Last year, Raincoast and the Pender Island Conservancy purchased a 13-acre property on S,DÁYES or Pender Island. Now, we are seeking public input to inform the management and restoration plan for this property as a first step in developing the stewardship ethos that will govern this forest for generations.
Protecting Coastal Douglas-fir habitat
Over the past two years, Raincoast supporters have heard from the Gulf Islands Forest Project team about the degraded condition of Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) forests and associated habitats. We have explained that despite being among the most biodiverse ecosystems in British Columbia, CDF habitats are also among the most converted and fragmented. We have also repeatedly attempted to hold elected Islands Trustees accountable to their “preserve and protect” mandate in the Gulf Islands, which represent 30% of the CDF’s global range. Though the Islands Trust and local conservation organizations have been making moves to improve forest and other ecosystem protection on the Gulf Islands, political change takes time, and while we wait, widespread habitat degradation continues.
However, as the frequency and severity of climate change impacts accelerate, the value of securing long-term protection of intact ecosystems becomes increasingly apparent. This is especially true in the Gulf Islands where most land is under private ownership, which means that regulatory options for habitat protection are largely nonexistent. Those that do exist are mostly unenforceable or under enforced. In recognition of this urgency and that action is needed, Raincoast and the Pender Islands Conservancy Association partnered up to purchase and protect 13 acres of land on S,DÁYES, North Pender Island.
About S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest
Pender Islands are part of the Territory of W̱SÁNEĆ people. Unfortunately, most members of the W̱SÁNEĆ Nations have been largely alienated from these places since settler arrival on the landscape. Often referred to as Salt Water People, the interface of sea and land within the Salish Sea are irrevocably intertwined in W̱SÁNEĆ identity and culture. Though winters were spent largely on the Saanich peninsula, summers were spent traveling throughout the Gulf Islands. In SENĆOŦEN, Pender Islands are known as S,DÁYES. The historical diversity and abundance of CDF ecosystems is to a great extent due to the stewardship of W̱SÁNEĆ and other Coast Salish Nations since time immemorial.
S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest is representative of many ecological communities characteristic to the wider CDF biogeoclimatic zone, including maturing western redcedar groves, coastal Douglas-fir-salal forests, and seasonal wetlands populated by skunk cabbage and red alder. It also supports a large swamp which provides essential habitat to over 50 bird species including olive-sided flycatchers. These birds in particular are “blue-listed” or threatened in BC and find their homes in the fringes of forests bordering wetlands. Gulf Islands forests are among the few places these birds are thriving. As a species linking forests and wetlands, the Flycatcher has become the namesake of the place.
In addition to bird species, Pacific tree frogs, rough-skinned newts, beavers, muskrats, and at least four species of bats call this place home. In the years to come we will use various low-impact monitoring techniques such as camera traps to survey the landscape to improve understanding of the animal and invertebrate species diversity on the landscape. We expect that a number of additional native species possibly including (but not limited to) red-legged frogs, sharp-tailed snakes, and alligator lizards may be found on and around S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest.
Managing S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest for future generations
The campaign to purchase S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest was launched in November 2020. It was anticipated that it would take six months to reach our fundraising target, but due to unprecedented community support we were able to reach it in three. In the months since taking possession of the property, Raincoast and the Conservancy have organized educational visits with W̱SÁNEĆ youth and Elders, invasive species removal work days, and native species planting events.
Over the next six months, our team will continue to host public events in addition to increasing focus on ecological monitoring and developing a management plan. To help us fulfill the latter goal, we hosted a public engagement session on April 29, 2022 at the Pender Islands Community Hall to collect feedback on our activities to date and those to come. Ultimately, we aim to mobilize this process to deepen our community relationships and develop the stewardship ethos that will govern this forest for generations.
Because we recognize that there were likely many people who did not know about the in-person engagement session, or who were simply unable to attend, we have created an online survey. We expect it will take 10 to 15 minutes to complete and we welcome anyone from our conservation community to submit their ideas. The survey will be open until May 31, 2022.
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