Preserving sensitive ecosystems on Thetis Island
When ThINC first came into being in 2012, the founding directors imagined their main role would be to educate local Thetis Island residents and visitors about the native species and ecosystems on the island and to encourage stewardship and conservation initiatives on private land. But before the new society had even been introduced to the community, a large tract of second-growth Coastal Douglas-fir forest on the lower slopes of Burchell Hill came up for sale and the ThINC directors found themselves in the middle of a massive land acquisition campaign to create Thetis Island’s first publicly accessible nature reserve. Five years later, the 41-acre Fairyslipper Forest Nature Reserve was realized. This was made possible by the support of over 140 Thetis Islanders, and our conservation and funding partners: Cowichan Community Land Trust, the Islands Trust Fund, the Sitka Foundation, the Gosling Foundation, and the BC Ministry of Transport.
Not long after ThINC became engaged in the acquisition of Fairyslipper Forest, a second, 52-acre, parcel came up for sale: Moore Hill. Thanks to the conservation vision of the previous land steward, the incredibly generous support of a local donor family, and a grant from the federal Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, Moore Hill was purchased and now holds the title of a Nature Reserve.
The two reserves are important resources for nature education and conservation efforts. In particular, the Fairyslipper Forest Nature Reserve is ideal for nature workshops, and is located close to the school, providing a wonderful place-based learning venue.
Both protected areas are owned by the Islands Trust Conservancy, with ThINC contracted as the local management group.
Named after the beautiful fairy slipper orchid (Calypso bulbosa) which blooms there in the spring, Fairyslipper Forest protects 41 acres of forest, including many large veteran Douglas-fir, Western red cedar, Western hemlock and arbutus trees. It is home to a number of species at risk including peacock vinyl lichen, silver crackers lichen, red-legged frog, Ozette coralroot, and Pacific sideband snail. ThINC has installed nest boxes for Western screech owls, conducts surveys for bats and other species at risk, and manages invasive species. Situated within the Coastal Douglas-fir Biogeoclimatic zone, one of Canada’s smallest and most at-risk zones, the reserve makes a small but important contribution to conservation in the province.
The property is Thetis Island’s first publicly accessible nature reserve, offering residents and visitors opportunities for walking, birdwatching, nature exploration and photography. In 2019-2020, volunteers from Thetis Island and Penelakut Island built a 2-km long nature trail that meanders through the forest.
Read the 2018 Press Release!
Moore Hill forms one of the highest peaks on Thetis Island and contains a rich mix of habitat types. The hill features sandstone cliffs and in places the cliffs have fractured into huge blocks, tumbling together to form caves that provide habitat for bats. Huge first growth Douglas-fir trees rise from the cliffs on the west side of the hill, and in small grassy openings, camas, fritillaries and other wildflowers grow amongst the Garry oaks and arbutus. The eastern slope is a second growth Douglas-fir forest, with an understory mosaic of mosses and ferns. This hill is culturally significant to the Penelakut First Nations people.
Due to the steep cliff faces and species at risk habitat, Moore Hill will not be open to the public.
Read the 2017 Press Release!
Ecosystems and Species at Risk
Thetis Island lies within the Coastal Douglas-fir Biogeoclimatic Zone (CDF) which is one of British Columbia’s smallest, most biodiverse and most at-risk zones. Over half of the area, which encompasses the Gulf Islands and southeast coast of Vancouver Island, has been permanently converted to buildings, roads, parking lots, farms and industrial areas, and less than ten percent of the original forest is left, much of it fragmented by logging roads. Every ecological community in the zone is considered imperilled by the BC Conservation Data Centre.
The CDF is also home to one the highest number and densities of species in Canada, including rare and endangered species. So far, eighteen terrestrial species at risk have been documented on Thetis Island, including two plants, nine birds, two snails, two lichens, one amphibian and two mammals. Working with our partner, the Islands Trust Conservancy, we carry out ongoing species at risk surveys in the Nature Reserves.
Images: Great Blue Heron (Marcie Welsh), Ozette Coralroot (Pat English)
(Islands Trust, 2018)
(Gov of BC)
Conservation Covenants on Private Land
Are you interested in protecting a special ecological feature, sensitive ecosystem or native species on your property? We help Thetis Island property owners to create conservation covenants on their land by helping them access programs such as the Island Trust Fund’s Conservation Covenant Program and the Natural Areas Protection Tax Exemption Program (NAPTEP). We hope to include financial assistance in the future. Email us for more information.