Pender Island, BC: Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the Pender Islands Conservancy are more than halfway toward their goal of protecting endangered habitat on S,DÁYES (Pender Island). In December 2021 the two organizations took on the ambitious goal of raising $2.18 million to purchase and protect KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest. The two organizations have raised $1.3 million so far.
Locally and globally, rapid climate change and habitat loss are threatening the stability of many populations of plants and animals. Yet, their survival is essential to the resilience of human communities. In response, over the past two years Raincoast and the Pender Islands Conservancy have been working together to purchase and protect ecosystems in the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) biogeoclimatic zone. Their most current collaborative land protection campaign aims to safeguard 18 hectares (ha) of CDF forest, now known as KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest on S,DÁYES. This conservation initiative seeks to protect threatened species and habitats, and contribute to a broader regional effort to enhance ecological resilience around the Salish Sea.
KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest links wetland headwaters to intertidal foreshore. It is home to maturing coastal Douglas-fir, western redcedar, and arbutus and connects to Plumper Sound, critical habitat for Southern Resident killer whales. The majority of the 18 ha property is forested by maturing Douglas-fir/Salal and Douglas-fir/Grand fir/Oregon grape ecological communities.
Mink and river otters are frequent visitors to both KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest and the neighboring wetland, Gardom Pond, a cattail marsh that directly abuts the southern edge of the property. Northern red-legged frogs, which are blue-listed in BC and as special concern under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA), and Pacific chorus frogs also call this place home, along with over 100 bird species that have been recorded within KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest and the surrounding protected areas.
Nearly every ecological community associated with the CDF is listed as threatened or endangered in BC due to ongoing development, limited protection policy, and high proportions of private land ownership (roughly 80%). Accordingly, protected areas are generally small and isolated. This patchwork is contrary to one of the most vital strategies for maintaining ecological integrity and viable habitat: connectivity. In this region, KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest is a rare opportunity to protect a contiguous tract of CDF forests and associated habitats.
Since launching the campaign, Raincoast and the Pender Islands Conservancy have made huge strides toward the protection of KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest. Due to generous contributions by individuals, local foundations including Sitka Foundation and the Islands Trust Conservancy, and others, $1.3 million has been raised so far. We have until the end of this year to raise the remaining $795,000.
“Land purchase is one of the only tools currently available to ensure ongoing protection of intact ecosystems–particularly in the Coastal Douglas-fir zone where most land is under private ownership. Yet, other protection measures are possible. The initiative to protect KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest is just one component of the Gulf Islands Forest Project, a multifaceted effort by Raincoast Conservation Foundation to secure ongoing and lasting protection of the rare and threatened habitats characteristic to the Gulf Islands. We are motivated by the climate and biodiversity crises and aim to enhance biodiversity and resilience around the Salish Sea” – Shauna Doll, Gulf Islands Forest Project Coordinator, Raincoast Conservation Foundation
“Permanent protection and stewardship of forest, wetland and foreshore habitats on Pender Island is one of the primary objectives of the Pender Islands Conservancy, and land purchases continue to be an important part of realizing that goal. The resilience of our communities in the face of climate change and ongoing development pressures depends on intact, healthy and resilient terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and protection of KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest will help to ensure this resilience—both through the ecological diversity that is supported by the land itself, as well as through its connectivity to other protected Coastal Douglas-fir forest habitats in the area.” – Erin O’Brien, Ecology and Conservation Director, Pender Islands Conservancy
“The Sitka Foundation supports community led ecosystem protection efforts like this campaign! We’re proud to pledge our support of another initiative that protects the highly endangered Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem in good relations with the community and applaud Raincoast and Pender Islands Conservancy for facilitating this rare opportunity to permanently protect 18 hectares of nature which support people, biodiversity, and offer climate solutions. We celebrate those who have also pledged their support and call on others to support, however they can, the protection of KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest” – Carolynn Beaty, Executive Director, Sitka Foundation
- KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest is an 18 ha (45 ac) property representative of the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) biogeoclimatic zone, the smallest and least protected of 16 such zones in British Columbia.
- KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest is home to over 100 bird species.
- A large breeding group of Band-tailed pigeons, listed as a species of special concern by COSEWIC and Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), have been known to overwinter at KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest.
- Western and horned grebes, which frequent the marine area adjacent to KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest’s shores, are recognized by COSEWIC and listed as a species of special concern on Schedule 1 of SARA.
- Barn swallows and olive sided-flycatchers have been observed on KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest, both of which are listed as threatened on Schedule 1 of SARA.
- Double-crested cormorants, which also spend time near the property’s shoreline, are Blue-listed (or “special concern”) in B.C., despite being classified as “NAR” federally.
- The coastal (fannini subspecies) of great blue heron that inhabits the CDF is blue-listed in BC and as special concern on Schedule 1 of SARA.
- The property borders Plumper Sound which is a known critical habitat for Southern Resident killer whales, currently listed as endangered on Schedule 1 of SARA.
- Currently, protected areas within the CDF, especially on the Gulf Islands, are small and disconnected. The purchase of this property aims to increase connectivity, restore degraded habitat, and protect old growth forests of the future.
- Nearly every ecological community associated with the CDF is provincially listed in B.C. as threatened/endangered due to ongoing development, limited protection policy, and high proportions of private land ownership.
- B.C. is the most biologically diverse province in Canada– but it is also a hotspot for biodiversity loss.
About the organizations
Raincoast Conservation Foundation is a team of conservationists and scientists empowered by our research to protect the lands, waters and wildlife of coastal British Columbia. We use rigorous, peer-reviewed science and community engagement to further our conservation objectives. We call this approach informed advocacy. As a charitable, non-profit conservation science organization that operates a land trust, restoration programming, research lab, research field station and a research/sailing vessel, we are unique in Canada.
The Pender Islands Conservancy Association is a registered charity and land trust committed to land protection and restoration; long-term ecological research and monitoring; and public education on Pender Island, British Columbia. We promote effective conservation at local scales through science-based community outreach and support. In addition to our community-based conservation programs, our activities also include collaborations with other organizations working to understand and protect marine and Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystems in the Salish Sea more broadly.