Daughters say their mother’s gift of an island near Nanaimo was in the family’s DNA

Daughters say their mother's gift of an island near Nanaimo was in the family's DNA
Carmen Smith/submitted

The Islands Trust Conservancy has been given their largest land donation ever, an entire island near Nanaimo.

The late Betty Swift, a conservationist, has bequeathed an entire island worth more than $3.7 million.

Those who know it says Link Island is a picturesque piece of paradise. The island is near Nanaimo, just south of Gabriola and Mudge islands.

It’s more than 20 hectares in size and the Island Trust Conservancy says it’s home to threatened species such as the Western Screech-Owl, Barn Swallow, and Great Blue Heron.

And now the conservancy will manage it after a generous donation.

“It’s almost $4 million of land that’s been donated and that’s our largest in history and it’s also the only entire island that we’ve received,” said Kate Emmings, the manager of Islands Trust Conservancy.

It was owned by the late Betty Swift, who passed away in 2021. Betty and her late husband Ward bought the island in the 60s. Betty started discussions with the Islands Trust Conservancy nearly a decade ago about entrusting them with it.

Her gift reserved the right of sole use for her children and grandchildren for the duration of their lives.

“Currently the management plan is not to allow access to the land and the reason behind that is that it’s really an ecological gem. It has been stewarded without at least modern-day public interaction for at least 50 years,” said Emmings.

Betty Swift’s two daughters say the conservation of Link Island was in their family’s DNA and they fully backed their mother’s gift.

“For the three siblings, it was absolutely the right thing to do. It’s a continuity of what we believe in and also in terms of issues of climate change and the challenges of the future it was the right time to do this,” said Barbara Swift, Betty Swift’s daughter.

Her other daughter quotes what her mom said when a covenant was placed on Link Island in 2019.

“I reassure myself that we do what we can with what we know at the time and hope that we built the tools to take Link Island and ourselves into the future and you know it’s our job to do the very best we can at this time because it’s so critical,” said Hally Swift.

According to its news release about the donation, Islands Trust Conservancy is currently developing a management plan and is initiating conversations about its management with several First Nations whose territory and interests include Link Island.

Barbara said her parents had a very different view on land ownership which for most usually involves extraction for economic interests.

“Their understanding of an ecosystem or a place like this within the larger ecosystem of that area is that it produces extraordinary benefits for all of us, critters and humans,” Barbara said.

Since 1990, Islands Trust Conservancy has protected more than 113 properties, covering more than 1,375 hectares of island ecosystems.

Islands Trust Conservancy first announced the donation of Link Island in mid-December.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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