By the Numbers
Mayne Island is one island, 2,370 hectares (5,856 acres) in size, with a 43km coastline. From the 260m top of Mt. Parke to the high tide line, the island contains 16 different habitat types. Ranging from wetlands to dry ridge tops, and each habitat is home to a unique combination of plants and animals. In recent history, the island has been divided into 1,696 properties that can be bought or sold by humans, 1,304 of whom indicated Mayne Island as their primary residence in the 2021 census. The percentage of Mayne Island represented by privately owned land is about 85%, with the rest split nearly evenly between public parks and roadways/community services. As of 2017, 32% of Mayne Island’s natural habitats had been converted to human land uses such as agriculture, residential, and roadways. This is the highest percentage of natural habitat loss of all islands within the Islands Trust Area, and Mayne is the only island to exceed the 30% loss threshold for ecosystem health. With the vast majority of Mayne Island’s remaining natural habitats controlled by private landholders, the fate of natural ecosystems and all the plants and animals that rely on them is in the hands of private land stewards.
Adapted from Islands Trust Conservancy ‘Conservation Profile of Mayne Island’. Graph shows the percentage of larger islands in the Islands Trust Area that have been converted to human land uses such as residential, roadways, and agriculture.
What Solutions Exist for Long-term Natural Areas Protection?
There are several paths that can lead to the long-term protection of nature, a combination of which will be needed to ensure a future for Mayne Island’s natural habitats. These options include legally protecting an area with a nature covenant, such as was done for St. John Point Regional Park (land owned by CRD Parks, covenant held by the Mayne Island Conservancy), land acquisition and stewardship by a nature-based organization such as was done for Edith Point with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and acquiring land by government agencies such as CRD Parks (Mt. Parke Park), the Mayne Island Parks and Recreation Commission (Henderson Community Park), or Parks Canada (Gulf Islands National Park Reserve). These legal protection and government stewardship solutions work well and can successfully protect habitats from development while also providing public access for low-impact recreational activities such as hiking and wildlife viewing. However, these solutions are also very expensive, and resources for acquiring and managing new properties are limited. Even with recent efforts to protect St. John Point, Edith Point, and the CRD Park’s expansion of Mt. Parke, only 8.4% of Mayne Island is currently protected through covenant or government/land trust stewardship. Therefore, we need additional solutions if we hope to conserve enough habitat on Mayne Island to prevent a loss of biodiversity and ecological services.
St. John Point was purchased by the Mayne Island Conservancy in 2017 thanks to many contributors including CRD Parks and is now a Regional Park owned by CRD Parks. The 64 acre park is protected by a nature covenant held by the Mayne Island Conservancy.
This brings us to another type of protection: private land stewardship. Private land stewardship can be very effective. Not only can land stewards leave portions of their property undeveloped for natural habitat, but they can also take an active role in removing invasive species and monitoring change over time. From this perspective, private land stewardship can be very cost effective. The downside to relying on private land stewardship is that individual land stewards are transient on the land, and future owners may choose to destroy the habitats cared for by past land stewards. Land stewards who are concerned about what might happen to the natural habitats on their property after they are gone, should consider long-term habitat protection in the form of a nature covenant. Nature covenants don’t have to apply to an entire property, so they can be put in place on just a portion, allowing continued residential use of the property. The Mayne Conservancy can help provide information about the different options available to land stewards who are looking for permanent protection solutions for the natural habitats they have been caring for. We can also help cover the costs associated with creating a covenant such as for land surveying and creation of an ecological baseline report. Whether or not we can cover these costs is determined on a case-by-case basis by our board of directors, based on the ecological values being protected.
A half-acre area that was previously logged and dominated by exotic species is recovering thanks to the efforts of private land stewards who have fenced the area from deer, planted native plants, and managed invasive species. A diversity of native plants including young arbutus and red alder now dominate the restoration site.
We expect much of Mayne Island’s natural areas will remain under voluntary stewardship by landholders, as they do today. In recognizing that, we work hard to provide as much information as possible to new and existing landholders about the amazing ecology of the island, so that they can be the best land stewards possible. We do this through written articles, guest speaker events, and on-site landholder consultations. The task of providing knowledge about the natural ecosystems of Mayne Island and the values they hold for us is never ending, because our community of land stewards is constantly changing. Learning about our local plants and animals is a joy that adds depth to an individual’s experience of living here.
What is a nature covenant?
A nature covenant is a legally binding agreement that limits what can happen in a given area of a property, or an entire property. Each nature covenant can be unique depending on the wishes of the landholder. Typically, a nature covenant prevents development and is designed to retain the natural vegetation, habitat, and ecological processes of an area.
Are covenants forever?
Yes. Covenants stay with the property and future owners are legally required to abide by the terms of the covenant.
Can people still live on a property with a covenant?
Yes, depending on the terms of the covenant. Often a covenant will apply to a portion of a property, allowing continued use of a portion of the property for residential or agricultural purposes.
Can I get a tax break from a covenant?
Yes, depending on the terms of the covenant and the significance of the natural features being protected. Two programs that provide tax breaks are the Island Trust’s NAPTEP program for property tax reduction and the Federal Government’s Ecological Gifts Program for income and capital gains reduction. Mayne Island Conservancy staff can help provide information about these programs and advise if they are the right fit for your situation.