Steve Ogle

British Columbia

Number of projects: 32

Land value: Land value is the appraised value of land that NCC has conserved directly and with partners. $27,383,301

Acres conserved: 16,677

Stewardship volunteers: 845

The gift of a lifetime

NCC

In 1990, Susan Bloom purchased a small island in Clayoquot Sound to save it from development. Twenty-five years later, she donated the wild portion of her island to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to see it kept as a nature preserve. Clayoquot Island (also known as Stubbs Island) is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, near Tofino, in an area recognized internationally for both its beauty and ecological importance.

After acquiring the island, Bloom established the Clayoquot Island Preserve and allowed the forested parts of the island to flourish as natural habitat. She converted a former townsite into a beautiful heritage garden with self-sufficient, low-impact maintenance buildings, over which she retains ownership.

The donated portion of the island spans 93 acres (38 hectares) of mixed old-growth and mature second-growth coastal western hemlock forest, along with an impressive coastline of rocky bluffs and white sand beaches. A boardwalk leads visitors from the centre of the island through the forest to the western shore, where provincially vulnerable California wax-myrtle forms dense thickets reaching more than four metres.

The island’s beaches and intertidal areas support two habitats targeted for conservation: coastal sand dunes and eel-grass beds. Great blue heron, black oystercatcher and Pacific geoduck can be found in the area. Clayoquot Island is an important migratory stopover for hundreds of Brandt geese in the early spring.

Public use of Clayoquot Island will continue to be by invitation only, as the island remains private property.

In addition to donating approximately two-thirds of her island for conservation, Bloom also made a significant contribution to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to fund the long-term management of the preserve.

Additional funding was provided by the Government of Canada under the Natural Areas Conservation Program. A portion of this project was donated under the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program, which provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically significant land.

While on a visit to the Turtle Valley Farm property, NCC staff found a western toad and a northern alligator lizard. Both are interesting finds for the area, and point to the high biodiversity values of the property.

Future secured for 26 high-value conservation properties formerly owned by The Land Conservancy

Steve Short

In September 2015, NCC confirmed it had acquired 26 ecologically significant conservation areas from The Land Conservancy of British Columbia (TLC). This transfer of lands assured the ongoing conservation management of 26 properties as TLC struggled to deal with a multi-million dollar debt.

These high-priority conservation lands contain some of the most significant habitats for biodiversity in BC. Spanning forest, wetland and grasslands, these properties provide habitat for migratory birds, grizzly bears, salmon and many other native plants and animals.

NCC worked with TLC and other conservation partners for more than a year to find a way to ensure a conservation future for these high-priority conservation lands and to provide for their long-term stewardship. Three of the properties were subsequently transferred to the Province of BC to be included in the provincial parks and protected areas system.

The conservation lands are located all across the province.

Burrows built for breeding burrowers…

Donald Dabbs

NCC staff and volunteers are helping provide safe burrows for the burrowing owl in British Columbia.

Barb Pryce, the Nature Conservancy of Canada Southern Interior program director, explains that to build a set of burrowing owl dens, it takes a huge effort and infrastructure development.”

NCC is working in partnership with other conservation groups like the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC (BOCSBC). The Nature Conservancy of Canada has undertaken significant land acquisition in the South Okanagan and Similkameen,” Pryce explains.

While a few populations thrive in Washington state and Oregon, burrowing owls were declared essentially extirpated” (locally extinct) in British Columbia in 1980. The population had fallen by up to 90 percent over the past century, a victim of development and predators. When the BC government tried to reintroduce burrowing owls by releasing them into the wild in the late 1980s, the owls just wouldn’t burrow. It wasn’t until 1990, when a dedicated group of volunteers began a captive breeding and reintroduction strategy, that reintroduction efforts took off.

Ordinarily, burrowing owls occupy empty gopher or marmot tunnels, using the pre-existing structures and doing some renovations of their own to create their nests. They’re able to dig a bit, explains wildlife biologist Lauren Meads, but they prefer to move in to established neighbourhoods. Meads, who works for BOCSBC, spends a lot of time scoping out safe and secure nesting sites across the BC interior.

An estimated 700 burrows have been created across the province over the past two decades, and more are in the works. We want to continue supporting the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC not only in maintaining the site they have at Badger Flats, but to expand their program by creating a new site at the Sage and Sparrow Conservation Area,” says Pryce.

With approximately 100 owls released into the wild every year, the hope is that there’ll be growing evidence of the owls taking over these neighbourhoods. That is, if they don’t perplex researchers by deciding to head south instead.