New conservation area protects rare woodland ecosystems on Salt Spring Island
Coastal Douglas-fir forests support many at-risk species
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is announcing some good news for nature with the protection of a large Salt Spring Island property. Located in Coast Salish territory in BC’s Southern Gulf Islands, the site supports one of British Columbia’s most rare and imperilled ecosystems — Coastal Douglas-fir forests.
The 161-hectare property sits on Reginald Hill at the south end of the island and hosts a thriving diversity of rare and at-risk species. The new conservation area nurtures a maturing Coastal Douglas-fir forest, with mossy outcroppings, Garry oak plant communities, rocky bluffs and multiple wetlands. These woodland ecosystems are amongst the most imperilled in Canada and are vital habitat for many unique threatened or endangered species.
Many at-risk species have been observed in the area, including several that are listed on the federal Species at Risk Act such as common nighthawk (threatened), barn owl (western population; threatened) and a lichen known as peacock vinyl (special concern). Conserving this habitat and natural land cover will also help to hold and filter fresh water as it flows through the land, a vital function in this relatively developed landscape.
Given the property’s size and location on a popular Gulf Island, it was a prime candidate for subdivision and development. However, the family that had held the land for decades was keen to see it conserved and worked with NCC to achieve this outcome. Salt Spring Island residents were instrumental in the success of the project, bringing local and ecological knowledge, donations and enthusiasm.
Reginald Hill Conservation Area is embedded in a larger landscape of undeveloped and protected land. It is bordered by the Tsawout First Nation’s reserve lands, a municipal park and lands protected by conservation covenants. It is also located near two provincial parks and two conservation areas already held by NCC. This effectively extends the area of protection and creates a greater connected area for wildlife to thrive and move freely.
The project garnered support from many local groups and individuals, including Salt Spring Island Conservancy and Islands Trust Conservancy. Salt Spring Island residents were important contributors to the success of the project, bringing local and ecological knowledge, donations and enthusiasm.
This project was funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Canada Nature Fund. Additional funding was provided by the Gerald A. Cooper-Key Foundation and the generous contributions of over 140 individual, corporate and foundation donors.
“It has never been more important to protect forests and ensure they grow and thrive into the future. Protecting this rare large piece of coastal Douglas-fir habitat is key for the at-risk plants and animals that rely on these ecosystems. We would like to thank the community members who recognize the value of this land and are helping to make this project possible.” — Steven Godfrey, West Coast Program Director, Nature Conservancy of Canada
“I am thrilled that the Nature Conservancy of Canada is providing protection for this super special land in perpetuity. The peaceful walk up the hill to the awe-inspiring hilltop view is undeniably enriching, and it was our parents’ dream to have the nature of this land preserved forever.” — Nancy Beach, member of the family that worked with NCC to conserve their land at Reginald Hill.
“Through the Canada Nature Fund, the Government of Canada is making progress toward its goal of conserving a quarter of lands and waters in Canada by 2025, working towards 30 per cent of each by 2030. By working with partners such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada we are helping to protect the natural environment in British Columbia and across the country. Protecting this land, specifically, helps to nurture a rare Coastal Douglas-fir forest while contributing to the recovery of species at risk such as common nighthawk and barn owl. Biodiversity loss, as well as climate change, are crises that we must address together.” — The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“In the face of the grim news about climate change and loss of biodiversity, the establishment of this conservation area is a huge win for nature on Salt Spring Island. By treating the land with respect and care we can protect the sensitive habitats and species at risk in perpetuity, so our descendants can enjoy them. Many thanks to the Beach family, the NCC and all the donors and supporters for coming to together to conserve this jewel in the crown of protected areas.” — Susan Hannon, ecologist, conservation biologist and Salt Spring Island resident.
- The Coastal Douglas-fir zone, like what is found on Reginald Hill, is the smallest and most at-risk biogeoclimatic zone in BC. Within Canada, it is found only on southeastern Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and a small part of the mainland. The mild, dry climate in this zone allows for the survival of some of the province’s most at-risk species.
- According to the BC Conservation Data Centre, the CDF zone is home to the highest number of species and ecosystems at risk in BC, many of which are ranked globally as imperilled or critically imperilled. The global range of the CDF lies almost entirely within BC, underscoring both its global uniqueness and BC’s responsibility for its conservation.
- Several at-risk plant and animal species have been identified throughout the Reginald Hill area, including the sharp-tailed snake, rigid apple moss and great blue heron.
- The forest on Reginald Hill is regenerating from selective logging in the 1940s and a small amount of eco-forestry in the 1990s. Nearly a third of the trees in this area are estimated to be older than 100 years old.
Photos and video
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the country’s unifying force for nature. NCC seeks solutions to the twin crises of rapid biodiversity loss and climate change through large-scale, permanent land conservation. As a trusted partner NCC works with people, communities, businesses, and government to protect and care for our country’s natural areas. Since 1962, NCC has brought Canadians together to conserve and restore more than 15 million hectares. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.
The Canada Nature Fund supports the protection of Canada’s biodiversity through the creation of protected and conserved areas and through initiatives that help to recover species at risk. The Fund is available to not-for-profit and Indigenous organizations, provinces and territories, and others.
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