On Saturday afternoon, April 22, the Conservancy held an open house at the Agricultural Hall to celebrate our 20th anniversary, including a brief Annual General Meeting (AGM). What a wonderful event this turned out to be! The Hall was decorated with displays of our work over the past twenty years, seating was set up café-style with white tablecloths, refreshments and goodies were on hand and we even had a ceremonial cake cutting by two of our original founders: Helen O’Brian and Peter Askin.
We also had a raffle for members with the following winners: Alice Harris – lunch for two at Hedgerow farm and tour of the Conservancy’s wetland project; Karen Malfesi-Merritt – four plants from our native plant nursery; Pamela Harris – two free passes to Conservancy events in 2023; and Jim Oberdorf – a small group birding outing with Michael Dunn. Congratulations to the winners!
Many thanks are owed to Justine Apostolopoulos, Deb Foote, and others who organized the displays and food, and set up the room. And many thanks also to all the members who showed up to help us celebrate. You never know who’s going to show up at an AGM, but the hall was filled, and the atmosphere was filled with warmth. It’s gratifying to know that the work we do inspires so much support and goodwill in our community.
President’s AGM Report by Malcolm Inglis (now Past-President)
2022 was an eventful year for us in many ways:
- Perhaps the most striking was our partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to preserve Edith Point. Projects like this can be complex and take a long time; our Executive Director, Michael Dunn, shepherded this along for about nine years before the NCC took ownership in 2022. Purchase of this beautiful area was made possible in part by a substantial cash contribution from the Conservancy’s CAMAS Fund, and some very generous Mayne islanders.
- With the CAMAS Fund substantially reduced by the Edith Point purchase, we took a new direction by creating the CAMAS Legacy Fund, structured as an investment to grow more quickly and take advantage of opportunities to protect land. This is indicative of us becoming a more mature organization and undertaking the financial planning our ambitions require.
- We made good progress on a long-held goal to work more closely with our W̱SÁNEĆ neighbours, and we’ve done just that with events on Mayne and the start of the ethnobotany garden beside the new Thrift Store. These partnerships with the PEPÁḴEṈ HÁUTW̱ Foundation, the Campbell Bay Music Festival Society, the Agricultural Society, and W̱SÁNEĆ Elders and knowledge keepers are the kind of collaborations that strengthen and broaden the relationships we’re building with First Nations, and I’m very hopeful we’ll continue down this road.
- We also returned to public advocacy in a big way, working to educate the community about the threat of invasive fallow deer to our island and to convince the Province to take meaningful action to mitigate it.
- These have been largely board projects, and I reported last year that 2021 was a year of rebuilding the board after a large turnover. We have a really great board now, willing and able to take on our big ambitions.
Staff Report by Rob Underhill RPBio, Senior Biologist
Staff were busy as ever in 2022, and we made two big changes there:
- To help with the workload, we created a second permanent staff position: a stewardship coordinator, and our new employee is Justine Apostolopoulos, who is enthusiastically throwing herself into the work.
- We’re now in a new office, behind the old Das Nest restaurant and you’re welcome to come up Dixon Road and visit whenever staff are not out in the field.
- 22 restoration work parties.
- 380 acres of invasive plant management , primarily in public parks.
- 249 trees and 349 shrubs planted.
- 6.5ha of fenced restoration sites Maintained.
- Another 800m2 fenced restoration site added at St. John Point Regional Park.
- 44 articles published on our website and distributed to our mailing list via our monthly Oystercatcher e-Newsletter.
- 36,152 visits to our website April 1st 2022 – March 31st 2023.
- 20 landholder consultations.
- 34 youth education events attended by 441 participants.
- 27 public events attended by 956 community members.
This was a big year for our marine monitoring programs. We were able to maintain the momentum from the past few years for both our eelgrass and bull kelp monitoring, as well as make new connections and partnerships for distributing our data to resource managers, academic researchers, and the public. Following are summaries by eelgrass, bull kelp, and Dungeness crab monitoring.
