Photo by Toby Snelgrove.

Photo by Toby Snelgrove.

The Conservancy evolves (again)

by Malcolm Inglis, Board President

The Mayne Island Conservancy Society’s 15th Annual General Meeting is coming up on April 21. At this AGM, the board of directors proposes to change our constitution.

The constitution’s main function is to state what kind of business the organization is in, typically by a series of “purpose” statements. Over its 15 years of existence, the Conservancy has matured considerably and expanded its scope of activities.  It’s important that our constitution reflect this natural evolution of purpose,

This will be our third significant constitutional change since our incorporation.

A little history…

The people who founded the Conservancy originally founded a single-purpose non-profit charity, the “Friends of Mount Parke”, in the year 2000, with the goal of raising funds to purchase land to expand Mount Parke Regional Park. The Friends were successful in raising the funds the society had committed to, but other factors rendered the deal unfeasible.  The project was terminated and the funds returned.  Following this, the “Friends” renamed itself as the Mayne Island Conservancy Society in 2003 with the purposes of protecting the environment on Mayne Island through restoration work, public education and promotion of land stewardship. This reformation of purpose in 2003 was our first significant constitutional change and marks the Conservancy’s true beginning.

A lot has changed since then. We acquired our first paid Executive Director in the mid-2000s when Leanna Boyer, a marine biologist, joined us. Leanna started a program to map and monitor eelgrass beds around Mayne Island, which are an important habitat for forage fish and a vital link in the marine food chain. This first venture into the waters around Mayne Island has expanded considerably since then; more on that later.

Since Leanna and her family moved to Salt Spring Island some years ago, we continue to have excellent environmental expertise in our organization and are well known and respected in our community and in our region.  Michael Dunn has been with us for about 12 years and currently serves as the almost full-time volunteer Executive Director.  Rob Underhill, Senior Biologist, has been our only full-time staff person for the past seven years. We typically employ two co-op students from environmental disciplines every summer.

Expanding our mission to land acquisition

Our second significant constitutional change arose from our ambition to expand our work into the land trust area. This entailed two years of formalizing and documenting our policies and procedures and changing our constitution to include the ability to acquire land, or interest in land.  (We also added the marine environment to our purposes to acknowledge our work on the water.) This constitutional change was finally registered in 2015. The changes enabled us to be qualified by Environment Canada and Canada Revenue Services as an “eligible recipient of an ecological gift”, which led directly to our role in the St. John Point campaign and us holding the covenant on the new park.

Growing through collaboration

Through all these years, we have increasingly collaborated with other conservation organizations in the region, with local and regional governments, and with universities and others to promote environmental protection, learning and research. Rob Underhill conducts nature education classes at Mayne School and posts his lesson plans online to be available to other nature educators. Our nearshore eelgrass monitoring has expanded into a broader “shoreline care” program that includes several components. The mapping standards are continually refined and similar work is done around the region and the data shared with regional partners. We also share our inventory of natural and human-made features of Mayne Island’s shorelines with the Islands Trust to be used as a land-use planning tool for nearshore and shoreline conservation. We partner with our local Recycling Society on annual shoreline cleanups. We’ve worked with grad and PhD students from the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, studying eelgrass invertebrate grazer communities and bull kelp stressors, respectively, and we work with the University of Victoria studying remote sensing of both eelgrass and kelpWe collaborate with the Galiano Conservancy Association, which is leading a Rockfish Conservation Project, and provide local assistance to their researchers. We’ve hosted a conservation conference on Mayne Island that drew participants from 34 organizations around the Salish Sea. We anticipate sharing what we’ve learned from the uniquely complex St. John Point campaign with land trusts across the province and beyond.

students walk down a path

Hike at St. John Point

So, it’s time for our constitutional purposes to catch up with our expanding scope and ambition. On April 21, we will propose a simple but significant change to the first of the purposes listed in our constitution (the addition is in italics): “To conserve and promote the conservation of the ecological values of Mayne Island’s terrestrial and marine eco-systems, and those of the surrounding region.” There are some other small changes to improve readability, which don’t materially change the purposes.

Members of the Mayne Island Conservancy Society who are at the meeting will be entitled to vote to approve this change. Download and read the revised constitution here.


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