East Sooke Conservaton Covenants

pano e sooke

orchidHabitat Acquisition Trust protects two stunning private natural areas in East Sooke with conservation covenants. These properties are maintained by caring landowners, HAT, two co-covenant holders, the Capital Regional District and The Land Conservancy, and a number of volunteers and supporters that contribute to the covenants’ long-term management. These covenants total 17.3 hectares (42.7 acres) of precious habitat.

The first of these two covenants places protection over a beautiful Douglas fir forest. The hillsides are lush with an abundance and variety of pillowing green moss. Tiny, delicate orchids that defy human cultivation grow here by the plenty in tandem with the symbiotic fungi they depend on, hidden away beneath the soil. During spring, white fawn lilies and shooting star flowers pop up, decorating the landscape with fleeting, fragile beauty. As the summer dries out much of the region, this covenant remains much wetter, being close to the ocean, often blanketed by dense fog that seems to wrap itself snuggly around the hill tops, until a swift wind disperses it. Marking the landscape are a number of standing dead trees or snags, with old peeling bark and hollows excavated by woodpeckers, which are teaming with life, big and small.

Living among the trees and hills are many different animals, some seen, some heard. A cougar takes its meal watching from a waterside ledge, brown squirrels twitch and skitter along tree branches, and a bear lumbers by contently filled with today’s forage. A chorus of bird life fills the air with chirps and tweets; a Belted Kingfisher’s persistent patience pays off as she dives and perches, dives and perches, finally scooping up her just deserts, the Stellar’s Jays dip and swoop, woodpeckers, both downy and pileated peck away, and raven’s call is heard from beyond the fog. Even birds like sooty grouse and, a species considered of special concern provincially, the olive-sided flycatcher are spotted in this natural refuge. Dragonflies also zip by and the Golden skipper butterflies pass through, never staying still for long.

The second covenant in East Sooke is a nursery for amphibians, a place where animals like newts can breed safely and migrate within a protected forest and wetland. Here, years of teamwork tackling the invasive Scotch Broom by the landowners and Habitat Acquisition Trust staff and volunteers have left the land virtually cleared of the most invasive plants, including the persistent yellow-flowered shrub, a success story in many ways.

“Do we love this land? Yes. Do we want to walk this land as its guardians? Yes. We want to ensure that some land in BC stays in its natural state for generations to come.” – Covenant Landowner.

The landowners that protect this natural area are passionate. They know the land very well and care deeply about the incredible virtues it holds, explaining,

“Winter here is magic. When the fog is in the Sooke Basin, you can look down and watch it slowly rise. Then come whipping past in the wind. It’s almost like you’re living in a cloud.”

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moss

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From the wetlands and older forests to the open meadows, these 17 hectares are home to many plants, animals and ecosystems that are becoming increasingly rare within the CRD. For example: Olive-sided flycatchers, Band-tailed pigeons, and Red-legged frogs, which are all considered species of special concern both provincially and federally live in these covenants. Forested ecosystems represented in these covenants such as the Douglas-fir/Arbutus, Arbutus/Hairy manzanita, and Western red cedar/Douglas-fir /Oregon beaked moss are considered provincially red-listed, meaning they are threatened or endangered.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can create a conservation legacy with a covenant, please contact HAT at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To sponsor the East Sooke conservation covenants today with a gift to the HAT Land Protection program visit hat.bc.ca/donate or call 250-995-2428.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Emily Rudderham

Emily Rudderham and Roger Hird Havenwood Park Volunteer 2017Emily Rudderham first reached out to Habitat Acquisition Trust about volunteering in December of last year. Since then, she has shown us lots of love through taking on the role as Volunteer Restoration Coordinator. Even with a busy schedule, Emily regularly takes the time to help organize the habitat restoration days many of us take part in and enjoy.

For all of Emily's good work volunteering with us, we would like to shine the spotlight on her this month. Thank you Emily!

Emily says, "Volunteering with HAT has been awesome - it's given me so many opportunities to learn, and a first hand look at what it's like to make a career out of conservation. So a gigantic 'thank you' to everyone at HAT for taking me on!"

Volunteering in the field at Senanus Island, Havenwood Park, as well as Ruby Creek this year as well, Emily says her favourite experience though has been, "a monitoring survey of the Ivan Island conservation covenant which I did with Wendy and Barb."

Emily Rudderham and Roger Hird Havenwood Park Volunteer 2017 digging up blackberry root crowns"We traversed a beautiful piece of densely forested property, that had a mind-boggling array of native wildflowers. We were monitoring the movement of invasive species. It gave me a chance to participate in environmental monitoring and to see how strong (and important) the bonds are between the landowner and HAT."

