Gabriola Land and Trails Trust (GaLTT)
For Brian and Pam Tucker, their reason for moving to Gabriola is familiar to many islanders. “We fell in love with the natural environment, the beach access points and the multitude of forest trails,” says Brian.
Indeed, visitor surveys cite this, and island realtors have heard it many times as the top reason for moving here: ‘we love Gabriola for the closeness to so much natural beauty’.
But that love and popularity can create unintended and often subtle stresses on nature. In just over two decades, the population has swelled from just over 3,000 to 4,200. And Gabriola is the most densely populated of the Gulf Islands. Nature is under stress here — and worldwide — because of human activities.
“Just like the planet, we can easily out-strip all the reasons why we love it here on Gabriola,” says Lou Skinner, long-time volunteer with the Gabriola Land and Trails Trust (GaLTT). “And since two-thirds of the island is privately-owned, all our actions in caring for nature and doing more to conserve biodiversity on our properties are vital for the island’s ecological health.”
Launched in 2021, GaLTT’s Nature Stewards program was designed to help landholders and recognize their stewardship efforts. “Nature Stewards encourages landholders to make a voluntary pledge to conserve at least 30 percent of their property for wildlife habitat benefits. It’s our community effort to link with the worldwide goal of conserving and protecting Earth’s land and water biodiversity by 2030.”
Essentially, the program involves trained volunteers doing a property walkabout with a landholder and helping them learn more about how their property fits into the island’s sensitive ecology, as well as providing resources and practical tips for conserving and improving biodiversity.
“It’s not in any way about putting a glass dome over your property and saying, ‘never touch it’,” states Lou. “And it certainly isn’t a legal process like a registered covenant. This program is citizen-led, and stewardship is all about living and using the land with respect and care for all the species that we share it with. Something Coast Salish Peoples understood and practiced for thousands of years.”
The Tuckers are Nature Stewards’ pledge holders.
“Our half-acre lot was completely forested when we purchased it, featuring large cedar and fir trees and a healthy undergrowth of salal, Oregon grape, and ocean spray,” explains Brian. “In building, we carefully removed as few trees as possible because we wanted to retain that forest feel.
“Where the land had to be cleared, we are encouraging local native plants to grow, such as salal and Oregon grape (drought and fire resilient species). Our motives are twofold: we want to preserve the natural environment that first attracted us to Gabriola, and we want the upkeep to be low maintenance.
“My days of mowing lawns and trimming hedges are over!”
To date, over 100 landholders have voluntarily pledged to be good stewards of over 180 acres cumulatively, and more are added weekly.
In recognition, “We’re Conserving Native Habitat” or “Home of a Wildlife Friendly Garden” signs are offered to pledge participants.
“We want to acknowledge everyone for their efforts, but you don’t need to wait to participate,” says Lou. “Many landholders are already champions of nature conservation on their land, from larger acreages to less than half-acre parcels. It’s energizing and inspiring to see.”
Interested landowners can read more and contact GaLTT at the weblink https://galtt.ca/naturestewards/
Nature Stewards, Brian and Pam Tucker out standing in their salal. Submitted photo