Grace Islet (Photo by Phil Vernon)

Grace Islet (Photo by Phil Vernon)

Grace Islet

Grace Islet (Photo by Phil Vernon)

Grace Islet (Photo by Phil Vernon)

The Southern Gulf Islands are one of BC's most beautiful and ecologically unique areas. Made of a network of large islands and tiny islets, the Mediterranean climate found here has given rise to many plants, animals and ecological communities found nowhere else in Canada.

Grace Islet is small — less than an acre in size — but it has a big history. For many centuries the islet was used by local First Nations as a burial site, until it passed into private ownership in 1913. It remained undeveloped until 2014, when the then-landowner began to build a home on the islet, despite the presence of at least 16 burial cairns.

Recognizing the seriousness of the land use conflict, which was elevated by local First Nations as well as the broader public, the Province of British Columbia partnered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to negotiate a settlement with the landowner. Negotiations were successful, and led to NCC assuming the care and management of Grace Islet in February 2015, in collaboration with nine First Nations who have historically used Grace Islet. 

“We are honoured to be part of a solution that will see the protection and conservation of the significant cultural heritage and ecological values on Grace Islet,” said Linda Hannah, BC regional vice president for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. “We look forward to working with the Province and First Nations on restoring and stewarding this very special place.”

Road to recovery

As the owners of Grace Islet, NCC is facing a busy year to set the tiny Gulf Islet on the road to recovery. Working closely with local First Nations and other partners, NCC will work to restore the ecological and cultural integrity of this special place.

The first step in recovering Grace Islet is to carefully remove the half-built house on the property. Once the islet is free of the building, proper restoration of the vegetation and burial cairns can proceed.

If you are interested in supporting the ongoing restoration and stewardship work on Grace Islet, please contact Michael Curnes, Director of Development, BC Region at Michael.curnes@natureconservancy.ca or 1-888-404-8428 ext. 225.

Conservation values

An eagle on Grace Islet (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)

An eagle on Grace Islet (Photo by Tim Ennis/NCC)

Despite its small footprint, Grace Islet has strong conservation values that make it a good fit for NCC's work in British Columbia. The West Coast is a key focal area for us in 2015, where natural spaces are facing heavy pressure from development. Our conservation mapping and strategic planning shows that the Southern Gulf Islands are a top conservation priority, and work that we can do here is both urgent and extremely valuable

Small islands and islets are of particular interest to conservation. These islands and islets can be great protectors of the area's natural biodiversity, as they are less likely to have invasive plants and animals disturbing the natural ecosystem, and can act as seed banks for the native plants of this area.

Despite its small size, Grace Islet contains important Garry oak habitat, including 200-year-old juniper trees, the rare yellow variety of chocolate lily, and Garry oak and Douglas-fir trees. The islet's marine environment supports herring and other marine life, and its intertidal zone contains sea grass meadows that are particularly valuable spawning habitat and are in decline region-wide.

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