Comment: Land trusts are alive and well across B.C.

In light of the renewed coverage of the ongoing troubles of the Land Conservancy, it seems important to step forward to say that despite the dire situation of one land trust, the conservation movement in British Columbia is thriving.

TLC has done an impressive job of protecting beloved natural and cultural spaces in this province, as well as popularizing the work of land trusts to protect private land by purchase, donation or covenants that restrict development. Their current financial straits do not eliminate the good they have contributed. You would be forgiven for wondering, as some recently have, if TLC were gone, “Which angel will fly in to take the place of TLC?”

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Which indeed! There are 33 land trusts at work in British Columbia. Collectively, these groups have conserved more than 1,200 properties totalling more than 560,000 hectares of land and water across the province. These organizations range from small volunteer groups that focus on their own community to broad provincial and national charities that work at large scale in many regions at once.

But don’t expect one of these groups to be the angel that replaces TLC.

Rather, the community of land trusts as a whole will continue to work in partnership and in their communities to protect important lands and landmarks for all British Columbians. It takes co-ordinated efforts from the grassroots up to the highest levels of government and industry to make meaningful conservation happen.

Large organizations such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Nature Trust of British Columbia and Ducks Unlimited Canada bring the ability to leverage large investments from governments, foundations and corporations, and to support the scientific expertise that guides the best conservation efforts. At the same time, local organizations such as the Salt Spring Island Conservancy, Cowichan Land Trust and the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust build strong community-level support and are experts at understanding the local context.

In Victoria, just such a collaboration of groups is working to complete Brooks Point Regional Park on South Pender Island. The Pender Island Conservancy picked up a project to complete the purchase of the last parcel needed to complete the park, a project TLC had started, but needed to let go last year.

This small volunteer group has partnered with two other land trusts — the Victoria-based Habitat Acquisition Trust and the Islands Trust Fund — and the Capital Regional District. Today, the Pender Island Conservancy and its partners have raised more than two-thirds of their commitment to the CRD for the purchase.

Also, the Salt Spring Island Conservancy has raised nearly $1 million to purchase an important parcel around Blackburn Lake on their island. And earlier this year, the Central Okanagan Land Trust received one of the largest land donations in B.C. history, creating the 320-hectare Johns Family Nature Conservancy Regional Park.

Collaborations go beyond land acquisitions. Conservation organizations, community groups, governments and individuals work together to care for green spaces and habitat for native plants and animals. The Nature Conservancy of Canada has teamed up with the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team, Cowichan Valley Naturalists and the provincial government on the wildly successful Bring Back the Bluebirds project, which is reintroducing western bluebirds to southern Vancouver Island.

The same story is repeated across B.C. The issues facing one land trust today do not mean the end of land conservation in British Columbia. There are 32 other land trusts continuing to undertake conservation projects in the province and 49 conservation projects underway. With the commitment of volunteers, the help of our partners and the support of donors and British Columbians, we will be successful.

Paul McNair is the executive director of the Land Trust Alliance of British Columbia. Information on land trusts in British Columbia is available at ltabc.ca.

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