IBA Mount Arrowsmith Area Mountains
Port Alberni, British Columbia
Site Summary
BC271 Latitude
49.146° N
124.546° W
1,200 - 1,817 m
307.29 km²
coniferous forest (boreal/alpine), alpine grassland, rivers/streams, freshwater lake, scree/boulders, other
Land Use:
Nature conservation and research, Forestry, Tourism/recreation
Potential or ongoing Threats:
Deforestation, Recreation/tourism
IBA Criteria: Nationally Significant: Restricted Range Species
Conservation status: IBA Conservation Plan written/being written, Regional Park (provincial)
Restricted access for IBA coordinators
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Site Description
The Mount Arrowsmith area mountains are a group of mountains found on southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia about 20 km east and southeast of Port Alberni. This triangle of mountains includes both the alpine, sub-alpine and upper montane forest areas of Mount Arrowsmith (1817 m) and adjacent Mount Cokely, Mount Moriarty (1610 m), Mount McQuillan (1575 m) and the west ridge of this mountain (Limestone Mountain). Most of the lower elevation land in between the peaks, composed mainly of coniferous forests and creeks, is not part of the site.
The upper elevation habitats within this mountain range support significant numbers of White-tailed Ptarmigan (Lagopus leucurus saxatilis). This subspecies occurs only in the central montane regions of Vancouver Island. Neither the range nor population size of this alpine species is well known, but this site is within their small range (perhaps 11,000 km² in size). This site qualifies as a nationally significant Important Bird Area on the basis of holding a portion of a restricted-range subspecies (those subspecies with ranges less than 50,000 km²).

Recent research from the Canadian Wildlife Service/University of British Columbia indicate that the Vancouver Island subspecies are using a wider elevational range of habitats than the mainland ptarmigan. On Vancouver Island, birds in Strathcona Provincial Park are usually in alpine habitat in the summer in moist and rocky patches of alpine vegetation dominated by Pink Mountain-heather (Phyllodoce empetriformis) and White Mountain-Heather (Cassiope mertensiana). In winter, the Strathcona ptarmigan are mostly found in subalpine habitats, but also in alpine and upper montane forests. In the southern parts of Vancouver Island, such as in the Arrowsmith Mountain area, birds are more often in subalpine heath habitats in summer. These subalpine areas characterized by the presence of Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa), Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana) and other conifer krummholz intermixed with heathers. In winter in southern Vancouver Island, both subalpine and upper montane conifer forests are used. This difference in use across the island may be reflective of the types of habitat available. White-tailed Ptarmigan habitats on Vancouver Island, particularly in the south therefore seem to overlap more with that of Blue Grouse than they do on the mainland.

Common Raven, Dark-eyed Junco, Red Crossbill, and Pine Siskin are some of the regular species seen in alpine and sub-alpine habitats, while in fully forested habitats the Steller's Jay, Gray Jay, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pacific Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Varied Thrush are common.

IBA Criteria
SpeciesT | A | I Links Date Season Number G C N
Note: species shown in bold indicate that the maximum number exceeds at least one of the IBA thresholds (sub-regional, regional or global). The site may still not qualify for that level of IBA if the maximum number reflects an exceptional or historical occurrence.
Conservation Issues
The alpine areas in this IBA are all provincial crown land. Mt. Cokely is within Mt. Arrowsmith Regional Park (541 ha), although Mt. Arrowsmith itself is not. The Mt. Arrowsmith Massif Park (1300 ha) has been proposed for an area immediately to the south of the regional park, which would include Mt.Arrowsmith and the small portion of the regional park at Mt. Cokely. Much of this IBA is within the recently established and much larger Mt. Arrowsmith World Biosphere Reserve.

This area has been heavily impacted by recreational activities. There is a small downhill ski area in the park, the peaks can also be accessed easily from Port Alberni, and it is one of the most accessible mountains in southern Vancouver Island. This results in the area receiving a considerable amount of recreational traffic. Snowmobiles are another potential concern because they can gain access to parts of Arrowsmith and Cokely via the regional park. The extent to which the White-tailed Ptarmigan are affected by recreational activity is unknown.

The other two peaks, and two sides of Mt. Arrowsmith, are within an area of timber license. Logging is taking place in the area, and in several places logging is occurring up to the edge of alpine areas, which may mean that ptarmigan habitats are affected. The construction of logging roads may also result in increased access to alpine areas.

The IBA Program is an international conservation initiative coordinated by BirdLife International. The Canadian co-partners for the IBA Program are Birds Canada and Nature Canada.
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