Pender Post Archives

February, 2018  
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

On January 17, 2018, James Gordon and Lisa Joe of Parks Canada came to the Pender Islands to present an update on efforts to establish a National Marine Conservation Area Reserve in the Southern Strait of Georgia.

NMCARs are marine areas managed to protect marine ecosystems while ensuring the ecologically sustainable use of marine resources. They include the seabed and water, and may also include wetlands, estuaries, islets and coastal areas. They have been mandated by the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act.  Although they are not parks, Parks Canada has been charged with establishing a system of NMCARs in Canada.

Although the purpose of NMCARs is to conserve biodiversity and safeguard culturally important features, there is a wide range of activities that are allowed, including:

  • Traditional harvesting
  • Commercial fishing
  • Recreational fishing
  • Shipping
  • Marine transport
  • Recreation
  • Tourism

However, it is not “business as usual,” since activities within NMCARs are managed based on conservation objectives and ecologically sustainable use.  Activities not allowed are:

  • Oil and gas exploration or development
  • Mining
  • Ocean dumping

NMCAR management is based upon two principles:

  1. The principle of ecosystem management
  2. The precautionary principle: if there is good reason to believe that an activity will be harmful, even if there is not 100% proof, it can be restricted or banned.  This gives an ecosystem protection since it puts the onus onto proving safety instead of proving harm.

James discussed some of the significant limitations to NMCARs.  For example, management regulations cannot interfere with international marine laws, and Parks Canada has no authority over shipping lanes.  This is of enormous significance since, according to James, approximately 30% of Canada’s GNP is represented in the shipping that takes place in the Salish Sea.  In addition, ports and marinas will not be included in the NMCAR due to the prohibitive cost.  Fish farms are also outside of the mandate of Parks Canada since they are managed by the Department of Oceans and Fisheries.  

James did state, however, that Parks Canada will be able to collaborate among different departments and interests groups to develop guidelines and best practice agreements; for example, with the Port of Vancouver regarding anchoring and shipping noise.  Under the Act, Parks Canada, DFO, and Transport Canada are mandated to reach consensus on usage issues within NMCARs.

The process for establishing a NMCAR is:

  • Identifying representative areas
  • Finalizing boundaries of a proposed site
  • Feasibility assessment: information and feedback is gathered and sent to a steering committee that makes a recommendation to the Minister/Cabinet.
  • Negotiating an agreement
  • Development of Interim Management Plan
  • Formal establishment through Parliament
  • Development of a Formal Management Plan

This process is a long and complicated one.  It is presently only at the feasibility stage, which requires extensive collaboration and consultation with all levels of government, special interest groups, and other stakeholders.  Lisa stated that the proposed NMCAR is located within the traditional territories of 19 different First Nations, which fall into three main groups: Hul’qumi’num, Lekwungen (Songhees), and Sencoten speaking peoples.  Parks Canada is committed to consultation with all First Nations who may be impacted, through workshops and meetings with staff, Chiefs and councils.   Also, First Nations groups have met among themselves to discuss issues such as boundaries, impact of the Douglas Treaty, habitat degradation, and the protection and celebration of indigenous cultures.

There were many questions and comments, especially regarding diminished faith in government will, and frustration at the extremely long time this process is taking.  Lobbying for a marine conservation area in the Salish Sea started decades ago (Jacques Cousteau endorsed the idea in 1972).  James reported that the process was stalled in 2012, and when it began again, one message was clear: there had not been enough collaboration and consultation, and many relationships have had to be rebuilt as people and positions have changed over the years.  However, he stated that he believes marine protection--partly because of Canada’s Ocean Protection Plan--has become a priority, and there is a strong mandate from Parks Canada as the Southern Strait of Georgia has been identified as a very important potential NMCAR.

