Forest Conservation Program

Coastal Douglas-fir forests and associated habitats are among the most threatened ecosystems in the country.

Photo by Alex Harris /
Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

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 Forest Conservation Program is focused on addressing biodiversity loss, climate change and other human-caused stresses on Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) habitats. Globally unique to the south coast of British Columbia, this collection of highly diverse ecosystems includes sand dunes, estuaries, Garry oak meadows, and rocky outcrops, among many other ecological communities. Forests here are characterized by tree species like coastal Douglas-fir, western red cedar, and arbutus. The CDF covers less than 1% of provincial land area, with the Salish Sea’s Gulf Islands hosting over 30% of its provincial extent.

Almost all of the original CDF forests have been logged since the early 1900s and a further 30% of second-growth has been converted to rural, urban, agricultural, and industrial use since 2008. The province’s last State of the Forests report, released in 2010, found that the CDF is BC’s most converted zone, with nearly twice the amount of deforested and fragmented land compared to the next most converted zone. This includes the province’s highest road density that profoundly fragments CDF habitats. Currently, 127 native plant and animal species characteristic to CDF ecosystems are on the provincial “Red” list. This includes iconic ecological communities  characterized by the presence of arbutus and Garry oak. Further, recent anecdotal reports of deterioration of arbutus, western redcedar, grand fir and coastal Douglas-fir indicate that climate change is already influencing these important ecosystems.

In the southern Gulf Islands and Saanich Peninsula, much of the Coastal Douglas-fir forests and associated habitats exist 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.

Informed advocacy and community engagement

Using Raincoast’s signature approach of informed advocacy, the Forest Conservation Program combines community engagement with science and policy review to achieve tangible conservation outcomes. Our work includes working with local Nations, civic governments, organizations, and community members to slow and reverse the destruction of these fragile, ecologically important, and culturally significant places through advocacy, community science initiatives, ecological investigation, and most recently, permanent land protection through property acquisition. 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. 

The Story of the CDF

Big tree registry

Find out more about the Pender Islands Big Tree Registry.

Contact the program director

Shauna Doll
Forest Conservation Program Director

Educational webinar series

We have had two educational webinar series with sessions on a range of important topics. For descriptions and video recordings, slide decks, and more, check out our previous webinars series:

Land protection in some of Canada’s most threatened terrestrial habitats

Feb 7, 20234 min read
Raincoast established the Forest Conservation Program (formerly known as the Gulf Islands Forest Project) in 2019 with the intention of exploring pathways to strengthen protection of the rare and threatened habitats characteristic to the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) zone, particularly on the Gulf Islands. However, land in this region is disproportionately under private ownership, unlike the…

We did it! KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest has been protected!

Jan 30, 20233 min read
KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest has been secured as an essential piece of a larger nature corridor.

The story of Coastal Douglas-fir forests: The biodiversity potential of privately-owned land

Jan 24, 202315 min read
Registered Professional Biologist and Planner, Adriane Pollard, has been working to improve local protections of Coastal Douglas-fir associated ecological communities for over 25 years.

Maxwell Creek Watershed Project Field Files Part 3: Mapping the watershed

Jan 18, 202318 min read
Multiple practitioners working under the umbrella of the Maxwell Creek Watershed Project (MCWP or “the Project”) have contributed to this third instalment of the Field Files series, a photo essay illustrating the important role spatial data and mapping plays in establishing landscape-wide restoration projects. All maps were made by Nicholas Courtier, who also assisted with…

Sponsors & supporters

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