Bella Coola couple, Nuxalk Nation and Nature Conservancy of Canada come together to create sanctuary for birds and other wildlife

December 14, 2021
Vancouver, BC


A riverfront property in the Bella Coola Valley that local residents Harvey and Carol Thommasen purchased in 2018 with the aim of making it a bird sanctuary is now the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) newest conservation area in British Columbia. The 122-hectare Snowshoe Creek Conservation Area, located in the traditional unceded territory of the Nuxalk Nation, protects thriving rainforest, floodplain and riverside habitat that supports an abundance of wildlife and plant diversity.

With the support of the Nuxalk Nation, the Thommasens donated the property to NCC. The land donation was enabled by the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program. This program provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically significant land. This conservation project was further supported by several generous donors, whose contributions will provide for the ongoing management of the conservation area.

The area is located adjacent to the traditional Nuxalk village site of Nutl'lhiixw and the present-day Burnt Bridge Conservancy. It is home to a grove of old-growth red cedar that contains numerous culturally modified trees, a testament to the thousands of years of Nuxalk history in the area. Nuxalk people continue to use this area today for traditional activities, such as hunting, fishing, mushroom gathering and cedar collection.

Snowshoe Creek Conservation Area is an exceptional wildlife area. It has been extensively documented by Harvey Thommasen, who is a photographer. Grizzly bears actively forage along the riverfront. Beaver ponds create valuable pools and channels that support young salmon and cutthroat trout. A diversity of birds use this land, including warbling vireo, evening grosbeak, American redstart, Bonaparte’s gull and common merganser. At least 15 species listed on the federal Species at Risk Act have been observed here, including northern goshawk (threatened), western toad (special concern) and wolverine (special concern).

NCC is grateful for the generous support of its donors to this project, including Carla Reed, Rodney Briggs and Robin Pascoe, Lynda Griffiths and Gail Moyle, C. Robin and E. Jennifer Harrison, Margo Wood and Eric Grace.

Snowshoe Creek Conservation Area is NCC’s second project in the Bella Coola Valley, along with Saaxwan conservation area. Saaxwan protects an estuary system at the mouth of the Bella Coola River, about 40 kilometres downstream of Snowshoe Creek. Together these conservation areas help safeguard the many aquatic and streamside species that rely on the Bella Coola River for their survival.

Next steps for Snowshoe Creek involve generating a baseline inventory of the land, followed by a management plan that will guide the stewardship of these lands over the long term.


“We are grateful to the Nuxalk Nation for their confidence in us to care for this portion of their ancestral territory, and for the vision and commitment of Harvey and Carol in protecting this land. Its conservation value is significant, especially for the riparian habitat it provides for juvenile coho and pink salmon, and its importance for grizzly bear, wolf and many other species of wildlife.” – Steven Godfrey, West Coast Program Director, Nature Conservancy of Canada

"Carol and I donated this land to the Nature Conservancy of Canada mostly to help forest birds, whose populations have declined by 30 per cent since the 1970s. This land will also help the salmon and trout, whose populations have also suffered terribly over the past 50 years, and will provide a secure travel corridor for animals like deer, grizzly bear and other large mammals moving through the Bella Coola Valley. We wish to thank the Doreen Shepherd family, Cecil Moody family and Peter Siwallace and Nuxalk Nation for supporting this project. Carol and I would also like to dedicate this donation to our recently deceased friend George Bradd, who introduced us to the joys of hugging trees and watching birds." – Harvey Thommasen, land donor

“The Nuxalk Nation has been exercising our rights and title since time immemorial, and we are committed to protecting vulnerable ecosystems in our territory that could be destroyed by extractive industries such as logging and mining. We have given our support to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to manage this area as we believe they will be able to protect this land for our Putl’lt— those who are not yet born.” – Iris Siwallace, councillor, Nuxalk Nation

“By working with partners like the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Nuxalk Nation and landowners like the Thommasen family, we are protecting nature in British Columbia and across the country. Protecting and conserving more nature across the country is an important part of our plan to address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Through programs like the Ecological Gifts Program, we are making progress towards our goal of conserving a quarter of Canada’s lands and a quarter of its oceans by 2025, working towards 30% by 2030.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Images and video

Video B-roll can be downloaded from this link: https://dam.itncc.org/galleries/1c74070f-328a-4a47-810e-34649d729801_ce136300-debb-4c1c-b5b3-d5cb114e948d-ExternalUser


  • Adjacent provincial lands sustain significant stands of intact coastal western hemlock, mature flood plain black cottonwood, ancient red cedar and Douglas-fir forests. This project adds to a network of protected areas in the region, including Burnt Bridge Creek Conservancy and Tweedsmuir Park.
  • Snowshoe Creek Conservation Area spans diverse habitats, including evolving beaver pond wetlands and floodplains along the Bella Coola River. The intact forest here contains a mix of western red-cedar, black cottonwood and red alder.
  • These lands provide exceptional grizzly bear habitat, with much of the area designated a Grizzly Bear Management Area.
  • Snowshoe Creek Conservation Area supports all five species of Pacific salmon, as well as a variety of trout and other fish.
  • This land sits in a transition zone for coastal and interior bird species, including distinct subspecies of northern flicker, cedar waxwing, yellow-rumped warbler (Myrtle and Audobon subspecies) and red crossbill.

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Media Contact:

Lesley Marian Neilson
Communications Manager
British Columbia Region

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