Elizabeth Miles

January, 2018  
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Species at Risk  
World Wildlife Fund’s National Living Planet Index Report: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

In Sept 2017, WWF released a comprehensive study of wildlife populations in Canada from 1970 to 2014. The study, which was conducted in collaboration with the London Zoological Society, looked at 903 species in over 3,600 populations, and is the most comprehensive of its kind ever done in Canada. Sadly, the results showed that 50% of our wildlife are in “serious and significant” decline, with the average rate of decline being a whopping 83%.

The Good: Not all the news was bad. As a whole, Canada has done better than many countries. Some species did not decline, and others actually increased. Some of the increases are the result of conservation efforts and pollution control, the most well-known example being the increase of raptor populations since the ban of DDT. However, increasing numbers were most often seen in animal species that are able to adapt to human-made changes, such as raccoons and the larger subspecies of Canada geese.

The Bad: The study showed that Canada’s mammals have decreased by 41%, fish by 20%, reptiles and amphibians by 34%. While some bird populations have increased, grassland birds have declined by 70%, aerial insectivores, such as swallows, by 51%, and shorebirds by 43%. Species most vulnerable are those that are long-lived, slow to reproduce, rely on limited or single food sources, and live in specialized or fragile habitat (including such iconic species as Orcas and polar bears).

Habitat loss, which is directly related to human activity, is the biggest threat: deforestation, urbanization, industrial development, and agriculture. Other major factors in wildlife decline include: climate change and the resulting warming and increasing acidity of the oceans, pollution, such as sewage, agricultural run-off, and plastic wastes, the introduction of invasive species (such as broom and bullfrogs on Pender), and overexploitation (especially overfishing). And these factors have a cumulative effect. For example, Chinook salmon numbers have crashed due to overfishing and industrial development such as hydroelectric dams, and the Orcas that depend on them for survival are also threatened by pollution, including noise pollution, and increased shipping in their habitat.

The Ugly: Since the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was introduced by the federal government in 2002, species under its protection have declined at a faster rate than they did before the Act was in place. The WWF study has revealed huge deficiencies in SARA, and the government’s implementation of the Act, including:

  • Delays in getting species listed onto SARA (often many years) after being identified as species at risk by the committee mandated by the Act.
  • Failure to meet recovery plan timelines stated in the Act.
  • Failure to identify and protect critical habitat for species at risk.
  • Inadequate funding for recovery projects.
  • Deferring to economic interests rather than scientific data in making decisions.
  • Relying on government “discretion” in following laws mandated by the Act.

The inadequacy of SARA is illustrated in the example of the St. Lawrence Beluga whales, which were recognized as being in serious trouble in the 1970’s, but were not listed as “At Risk” by SARA until 2005, and critical habitat protection was not put into place until 2016.  Indeed, environmental organizations such as Ecojustice have had to initiate lawsuits in an attempt to force the federal government to obey its own Act and implement protection and recovery plans for critically endangered species such as the greater sage grouse and killer whales.

In order to stop the loss of our precious wildlife, Canadians must speak up and insist that all levels of government make wildlife and habitat protection a priority. 

Elizabeth Miles

Thank you
In the December issue of the Pender Post there was a welcome announcement from the Magic Lake Water and Sewer Committee that the Committee and the CRD have decided to remove every third barrier in the barricade along the Buck Lake dam.  This barricade has been a formidable obstacle to the rough-skinned newts fall migration out of Buck lake and into wooded areas nearby.  They became trapped behind the barriers with often fatal results.  Some residents have attempted to alleviate the situation by patrolling the barriers in migration season and moving newts trapped there to safety. This decision to remove every third barrier should make it much easier for the newts to manage their migration journey.  We are very grateful to the Water and Sewer Committee and to the CRD personnel who have made this happen. It is a positive move for the world of nature.   Well done! Kudos also to the caring folk who have helped the newts across the barriers and the road.

