161 hectares purchased on Salt Spring Island to protect rare ecosystems

CHEK

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has stepped in to buy a privately-owned, 161-hectare property on Reginald Hill at the south end of Salt Spring Island, saving it from potential development or logging.

Many at-risk species have been observed in the area, including the common nighthawk, barn owl and a lichen known as peacock vinyl, and conserving the habitat will also help hold and filter fresh water as it flows through the land — a vital function in a relatively developed landscape.

“It could have been residential use or turned into agriculture,” said the NCC’s Kate Mackenzie.

“There’s a lot of intact coastal Douglas-fir forest on the property, so it was always at risk of being clear-cut.”

The NCC paid $9 million for the land and other costs and says the new Reginald Hill Conservation Area will protect a thriving diversity of rare and at-risk species.

Coastal Douglas-fir and Garry oak grow on the property and are among Canada’s most imperilled forest ecosystems.

“Not a lot of Douglas-fir is protected because it’s mainly found on the lower mainland, the Gulf Islands and along the southeast coast of Vancouver Island, so it has a very small range in Canada, so that’s why it’s very important for us to protect it,” added Mackenzie.

“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,” said Steven Godfrey, NCC’s west coast program director.

“We would like to thank the community members who recognize the value of this land and are helping to make this project possible,” he said.

“I am thrilled that the Nature Conservancy of Canada is providing protection for this super special land in perpetuity,” noted Nancy Beach, a family member that worked with NCC to conserve their land at Reginald Hill.

“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.”

Conservation staff will complete a full inventory of the property, looking for threats to sensitive ecosystems that might exist and how they can be managed.

“Of course, there’s a trail on the property, too. A lot of local folks would know this already,” said Mackenzie. “It’s a very well-used, popular spot to go for a hike, so we’ll of course be managing that trail for future public use.”

She says everything on the property is now under permanent protection, something she calls “a significant win.”

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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