The Nature Trust of British Columbia Unveils Conservation Plans for Vancouver Island



    VICTORIA, BC, March 5 /CNW/ - Soaring land prices and population growth
have B.C.'s largest and oldest land conservation organization updating its
conservation plans for Vancouver Island.
    Over the past 35 years, The Nature Trust of British Columbia has acquired
34 properties (2,147 hectares/5,300 acres) to protect fragile ecosystems,
making it the largest conservation organization on Vancouver Island.
    "Old growth forests, estuaries, wetlands, and riparian lands have topped
our 'need to conserve' list since 1971," said Doug Walker, Chief Executive
Officer of The Nature Trust. "Now, with increasing land costs and population
growth on Vancouver Island, we're expanding our programs and raising awareness
about conservation options for corporations and private citizens."
    "Our goal is to ensure Vancouver Island retains much of its natural
wonder and diversity," said Walker. "We're confident this can be done, but it
will require a higher level of stewardship from all of us - conservation
groups, governments, the private sector and the public."

    
    New initiatives include:

    -   The 17th Annual Brant Wildlife Festival in Parksville/Qualicum Beach:

        The Nature Trust is coordinating this year's festival, which runs
        from March 10 - April 20th. The festival celebrates the Black Brant
        goose. It migrates from California and Mexico to Alaska and stops off
        in Parksville and Qualicum Beach to rest and feed. These birds are an
        indicator species on the health of the environment. Their populations
        have been declining.

        Approximately 2,500 people will join the nature festival that will
        include ecotours, wildlife photography, and family birding lessons.

    -   More conservation youth crews and monitoring programs:

        A new crew will be launched this year to conduct baseline monitoring
        on Nature Trust properties. The crew is in addition to eleven youth
        crews throughout B.C., including two based in the Nanaimo area from
        January to August. These young people, between the ages of 18 and 26,
        learn about conservation and deliver on-the-ground work such as
        posting signs, educating the public and removing invasive weeds.

    -   A pilot program to create more Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs):

        The Nature Trust and its partners have created a new staff position
        dedicated to securing key Crown land habitat. Currently, there are
        five WMAs on the Island (Parksville Qualicum Beach, Tofino Mudflats,
        Cluxewe, Lazo Marsh-Northeast Comox, Green Mountain).

        Somenos Flats, near Duncan, is prime waterfowl habitat and is a
        priority target for a WMA in the future.

    -   More high-profile land acquisitions:

        This year's priority project is a sensitive riparian corridor along
        the Stamp Somass River, a major fish habitat near Port Alberni.

    -   A public awareness campaign of the new federal capital gains tax
        rules:

        Introduced in the Federal 2006 Budget, the new tax rules make
        charitable donations of ecologically significant land and publicly
        traded securities 100% capital gains exempt.

        Alternative revenue streams are increasingly important as most of the
        rare and sensitive habitats requiring conservation occur on less than
        6% of the provincial land base. Many of these habitats are found on
        private land near cities and other communities. On the Island, over
        20% of the land is privately-owned and is becoming more expensive and
        less attainable. The potential for conflict between conservation and
        development is high and the need to strike a balance is imperative.
    

    The Nature Trust of British Columbia holds estuarial lands in the
Cowichan, Englishman, Marble, Nanaimo and Salmon rivers. Other significant
Vancouver Island acquisitions include lands at Botanical Beach, Comox Slough,
MacMillan Provincial Park, Robson Bight, Somenos Flats and the Swan Lake
Christmas Hill Nature Center.
    The Nature Trust is a leader in protecting BC's natural diversity of
plants and animals through the acquisition and conservation of critical
habitats and other areas of ecological significance. Since its inception
35 years ago, the not-for-profit conservation group and its partners have
invested $56 million to secure over 61,000 hectares (150,000 acres) of
critical habitat throughout British Columbia.





For further information:

For further information: Doug Walker, CEO, (604) 924-9771 local 230,
Cellular (604) 230-1400; Robin Rivers, Communications Coordinator, (604)
924-9771 local 226; The Nature Trust of British Columbia, 260 - 1000 Roosevelt
Crescent, North Vancouver, B.C. V7P 3R4, Email: dwalker@naturetrust.bc.ca,
Website: www.naturetrust.bc.ca, Charitable No. 10808 9863 RR0001, Tel: (604)
924-9771, Fax: (604) 924-9772, Toll Free: 1-866-288-7878

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THE NATURE TRUST OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

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