In 2019 we transitioned from using the Vancouver Freediving Club volunteers to having our staff complete the dive surveys themselves. This has resulted in an increase in efficiency because we can survey at short notice when the conditions are perfect, and we have a more experienced team that works more smoothly together. We retained two staff from our three-person survey team from 2021 into 2022. We’ve also trained a select few local volunteers on the eelgrass survey methods; these volunteers will provide another layer of consistency for delivering this long-term monitoring program.
The result of these changes is that we have been able to complete more surveys per year with the same resources. This has helped us detect an alarming decline in the extent of eelgrass around Mayne Island since 2009 of 41%, and highlighted the value of this long-term monitoring program. In 2022 we completed surveys of nine sites over 16 field days. All field data was added to our geo-database and distributed to a growing list of people involved in marine science and resource conservation (45 individuals from 28 organizations). The data was also shared on the Strait of Georgia Data Centre and with the National Eelgrass Task Force.
We retained all our project partners in coordinating the Southern Gulf Islands Regional Bull Kelp Monitoring Collaborative. Together, the regional collaborative completed monitoring of 17 survey sites totaling 32km2 from Valdes and Saturna. It was the 3rd year since the program expanded beyond Mayne Island, where it began in 2010. We provided training on methods to volunteers and staff from the Pender Islands Conservancy (in-person), and Saturna Island Marine Research and Education Society (via Zoom).
The program has been successful in providing excellent data on the annual changes in extent of bull kelp, as well as engaging citizen scientists. Each partner organization manages their own volunteers under the direction of local coordinators, who all report/communicate with our Biologist, Rob Underhill. In 2022 we engaged 27 different surveyors, mostly volunteers, from four island communities. Our Mayne Island data (2010-2022) was included in a scientific paper (under review) looking at what is driving bull kelp decline in BC. Bull kelp is a hot topic in BC at the moment, and we are finding our long-term data is in high demand.
Dungeness Crab Monitoring
In 2022 the Conservancy participated for the first time in a new monitoring program led by the Hakai Institute. The monitoring program involves coordinating citizen scientists who check a light trap at Miner’s Bay dock three times per week from April to September. The light trap and volunteer coordination is being completed by our Stewardship Coordinator (Katie Kushneryk in 2022 and Justine Apostolopoulos in 2023). Data from all along the coast is being collected and compiled by Hakai. The purpose of the data is to better understand Dungeness crab life cycles and populations. As commercial harvest of this species has increased in recent years, it has become a pressing need to address the lack of data to assess impacts on population health.
The Next Ten Years by new President, Adrienne Brown
After some preliminary discussions last fall, the Board of Directors held a visioning session in February which was led by Alan Shopland – thank you again to Alan for leading this work and for working with the Board to document it and carry it forward.
The visioning session started by looking at the Conservancy’s Mission Statement which reads: We work with the community to conserve the ecology of Mayne Island and its surrounding waters for future generations. We also discussed the things the Conservancy has accomplished over the last ten years which have had the biggest impact and came up with the following list:
- Land conservation and stewardship.
- Public education and community engagement.
- Landholder consultations.
- The conservation of St John Point and Edith Point.
- Creating a capable, trusted, and effective organization.
- Engaging in ongoing hands-on restoration work.
After considering these activities, we zeroed in on land protection, leadership in mitigating the invasive fallow deer problem, and working with the W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. This includes factoring indigenous knowledge into our programs and projects, while viewing all our work through the lens of climate change. This discussion resulted in our vision for the next 10 years which reads as follows:
The Conservancy will play a leadership role in protecting 30% of Mayne Island through land acquisitions, landholder agreements, partnerships, and mitigating the fallow deer problem.
Over the next few months, we will be planning our approach to this work, which will begin with reviewing the different forms of protection and setting goals. For instance:
- Confirming the status of protections and the relative amounts of land under different agreements today.
- Determining how much of each kind of habitat will need to be protected.
To protect a given ecological area we know that protecting 30-70% of it will provide a functional system with resilience.
As soon as this work is done, we will prepare a rolling three-year plan to address the vision as well as the ongoing programs and operations. Stay tuned!
Our 20th Celebrations Continue
Join us at May Day festivities on May 20, and stay tuned for details about the Conservancy’s gala dinner September 16. It will feature local food, local entertainment, auctions, and a special guest speaker! We’ll be promoting the gala and selling tickets closer to the big event.