Conservation groups purchase Galiano Island land originally slated for development

Photo courtesy of the Nature Trust of B.C.
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Over 26 hectares of coastal Douglas fir forest and more than a kilometre of shoreline at Cable Bay on Galiano Island will be conserved, rather than developed.

The waterfront property was zoned for a six-lot residential subdivision, but was saved from development thanks to conservation-minded land owners. The owners held off selling the land until funds were raised by the Galiano Conservancy Association and the Nature Trust of B.C.

The acquisition is the culmination of a multi-year partnership between the two conservation groups and will add to a network of connected areas totalling over 500 hectares that spans the width of the island, according to the Nature Trust of B.C.

Part of the traditional and unceded territories of the Penelakut, Hwlitsum, and other Hul’qumi’num-speaking peoples, the Cable Bay area has a long history of use and habitation by Coast Salish Peoples. According to Florence James, a respected Coast Salish Elder and Hul’qumi’num language teacher from Penelakut Island, the area was traditionally an ideal place to live thanks to its geography and abundant resources.

“The area is called Qw’xwulwis, a sheltered place to live with abundant halibut, lingcod, rock cod, seals, ducks, shellfish — and a creek with cool, clear running water. The location provided access up and down the coast and across to the Fraser River to fish — that’s why they were there. Qw’xwulwis is the word for the action of paddling,” James said.

Galiano Island is part of the Southern Gulf Islands archipelago and lies near the centre of both the biologically diverse Salish Sea and the provincially and globally threatened Coastal Douglas-Fir biogeoclimatic zone (CDF). Home to the highest number of at-risk species and ecosystems in B.C., the CDF is of great conservation concern, yet only 11 per cent of its area is currently protected, according to the Nature Trust of B.C.

Cable Bay is a haven for resident and migratory birds, intertidal life, fish and marine mammals. The nutrient-rich waters serve as excellent nurseries for young fish and are an ideal environment for overwintering birds. The area is home to many species at risk, such as Great Blue Heron, Brant geese, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, California Gull, Surf Scoter, Band-tailed Pigeon, Double-crested Cormorant, Brandt’s Cormorant, Purple Martin, Common Murre, Steller Sea Lion and Red-legged Frog, according to the Nature Trust of B.C.

Cable Bay and the network of protected areas it joins are a valuable remnant of the CDF. Preserving these forests helps maintain habitat and connectivity for native plants and wildlife species. The sheltered waters and rich biodiversity of nearshore areas found at Cable Bay also provide significant habitat for resident and overwintering birds, intertidal life, fish and marine mammals.

“Preserving connectivity among biologically diverse parts of the landscape is an important step in enabling ecosystems to adapt to climate change; protecting Cable Bay will make the entire conservation network on Galiano more resilient,” said Eric Higgs, professor at the University of Victoria’s School of Environmental Studies and development committee chair for Galiano Conservancy Association.

The land acquisition was made possible by the Government of Canada through the Natural Heritage Conservation Program, part of Canada’s Nature Fund, and by the Sitka Foundation, the MapleCross, the Collings Stevens Family Foundation and over 150 individuals, including many Galiano Island residents, who generously donated to ensure Cable Bay is protected for generations to come.

The property is projected to formally open to the public in early 2022, once a management plan and signage are in place.

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