Working With Landowners
Over the past eight years I’ve had the joy of joining 105 different property owners to explore and share natural wonders across Mayne Island. My visits have taken me to hidden corners of the island I would otherwise never have seen. I’ve been shown huge Douglas fir trees, ancient giants peering down on our second growth forests, craggy tops standing witness to windstorms centuries past. We’ve found isolated pockets of deer fern, red-osier dogwood, and other species nearly absent from Mayne, their populations clinging precariously to the island. I get to hear about the quirky habits of frogs and newts, and see the excitement in people’s eyes when they discover a new natural wonder. I also get to hear about the challenges property owners face when trying to find a balance between nature conservation and residential land development. How do we fit a house, septic, and food garden while leaving space for nature? How do we know which plants are invasive, and find the time to remove them? How do we restore natural habitats on our property?
The Need for Stewardship
It’s not easy being a good land steward. There are some serious challenges facing local plants and animals: habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, hyperabundant deer, and climate change. Mayne holds the dubious honour of having a higher proportion of developed land than any other island in the Gulf Islands. With 31.4% of the island converted to human land use, we are now at a level identified by ecologists as a tipping point, beyond which the level of species loss for a given area increases. If those weren’t challenges enough, we also have the second lowest proportion of protected area, at just 5.55%.
Since Mayne Island is mostly made up of private property, land stewards have an important role to play in the future health of our natural areas. Many property owners on Mayne Island are committed to finding ways of living here that include healthy habitats, and I’m inspired by them on a regular basis. We try to do our best to support our local land stewards, and to inspire others within our community to embrace nature conservation as a common goal.