VICTORIA - A prime parcel of Canadas largest Garry oak woodland meadow, next to the Mt. Maxwell ecological reserve on Saltspring Island, has been protected with a $465,000 purchase under Forest Renewal BCs private forest biodiversity program.
The 32-hectare area - which also includes arbutus woodlands, coastal bluffs and natural grasslands - will be preserved as an extension of the Mt. Maxwell reserve. It sits on the shore of Burgoyne Bay to the west of the reserve, about one kilometre south of Maxwell Lake. The Nature Trust of B.C., a non-profit corporation that delivers Forest Renewal BCs biodiversity program, bought the parcel from the Texada Land Corp.
"Respecting the many values of our forests is key to why the Forest Renewal partnership was first created," said Ric Careless, executive director of BC Spaces for Nature and a Forest Renewal BC board member. "Investments made through the private forest biodiversity program, like the one today, have already permanently preserved threatened ecosystems from Churn Creek in the Cariboo to the Okanagan mountains."
Saanich South MLA Andrew Petter said: "Forest Renewal BC has recognized that Saltspring Island contains Canadas largest Garry oak woodland, the most threatened of all B.C. coastal ecosystems. By preserving this forest biodiversity, Forest Renewal also expands the sea-to-sea green belt protected area in the Victoria area."
Home to one-fifth of the rarest plants in B.C., Garry oak woodlands are found in Canada only on southern Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and two isolated Lower Mainland groves. No large, intact Garry oak woodlands exist any longer in California, Oregon or Washington state.
"Were delighted to work together with Forest Renewal BC to acquire this Garry oak habitat and expand the Mt. Maxwell ecological reserve," said Ron Erickson, Nature Trust executive vice-president. "Garry oak woodlands are among B.C.s rarest ecosystems, restricted to a small near-Mediterranean climatic zone in the southwestern corner of the province."
"In terms of protecting the sensitive Garry oak ecosystem, this is an important acquisition," said Bill Turner, president of The Land Conservancy of British Columbia. "The Land Conservancy looks forward to helping acquire yet more lands in this area to extend the range of protection."
Forest Renewal BCs private forest biodiversity program works to enhance the environmental value of forest land and to conserve biodiversity by acquiring interests in privately held, critical forest ecosystems.
The Nature Trust of B.C. recommended purchase of the Mt. Maxwell lands for fair market value. The Nature Trust identifies properties that meet the criteria for the private forest biodiversity program and submits a proposal to Forest Renewals private forest biodiversity advisory committee.
The advisory committee makes a recommendation to Forest Renewals board of directors, which has representatives from all forest stakeholders. If a purchase is approved, funds are released to the Nature Trust.
Forest Renewal BCs 2000-01 business plan calls for an investment of up to $1.5 million to the private forest biodiversity program. Actual investments depend on the availability of desirable properties, and the approval of the board of directors.