Saturday, June 22, 2024
June 22, 2024

‘Quiet’ Trust conservancy has major impact

By CHARLES KAHN

Fifty years of quiet accomplishment! In this era of climate change, when all levels of government are trying to protect forests and wetlands, the Islands Trust Conservancy (ITC) has greatly contributed to these goals.

What is the ITC? You mean you’ve never heard of it? That’s not surprising, as it enjoys working quietly in the background to accomplish its goals of protecting as much of our fragile forests and wetlands as possible. To make its identity more confusing, the ITC started as the Trust Fund Board in 1990. The name was changed in 2018. And of course there are several conservancies around here, so you’re bound to be confused.

While the Islands Trust was established in 1974 to protect the beautiful environment of the Gulf Islands, the ITC was not created until 1990. Its first covenant was on Salt Spring Island and its first nature reserves were on Denman and Salt Spring. Today, the ITC owns 34 nature reserves and holds 79 covenants, protecting around 1,400 hectares (over 3,400 acres) of land on over 20 different islands. To put that in perspective, 1,400 hectares is about two-thirds the size of Mayne Island.

The ITC is working with the many First Nations in the Trust Area to develop a plan that includes their interests and knowledge in the future of conservation. It also partners with other similar organizations like the Salt Spring Island Conservancy and The Land Conservancy of BC, so that most covenants are held jointly by two conservancies.

The ITC’s Opportunity Fund provides seed money to other organizations to help them purchase land for nature reserves or conservation covenants. It has provided assistance to other organizations to protect over 50 pieces of land.

What does all this mean to us? Well, one of the ITC’s earliest acquisitions on Salt Spring was the Lower Mount Erskine Nature Reserve, which contains a trail leading to Mount Erskine Provincial Park, often referred to as Salt Spring’s Grouse Grind. For many years this trail has been one of the most used on the island.

Gabriola’s Elder Cedar (S’ulhween X’pey) Nature Reserve is the most popular walking trail on that island. Denman Island has three lovely nature reserves with trails open to the public. The ITC’s largest nature reserve is Gambier’s Mount Artaban Nature Reserve with 107 hectares. It includes many hiking trails and a great view from the summit of Mount Artiban. Lasqueti’s Mount Trematon has similarly great trails and lovely views.

Now when you think of the Islands Trust, think of its conservancy and all its wonderful achievements. With a sterling staff of about eight, it collects research and other data, which it shares with others, as well as protecting individual properties for the next generations. If you can’t participate in a public celebration, raise a glass or have a piece of birthday cake on your own to celebrate an institution that has been working to keep the Gulf Islands as beautiful as ever for five decades.

The writer is an Islands Trust Conservancy board member, active in the Salt Spring Island Trail and Nature Club and in conservation efforts, and author of Hiking the Gulf Islands, an Outdoor Guide to BC’s Enchanted Isles.

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