Emily adds, "It's been incredibly eye-opening and interesting to have a behind-the-scenes look at the sheer amount of work that goes into running HAT's various programs. If anything, working with HAT and seeing the passion of the staff and volunteers has really reinforced my decision to pursure a career in conservation."

Fall promises to be an exceptionally productive habitat restoration season here at HAT. We are so grateful to have a team-player like Emily to count on as we bring the community together for nature.

Photos: (left) Here she is at the Havenwood Park Restoration day this spring! Emily is a champion of digging up invasive Himalayan Blackberries. Go Emily, go!

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Community Collaboration Feature

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Local artist Wilson Tutube

Wilson Tutube partnered with Habitat Acquisition Trust to incorporate his art into this year's Conservation Connection Forum poster design. This collaboration encapsulates the spirit of the community coming together for nature that the Conservation Connection Forum seeks to instill.

Wilson blends traditional First Nations art inspired by his Nuu-chah-nulth heritage with themes of wildlife and conservation, creating one of a kind works of art.

As a volunteer at the Royal BC Museum, working with the invertebrate collections there, Wilson's artwork depicts some of the specimens preserved at the museum. Wilson also draws inspiration from conservation issues facing species like bats, amphibians, and bees

"Bats aren't common in First Nations art, so I blended elements of traditional wolf designs to make my own unique bat design." - Wilson Tutube.

Wilson says that he sometimes encounters people that believe traditional stories are at odds with science. Wilson prefers to encourage ideas of cooperation between tradition and science with his artistic interpretations, and sees the two as able to work in tandem for the betterment of the world.

You can find Wilson's art at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea. You can also contact him to buy art at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can also visit the Seaton St.Tunnel, which goes under the the Trans-Canada Hwy, to see his art in a recent mural dedicated to reconciliation.

Habitat Acquisition Trust is so grateful to Wilson Tutube for sharing his art with us all and bringing conservation concerns as well as an interest in natural history to light in a creative and meaningful way. 

 

For more information on the Conservation Connection Forum and tickets, please visit hat.bc.ca/c4c. We would like to connect with you too!

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A guest blog from Izabelle the Bumble Bee

OHP MapHello there, how are you? I bet this the first blog you've seen by a bee! Jill Robinson and the Habitat Acquisition Trust team invited me as a guest writer to give you a bee’s-eye view of your natural world. I have lived a full life of 335 days, and before passing the torch to you and the next generation of bees, I hope to share some pollen balls of wisdom to help you on your way.

My bee children have grown up right before my eyes at Oak Haven Park in Central Saanich, BC, becoming hardy workers in our productive pollinating society. Today the colony buzzes with activity, and I realize how fortunate we have been to live here at this protected park. With 25 acres of natural habitat and continuous blooms as far as a bee can buzz, we are grateful to the people that continue to protect and steward our beeautiful home.

After leaving the nest where I was born last fall, I crossed flight paths with a handsome bee who became my mate. He had the cutest moustache! After a wonderful time together, a chill filled the air and it was time for a rest. I was suddenly drawn to the scent of an abandoned mouse burrow. It might not seem appealing to you, but to me it was inviting and cozy. There I cuddled up to snooze the winter away in hibernation.

In spring, I awoke to a meadow of wildflowers. I foraged among the pink Sea Blush until I could begin a nest of my own. I proudly laid my eggs and warmed them with my body between trips for food. During these trips, I faced many unexpected challenges. I quickly learned to avoid the Scotch Broom Barrens, stretching on and on without flowers to feed on. As my babies grew to adulthood and joined the family business, some of them ventured into new territories. Beyond the park boundaries, many were exposed to poisonous pesticides. Some returned to the nest feeling quite unwell and others, not returning at all. This loss will be felt for generations. Not just for us bees, but for the plants and animals that rely on our fruitful efforts. Just think of all the plants they could have pollinated!

The buzz around town is that other hives may be in trouble too. As future Queen Bees venture from our colony to start their own hives elsewhere, I fear they will encounter vast seas of bloomless grass, concrete deserts and dangerous hidden pesticides.

HAT 20 years timeline beeline infographic FinalizabelleThis is where you can make a difference. You have the power to speak up for bees. You can cover more ground than we ever could to protect the natural lands we need most. Your support means that Habitat Acquisition Trust can continue planting gardens with children, saving meadows from becoming concrete, and giving people the tools they need to keep bees safe.

Glad to beefriend you,

Izabelle the Bumble Bee

Yes, Izabelle! I hear your buzz and I'll take action for you with my donation today.

