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Gulf island cliff and forest over the Salish Sea.

Gulf Islands Forest project

Coastal Douglas-fir forests and associated habitats are among the most threatened ecosystems in the country. With a limited geographic extent, including only the southeastern edge of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and a sliver of BC’s mainland, it is essential that these ecosystems are protected and conserved before it is too late. 

Understanding biodiversity loss, climate change, and anthropogenic impacts

Raincoast’s Gulf Islands Forest Project is focused on addressing biodiversity loss, climate change and other anthropogenic impacts on Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) habitats. Globally unique to the south coast of British Columbia, these highly diverse ecosystems tend to be characterized by Coastal Douglas-fir as a dominant species but also include sand dunes, estuaries, Garry oak meadows, and rocky outcrops. Regionally, these habitats cover less than 1% of provincial land area, with the Salish Sea’s Gulf Islands hosting 25%.

Almost all of original CDF forests have been logged since the early 1900s and a further 30% of second-growth had been converted to rural, urban, agricultural, and industrial uses by 2008. Currently, 127 native plant and animal species characteristic to CDF ecosystems are on the provincial “Red” list. This includes iconic tree species such as Arbutus and Garry oak, with anecdotal reports of coastal giants like Western red cedar, Grand fir and Coastal Douglas-fir showing significant signs of stress and deterioration over the past several years.

In the southern Gulf Islands and Saanich Peninsula, much of the Coastal Douglas-fir forests and associated habitats grow within W̱SÁNEĆ territory. These unceded lands have been inhabited by the W̱SÁNEĆ people, also known as the Saltwater or Coast Salish People, since time immemorial. Brought here by the creator, XÁLS, following the great flood, the W̱SÁNEĆ people were given the responsibility of caring for their relatives: the Islands of the Salish Sea. As such, in addition to their ecological significance, these habitats hold tremendous cultural and spiritual value.

Donate and support our conservation efforts

Informed advocacy and community engagement

Using Raincoast’s signature approach of informed advocacy, the Gulf Islands Forest Project combines community engagement with science and policy review to achieve tangible conservation outcomes. Our preliminary focus is on North (S,DÁYES in the SENĆOŦEN language of the W̱SÁNEĆ) and South Pender Islands. As our work expands to other Gulf Islands, we commit to honoring the lands and culture of additional First Nations who call these Islands home. 

Contact the project coordinator

Shauna Doll
Gulf Islands Forest Project Coordinator

Big tree registry

Find out more about the Pender Islands Big Tree Registry.

A tiny mushroom sits in the bright green of a Gulf Island Forest.
Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Sponsors & supporters