After more than a year of fundraising, organizers announced this week a 45-acre parcel on Pender Island singled out for its rare habitat has been secured for conservation.
The Raincoast Conservation Foundation (RCF) and the Pender Islands Conservancy made the announcement Monday, Jan. 30 that the “globally rare and threatened habitat” of the KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest would be protected in perpetuity. The forest links wetland headwaters to intertidal foreshore across globally rare Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zones. 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.
Raising the $2.1-million price tag was ambitious and necessary, according to organizers, who said the land had been slated for development. If those plans proceeded, the forest would have been transformed from a refugium to a residential suburb.
“Land purchase is one of the only tools currently available to ensure ongoing protection of intact ecosystems,” said Shauna Doll, RCF forest conservation program director, “particularly in the Coastal Douglas-fir zone where most land is under private ownership.”
The Pender Islands Conservancy’s Dr. Erin O’Brien agreed; O’Brien is ecology and conservation director for the conservancy, and said goals of protection and stewardship of forest, wetland and foreshore habitats on Pender are strongly advanced through purchases. In this case, the forest’s value as a link between ecosystems couldn’t be understated.
“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,” said O’Brien. “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.”
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 the Sitka Foundation, the McLean Foundation, the Islands Trust Conservancy’s Opportunity Fund, the Greater Victoria Savings Credit Union Legacy Foundation, several other foundations and over 500 individual donors.
“The initiative to protect KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest is just one component of Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s Forest Conservation Program,” said Doll, “a multifaceted effort to secure ongoing and lasting protection of the rare and threatened ecological communities characteristic to southern B.C.’s coast.”