The “heart” of Savary Island is now protected after a long campaign to acquire the land at the centre of the island. Photo, Andrew Klaver

Residents, land trusts acquire ‘Heart’ of Savary Island

Forest land is a key groundwater recharge area for the island

Savary Island, southeast of Cortes Island, is noted for its coastal sand dunes, and for providing habitat for two at-risk plants – the grey beach peavine and contorted-pod evening-primrose.

It’s the forested land at its centre, though, that has been the target of conservationists. The 350-acre area on District Lot 1375 contains stands of old- and second-growth forest.

In 2002, the Nature Trust of BC acquired half of what is called the “Heart of Savary.” In early June, it announced that it along with the Savary Island Land Trust (SILT) and the Friends of Savary DL 1375 – a group of volunteers that led the negotiations – has been able to negotiate a deal, after many years, for the other half of the forested area.

“Thanks to the Friends of Savary DL 1375, the Savary Island Land Trust and all the people who donated to make this project possible. We are overwhelmed by their generosity and enthusiasm for land conservation,” Jasper Lament, CEO of the Nature Trust of BC, said in a news release. “Together we are creating a legacy for future generations.”

The area serves as the largest groundwater recharge area on the island. Savary has about 100 year-round residents, along with many people who live there seasonally.

“There were three parcels – the last kind of undeveloped tracts of land on Savary Island – and it was pretty significant to try and secure the last remaining 50-per-cent interest in those parcels,” Nature Trust of BC habitat ecologist Marian Adair told the Mirror.

The forested land is all the more important for its role as a recharge area for groundwater.

“It’s an island that’s comprised mainly of sand, different than a lot of the other Gulf Islands,” she said. “It’s just a very interesting ecology in terms of the dune areas.”

Any similar areas in the region with dune systems, including areas around Campbell River, have long since been developed, making it all the more important to protect the island.

“The Savary dune ecosystem in a unique example of national significance,” she said.

Work to protect the area has been going for about 20 years, with the Nature Trust of BC acquiring half of the area in question following a donation in 2002, though negotiations to obtain the other half from its owner proved more difficult over the years.

“SILT is thrilled to see the Heart of Savary protected after more than 20 years of working towards this goal. We are grateful for the support of the Friends of Savary who made this opportunity possible, and to John Nichol and Dick Whittall whose donation in 2002 was pivotal to starting the process,” SILT executive director Liz Webster said in a news release. “As a small land trust, we are thankful for the many donors who contributed to this campaign. The incredible generosity is a testimony to how much people love this island.”

More than 175 Savary Island residents contributed $3.5 million in donations, which along with a land management endowment through the Friends of Savary and SILT, provided the backing for the acquisition.

“It was truly a community effort,” said John O’Neill of the Friends of Savary DL 1375.

As far as what happens next, Adair said the stakeholders will be developing a management plan for the “Heart of Savary” in conjunction with the province to ensure the protection of the area while at the same time taking into account how to manage invasive species like broom.

“It’s gone far beyond the days of when people would think that you just have to put a fence around it and leave it, and let nature do its job. That doesn’t happen anymore,” she said.

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