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:

How art will help protect S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest

Feb 19, 20214 min read
We are incredibly grateful to every person who transformed this initiative from the hopes of one person into reality, and because we cannot thank each of you individually, we wanted to recognize a few of the artists who have donated their time and talent to the permanent protection of local ecosystems.

BC’s Coastal Douglas-fir zone needs protection now

Feb 9, 20215 min read
In an era where climate change is a modern reality and biodiversity is in crisis the world over, the province’s continued support of industrial logging in old growth forests is out of sync with global scientific consensus and policy objectives. This is especially true in the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) biogeoclimactic zone, the smallest and most endangered of 16 such zones in BC…

Volunteering with the Big Tree Registry

Jan 19, 20216 min read
Taeven Lopatecki volunteering with the Big Tree Registry is a way of quantifiably supporting conservation and awareness for this Island and this coast that she calls home. Raincoast’s scope of work, stretching from coastal landscapes to the waters of the Salish Sea and beyond, satisfies her interest in conservation topics.

The home stretch to permanently protect S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest

Jan 18, 20212 min read
It was in late November when we launched our initiative to purchase and permanently protect the S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest. We determined the sale price and set our goal to raise $395,000 by April. Now, less than 2 months into our 6 month fundraising campaign, we are less than $20,000 away from meeting our target…

Sponsors & supporters

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