A series of clouds obstructed the sun from shining down on the ocean in the early morning of July 18th. Moored at the entrance to Bedwell Harbour on Pender Island was Raincoast’s research and education vessel, Achiever. After disembarking the vessel, slowly from the distance appeared a zodiac approaching the shores of Medicine Beach (E,HO,) carrying 10 students, ages 12-14 and 5 crew/trip leaders. As they disembarked, they were greeted by Raincoast’s Gulf Islands Forest Project Coordinator, Shauna Doll, and myself, Paige Griffin, Land Protection Intern.
The students introduced themselves and shared where they were from, ranging as far east as North Carolina to the western states of Washington and California, with one student having traveled all the way from Greece. Pender Island was just a brief stop on their two week journey around the Southern Gulf Islands, Victoria, and Vancouver. The students boarded an electric bus, generously provided by Pender Islands community members, and were taken to S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest, a conservation property purchased in 2021 by Raincoast and the Pender Islands Conservancy.
Upon arrival, the larger group was split into two, each being led to different restoration sites on the property. The first group was led to the highest point in Flycatcher Forest, where a meadow restoration site is located, learning about forest conditions along the way. Reaching the top of the hill, the students saw the Meadow Makers sign that signals the entry into the 14 x 6 ft restoration site, and had the chance to learn more about the importance of removing invasive species and replacing them with native ones. Such practices help the land heal, restoring millenia old relationships between plant, pollinator, and other animal species.
They also learned about site preparation and planting techniques (to learn more watch out for our upcoming article series with Satinflower Nurseries). After heading back down the hill, the students were given a plant identification booklet and tasked with a plant treasure hunt to help them familiarize with their surrounding environment and truly arrive in Flycatcher Forest.
Afterwards, each group got a chance to learn how to measure big trees and nominate them for the Pender Islands Big Tree Registry. The students learned how to use specialized diameter tapes, clinometers, and a laser hypsometer. Laughs were shared when it came time to decide on names for the two western redcedars that were nominated, with Sean’s Tree and Busty Red, being the final choices. These were the 104th and 105th trees to be entered into the Registry. To finish off the day, the students suited up with safety goggles and work gloves to remove invasive Daphne.
It was moving to meet young people who were so attentive and interested in learning about ancestral Territories and ecosystems that many were unfamiliar with and had not seen before. Perhaps this experience sparked an interest in a future career dedicated to safeguarding the environment. Reflecting back, witnessing these students, who were so amazed by the size of the trees and the array of species within S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest, reminds me to appreciate my surroundings, as I sometimes forget to take time and observe the natural beauty that is so unique to this area.
Being on land and doing field work provides people an opportunity to immerse themselves in nature. This is especially important in the case of the Coastal Douglas-fir zone, which is so unique and biodiverse, yet also so threatened. I hope the lessons of this land resonated with the students. I hope they learned that these ecosystems are incredibly important to protect and even just one day of engagement to help the land heal can be so significant.
I believe this was a unique experience for the students and hope that this field day on Pender Island was a highlight for them once they returned home. Afterall, how often do you get to travel back to the United States and say you have named and registered a tree on a small Island in British Columbia?
Help us protect KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest
Together with Pender Islands Conservancy, we are raising funds to purchase and permanently protect a 45 acre forested property on the edge of the Salish Sea. The KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest is located within the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) biogeoclimatic zone, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in Canada. It is also among the most threatened in Canada. Protecting these forests is an investment in our collective future.
We are eight months into our campaign and are 65% of the way to our fundraising goal. This acquisition is a tangible way that you can help protect forest lands and build climate resilience!