After successfully completing their first joint land acquisition in 2021, Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the Pender Islands Conservancy Association took on another, much more ambitious land protection initiative less than one year later. On December 22, 2021 they announced their intention to purchase and protect an 18 hectare oceanfront property on S,DÁYES (Pender Island) with a $2.1 million price tag. Now, just over a year later, the two organizations are pleased to announce that KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest will be protected in perpetuity.
KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest links wetland headwaters to intertidal foreshore across globally rare Coastal Douglas-fir forests. It is home to maturing coastal Douglas-fir, western red cedar, and arbutus trees, and connects to Plumper Sound, critical habitat for endangered Southern Resident killer whales.
Before this land protection campaign was launched, the land now known as KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest was slated for development. If those plans had proceeded, this forest would have been transformed from a refugia to a residential suburb.
KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest is an essential piece of a nature corridor. Its securement is an important step in connecting a network of protected places and by doing so, will contribute to a broader regional effort to enhance ecological and community resilience around the Salish Sea. In a region with less than 1% of its historic extent of old growth remaining, it is essential to safeguard the maturing old growth forests of the future.
This project was made possible by the Government of Canada through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund. Support was also provided by Sitka Foundation, McLean Foundation, the Islands Trust Conservancy’s Opportunity Fund, The Greater Victoria Savings Credit Union Legacy Fund, over 500 individual donors, and a number of foundations who prefer to remain anonymous.
“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 Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s Forest Conservation Program, a multifaceted effort to secure ongoing and lasting protection of the rare and threatened ecological communities characteristic to southern BC’s coast.” – Shauna Doll, Forest Conservation Program Director, 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.” – Dr. 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
“The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss are two sides of the same coin, and we must tackle them together. By working with partners such as the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the Pender Islands Conservancy, we are helping to protect the natural environment in British Columbia and across the country. Protecting lands plays a vital role in helping to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and contributes to the recovery of species at risk. Through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, the Government of Canada is making progress toward its goal of conserving a quarter of lands and water in Canada by 2025, working towards 30 percent of each by 2030.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
- 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.
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.
The Government of Canada’s Natural Heritage Conservation Program (NHCP) is a unique partnership that support the creation and recognition of protected and conserved areas through the acquisition of private land and private interest in land. To date, the Government of Canada has invested more than $440 million in the Program, which has been matched with more than $870 million in contributions raised by Nature Conservancy of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the country’s land trust community leading to the protection and conservation of more than 700,000 hectares of ecologically sensitive lands.