The Communities : ENVIRONMENT
Camp 6, Cowichan Lake
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The geography and climate conditions in the Cowichan Valley have created a fertile land. The Cowichan's many species of plants and animals have provided an abundance of resources for people creating communities in the valley since the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago.
When the Coast Salish people settled in the Cowichan Valley, they fished the plentiful salmon in the Cowichan River and harvested camus bulbs, mushrooms, ferns, mosses, salal and other types of berries for food and medicines. These plants grow on the forest floor and depend on the shade, protection and nutrients provided beneath the trees of the coastal ecosystem. The wood and bark of the trees was integral to the commercial and spiritual lives of the Cowichan First Nations peoples.
The Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) impressed the early loggers. Large stands of this coniferous tree were plentiful in the sandy soil found on Vancouver Island. Favouring comparatively dryer conditions than some other rainforest species, the rainshadow provided by the mountains of the Cowichan Valley created a perfect "Douglas fir zone". The species can grow from 60 to 100 metres high and has a strong, heavy wood. The seedlings do well in areas cleared by forest fires while the old trees are known to be resistant to fire. It was a specialized skill to top monsters like the Douglas fir, and a challenge to be able to size and cut the trees after falling them.
Lake Logging Timber, Dave, Madill foreman, 1928-
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Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), arbutus (Arbutus menziesii), bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) and the hardwood red alder (Alnus rubra) can be found in the same areas as the Douglas fir, such as the lowland estuary of the Cowichan River.
Red cedar (Thuja plicata) and yellow cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis), hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), and silver fir (Abies concolor) grow in the higher elevations and moister conditions of the western part of the valley. Cedar requires a very wet climate and is rarely found in stands but rather grows amongst other species. It can reach heights of 25 to 60 metres. The wood of the yellow cedar is known to resist decay, which makes it a good building material.