By Rob Underhill
You may have heard about the current housing shortage on Mayne Island. As the inventory of homes for sale has decreased, so has rental availability. This has created a challenging problem for our community that will require us to work together to solve. There is another housing shortage happening on Mayne you may not have heard as much about.
Many of our forest-dwelling non-human neighbours also struggle to find suitable housing. Species such as Western Screech Owl, Northern Saw-whet owl, multiple species of bats, wrens, woodpeckers, and amphibians require special habitats found more commonly in old forests. The problem is 88% of the existing forests on Mayne Island have been logged in the last 100 years! As a result, many characteristics associated with old forests such as dead and dying trees, snags, large fallen trees and branches are scarce.
The good news is you can do something about this housing shortage. In fact, all you have to do is nothing! If we let them, our young forests will mature and naturally acquire these special micro-habitats. If we allow dead and dying trees to naturally decompose we can provide valuable habitat for these species. If you have a dead tree that poses a danger to a structure or high-use area, you can reduce the height of the snag, removing the hazard, while still providing valuable habitat. Avoid raking fallen twigs and branches from the forest; these help build soil and are required for a healthy forest. Nature can be messy—learn to love it! We all like to clean up the yard and many of us are used to living in the manicured landscapes of urban centres. Now that you’re on Mayne it’s time to put away the rake, kick up the feet, pour a drink, and offer a cheers to that woodpecker digging for grubs in the fallen tree.