A Small Community Making a Big Difference
In this time of paramount climate awareness, more and more community groups and non-profit organizations are maximizing their efforts to protect our planet and implement local, environmentally sustainable solutions.
One of these organizations, the Galiano Conservancy Association (GCA), has been actively working to preserve the natural environment on their little island in the Salish Sea since 1989. The Galiano Conservancy Association conserves land through direct acquisition in order to protect habitat for wildlife, maintain ecosystems that are characteristic of the Southern Gulf Islands, and provide access to nature for education purposes.
The GCA currently owns 192 hectares of land on Galiano, on which they have added a second tier of protection through conservation covenants held by partners including the Islands Trust Conservancy, Habitat Acquisition Trust and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. The GCA themselves hold conservation covenants with private landowners, amounting to over 238 hectares. Numbers aside, this tiny community of roughly 1,200 year-round residents, has rallied together for three decades to ensure that their island will maintain its ecological integrity for generations to come.
For the GCA, it does not end with protecting their own island—about 60 square kilometres. Their fundamental vision of ecological stewardship necessarily reaches out to the many islands and communities who also share the Salish Sea. The most outreaching arm of the Galiano Conservancy Association is the educational component hosted at the 76 ha Millard Learning Centre. The site features over two kilometers of waterfront backed by old-growth Coastal Douglas-fir forest, two seasonal streams, wetlands, and over 32 ha of mature forest. It also has an extensive history of logging and agriculture and the conservancy has spent much of the past seven years conducting ecological restoration to help improve the health of these degraded areas.
The GCA is also continuing the agricultural and forest use by integrating the production of foods, medicines and materials into their restoration work through the creation of ‘forest gardens’. This is a place where the vital relationships between individuals, communities and the natural world they depend upon are strengthened and shared by providing quality, experience-based outdoor education.
At the learning centre, teachers’ workshops are facilitated to help them integrate science-based environmental education into their curriculum. Bursaries from the GCA allow young students from urban centres, who may not otherwise have the means, to experience the natural world and gain the confidence, skills and optimism needed to live in harmony with each other and nature. Post-secondary students come to the learning centre to gain knowledge and experience in environmental studies, habitat restoration, ocean science, water conservation and renewable energy.
The GCA recognizes that Galiano Island, through the support of the community, is the perfect place for students, teachers and individuals from all across the Salish Sea, to learn about their natural environment and build connection and pride in the place they live. The founders, board members and staff have extensive knowledge and experience in ecological restoration, ecosystem-based planning, species-at-risk recovery, regenerative agriculture, conservation and clean energy technology.
Most recently, the Millard Learning Centre, guided by Penelekut First Nation traditional knowledge, has created the Nuts’a’maat Forage Forest. Home to more than 80 species of edible and medicinal native plants, the forage forest is an ecocultural restoration project that reimagines relationships with damaged ecologies and one another by working together on the land. It is a shared space of restoration and caring for the indigenous forest ecosystem that provides a diversity of important foods and medicines. Food forestry workshops are regularly facilitated here.
As well, after 30 years, the GCA finally has a new office building to house its growing staff requirements. Eco-friendly and built with 30% less concrete, the new building will be completely powered by solar energy. In partnership with the Salish Sea Renewable Energy Co-op, and with funding from local government, the GCA was able to purchase and install solar panels that will not only provide energy for their buildings, but also for two public electric car charging stations, by donation, for island residents and the many tourists who visit the island every summer.
The Galiano Conservancy Association, and the Salish Sea Renewable Energy Co-op are inspiring examples of how a few people, bound together by a love for their environment, can make a very big difference.
Founding Director, Dr. Risa Smith; Solar Energy Expert, Dr. Tom Mommsen; and Executive Director, Keith Erickson,
look forward to sharing their new office space and board room.
Newly installed solar panels that will "fuel" the new office building as well as two electric car charging stations.