how to protect sensitive ecosystems within the context of local government policy.  

“NWB was endorsed by all local governments in the Comox Valley, and was subsequently updated in 2013.”

Valley Regional Conservation Strategy:

Th Regional Conservation Strategy is a long-term approach to use and conservation of land, and was initiated by the Comox Valley Land Trust. Nature Without Borders is the title of the report that lays out a community vision.

The Strategy aims to provide reliable and accessible conservation information to politicians, planners, developers, community groups and residents, and to assist in wise and informed land use decisions and conservation actions.

The desired outcome for the Strategy is to contribute to the quality of life of Comox Valley residents by working to protect the lands that are essential for ecosystem function, human health and well-being, economic sustainability, and civic pride.

Influence on Comox Valley Regional & Municipal Processes

“The Comox Valley Regional District leveraged the work of Nature Without Borders in the completion of the Comox Valley Sustainability Strategy (2010) and the Regional Growth Strategy (2013), both of which provided processes to deepen the relationship between local governments and the ENGO sector at the staff and political levels,” continue David Stapley and Tim Ennis.

“The CVCP was able to leverage these relationships and make significant contributions to the Official Community Plans of the Village of Cumberland and the Town of Comox. The Environmental Development Permit Area regulations, developed for Cumberland’s OCP, significantly increased environmental protection as new development took place.”

Land Use Practices

“The CVCP also reached out to the real estate development community to promote sustainable land use practices, including hosting design charrettes involving expertise from cutting-edge landscape architects, engineers and other professionals.

“Notable successes in breaking down the barriers between the ENGO, land development and local government sectors were realized through site-based tours. Through this approach, standard practices and emerging best practices of land development could be compared and contrasted in the context of ‘what works and what doesn’t’ when it comes to issues such as supporting summer baseflows in streams for fish and other environmental parameters.”

2017 Eco-Asset Management Symposium

“As the ENGO sector continued to grow in its capacity and influence relating to sustainable land use in the Comox Valley, the CVCP hosted a pivotal symposium in 2017 that introduced the concept of taking an eco-asset (natural capital) approach to sustainable municipal service delivery,” state David Stapley and Tim Ennis.

“This symposium highlighted the connections between natural assets (streams, lakes, rivers, forests, estuaries etc.) and the delivery of municipal services such as the provision of drinking water, management of rainwater, climate adaptation and other services.”

Ripple Effects 

“Since the symposium, local governments throughout the Comox Valley have spontaneously initiated several pilot projects to quantify the economic value that these natural features provide to local government service delivery, most notably through partnerships with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative; as well as through the Ecological Accounting Process initiative.

“The Comox Valley 2020 Symposium will highlight these and other recent advancements in environmental sustainability as they relate to watershed management, climate adaptation, rainwater management, and most importantly, reconciliation with indigenous communities and First Nations though ecological restoration projects and other partnerships.”

Quotable Quotes:

“The stewardship and conservation sector has traditionally focused on habitat restoration and protection of lands with high ecological values,” states David Stapley, Director, Comox Valley Land Trust. “With cumulative impacts from climate change, urban and resource development escalating, these groups have now become community leaders in educating and supporting improved land use practices.  The 2017 Eco-Asset Symposium promoted measures that capture the value of ecological assets to address infrastructure and climate change issues by integrating them into land use planning and practice.”

“The 2017 Eco-Asset Symposium was very much about setting in motion a mind-set change. The climate is changing and the valley is at a cross-roads,” adds Tim Ennis, Executive Director, Comox Valley Land Trust; and Co-Chair, Comox Valley 2020.

“An over-arching issue is the impact of various land uses on the natural water cycle.”