It is an extraordinary affirmation of the Comox Valley’s  biological wealth and British Columbia’s unique biodiversity potential that at a time when the world faces a global biodiversity collapse, researchers can still find new species records. That is largely thanks to the foresight of Dr. Bristol Foster and others who  from 1964 to 1974 urged BC’s government to create the “Ecological Reserves.”     In a rare affirmation of long-term political generosity, the “ Ecological Reserve Act “ came about in 1971 with the unanimous support of both sides of the Legislature.  Ecological reserves are a precious gift for future generations.

The “Comox  Lake Bluffs Ecological Reserve” was set aside mainly for its rare and vulnerable plants  in an unusual dry-site community of plants that one would normally associate with dry grasslands.  The Comox Valley is greatly indebted to Betty Brookes for initiating and driving community efforts to set aside this jewel in our natural heritage as of May 1988.

Recent work , largely by Dr. Randal Mindell at the ecological reserve has greatly expanded the floristic record  of lichens and mosses, most of which can be found as part of the unique endangered and fragile ecosystems of  South Vancouver Island  and the Gulf Islands.  In the course of this work Dr. Loys Maingon accidentally discovered on April 30th of this year that the Ecological Reserve is  home to a small harvestman “Togwoteeus biceps” normally found in grasslands of Interior BC.  From an evolutionary point of view “Togwo” is a bit special. It belongs to the large family “Sclerosomatidae,”  where it is the only species in its genus.  There is no species like it.

This discovery is the first and only record of this animal on Vancouver Island.  Barring future information to the contrary, this means that on Vancouver Island this species is unique to the Comox Lake Bluffs Ecological Reserve.  The Ecological Reserve is home to a unique population of this insect.  That makes the Ecological Reserve a very special and vulnerable place indeed that needs to be protected.

Unfortunately, in spite of heroic efforts by BC Parks , the Comox Bluffs Ecological Reserve continues to be to be overwhelmed by an increasing number of  visitors,  high impact traffic such as dirt bikes, fat E-bikes and atvs, as well a party-goers whose fires pose regular threats.  As part of ecologically important areas that affect the water quality of a community watershed, the Ecological Reserve deserves better and more stringent protection.  With good planning, education and political support , expanding the Ecological Reserve’s surface area and  status to a Provincial Park could meet both recreational needs, as well as our obligations to conservation and  to ecological services for future generations.   

With this discovery, “Togwo” presents an opportunity for Comox Valley politicians to care and  protect  endangered species at home.     It is an opportunity to show the same rare disinterested political generosity of spirit that politicians showed in 1971 to do great things for this province’s biodiversity.

Loys Maingon

Comox Valley Nature