For more info on Habitat Acquisition Trust activities and your local bees click below:

HAT Chat Fall Newsletter or Pollinators Stewardship Series Guide

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Collaboration for Amphibians Breeds Innovation in Saanich!

Amphibian project collage KO 2017A group of passionate community members wait patiently for the go ahead to begin their nocturnal work. Night after night, they wait in the comfort of their homes for just the right conditions, looking for a sign to give them the green light and take to the streets. Then it happens. One drop, then two. Rain begins to fill the empty puddles that left dry and cracked under the long summer heat. Droplets bead across the windows under the glow of the living room lamp. Tonight is the night. Finally, the conditions are right for the fall migration to begin and patient volunteers spring into action. They dawn their waterproof jackets and safety vests, grabbing data sheets, flashlights and field guides as they run out the door. They take extra caution, as they walk out into the dark streets on these wet, slippery nights. And why do they do it? For the frogs of course!

Within British Columbia, federal and provincial agencies list over 60 percent of frog and toad species as being species of concern. The concern being the loss of these species in their natural habitat if sufficient preventative measures are not enacted. The most significant threats to these amphibious creatures include the loss, degradation and fragmentation of their habitat. Most amphibians need to travel between wetland and forest habitats to breed and overwinter, often waiting for wet nights to make their spring and fall migration. As residential and commercial development increases throughout the region, more trees are removed, important wetland habitats drained, and busy streets make travelling across habitats more and more challenging.

Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) is a local registered charity whose mission is to conserve nature on south Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands. In order to better understand these threats to our local amphibian populations, more than 200 volunteer hours have been dedicated to counting frogs and salamanders (dead or alive) along roads across the Capital Regional District (CRD) since 2014. Habitat Acquisition Trust has been leading this project as a part of a larger effort to protect amphibians across BC. It is not glamorous work, but with the help of Biologists, Kristiina Ovaska and Christian Engelstoft, they are doing important work that can make a positive difference for our local frogs and salamanders. In just 2 years (2015, 2016), 2,330 amphibians were found on roads across the CRD. This includes seven different species (3 frogs and 4 salamanders), over 75% of which were found dead sadly.

HAT has been collecting this data in hopes that it will drive government action that will mitigate the threat and reduce the numbers of dead amphibians on our roads. Collected data was then mapped to identify hotspots throughout the area where mortality was the greatest. Rough-skinned Newts, in addition to Pacific Tree frogs, are having a particularly rough time on the roads along a short section of Prospect Lake Road bordering a wetland. Thanks to the dedication of HAT volunteer and engaged community member, John Potter, the data has been put in the hands of decision makers and is now being put into on-the-ground action in Saanich.

HAT has partnered with the District of Saanich on a collaborative pilot project this summer that could make a powerful difference for native frog populations, and engage the community in wildlife stewardship efforts. The hardworking staff in the Public Works Division of Saanich’s Engineering Department, led by Street Operations Manager William Doyle have taken the first step in the region by implementing an underground culvert allowing for safe amphibian travel on Prospect Lake Rd. Fencing aimed at funneling amphibians away from the road has been installed and will be monitored for success in the coming fall.

While this is an encouraging leap towards amphibian protection, there is still much to learn on effectively directing amphibians to culverts or tunnels to provide safe underpasses for travelling frogs. Moving forward, HAT will continue to work with local municipalities to find the best solutions to reduce amphibian road mortality and monitor the effectiveness of these underpasses.

HAT also aims to work with local landowners to help restore and protect important wetland and forest habitat through HAT's Stewardship and Land Protection Programs. To help our native amphibians, the public can also report sites where there are concentrations of amphibian roadkill or dead amphibians. If you have a pond or forest on your property, join HAT’s stewardship program to learn how you can support amphibian-friendly habitat and be a part of the solution!

Funding for this project was provided by the District of Saanich, as well as a significant donation from a private donor to HAT, and a grant from Environment Canada's Habitat Stewardship Program. HAT volunteers have contributed over 200 volunteer hours of amphibian counting, and significant contributions of time and expertise from Biologists Kristiina Ovaska and Christian Engelstoft helped in the design and development of the Prospect Lake culvert and fencing project.

To contact HAT and become a volunteer, member, or learn more reach out to:
250-995-2428 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photos: (Main) Habitat Acquisition Trust Volunteers and staff put finishing touches on fences in August to guide amphibians to safe passage beneath Prospect Lake Road. (Top) The first amphibian underpass placed along Prospect Lake Road through this partnership. (Second) Amphibian road survey volunteers tracking hot spots of mortality for frogs and salamanders. (Third) A Pacific Chorus Frog (Pseudacris regilla) on the road. One of the seven different amphibians found during HAT’s road-kill surveys.

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