Eleanor Brownlee

December, 2017
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

We are now well into the season of preparations for the annual season of gift-giving and celebrations surrounding Christmas. For those of you looking for nature-inspired gifts, here are a few ideas.  For the children on your list there is The Big Book of Nature Activities: A Year-round Guide to Outdoor Learning by Monk and Rodenburg.  Since 2005 when Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods introduced the concept of “nature-deficit disorder”, there has been a growing awareness of the dangers of letting children spend most of their time indoors.  A number of studies have shown that the average school-aged child recognizes between 300 and 1000 corporate logos but only 10 of the local plants and animals. Other nature books for children include the Fun with Nature: Take-along Guide by Boring, Burns, and Dendy, one of a series of nature guides for children, and Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature, a book of poetry, fun things to do and interesting facts about the natural world.

For adults and older children, there are a number of guides specific to the Pacific Coast: Trees of the Northwest and Common Seashore Creatures of the Pacific Northwest by Duane Sept, and Pacific Reef & Shore by Rick Harbo.  The pictures in these books will help to put names to some of the plants and animals found around us.  Laminated pocket guides, which fit easily in the side pockets of cars, also make a nice gift.  Waterford Press and Harbour Publishing have a number of interesting guides on a variety of topics.  My car has two: Trees of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia Seashore Life.

Of course we can’t forget the gardener in the family.  Lori Weidenhammer’s new book, Victory Gardens for Bees, is described as a DIY guide to saving the bees.  During WW II North Americans planted gardens to deal with the threat of food scarcity.  “In 1943, in North America alone, Victory Gardens in backyards, window boxes, patio planters, schoolyards, parks and government grounds burst forth with nearly 9 million tons of food, much of it coaxed from the ground by people who had never before grown a carrot or cauliflower.”  Now there is a new kind of threat to food security.   Many of the pollinators we rely on are disappearing, especially our native bees.  More than a third of our food crops and more than three quarters of our flowering plants require bees for pollination.  This DIY guide describes our native bees and how gardeners can create bee-friendly gardens by planting a variety of flowers, herbs, vegetables, and flowering shrubs.  The book also includes a chapter on “The Buzz on Beekeeping”, a chapter dedicated to the growing number of hobby beekeepers.

Finally, here is a book for all thoughtful environmentalists and for those who sometimes feel powerless when looking at the apparent lack of any kind of real protection for the natural world, David Boyd’s The Rights of Nature: a Legal Revolution that Could Save the World. It is hard to describe this book in a few words; you have to read it.  Definitely a thought-provoking gift and if you run into David, he will be happy to sign it for you.

Closer to home, you could give someone on your list the gift of a membership in PICA.  You will receive an income tax receipt.  Your membership donation will help support PICA’s projects.  You can donate online by going to our website  If the membership is a gift for someone else, let us know and we will send them a membership card welcoming them to PICA. 

Rhondda Porter

November, 2017
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

This article by PICA past-president Sylvia Pincott is part of an 8-year retrospective of her writings for Naturescape and the Pender Post.  It is as fresh and pertinent today as it was in November of 2005. We will introduce each season here with a selection from Sylvia's writings. You can find the entire archive on our website:

November Naturescape Notes

Myriad and subtle changes of autumn are creeping over the landscape now.  One of my favourites is the adornment of dew-bejewelled spider orbs.

For all its apparent delicacy, the silk of a spider’s web is one of the strongest fibres known, and scientific technology has been unable to duplicate its relative strength – greater than high tensile steel.  It is hypothesized that a pencil-thick cable of spider silk would be able to stop a Boeing 747 – somewhat equivalent to what happens when a silken thread arrests a speeding fly in mid-air!  Hummingbirds, well aware of this strength, often use these delicate cords to lash their nests to supporting branches.

I observed a display of this silken power recently, when a very bulky caterpillar became enmeshed in the web of a very small spider.  This seemed to be causing problems for both, as the caterpillar struggled and the apparently overwhelmed spider ran up and down its length.

Usually reluctant to intervene in such natural events, I did impose on this apparent stalemate to untangle the hapless larva and, in so doing, marvelled at the snare’s tenacity.

Earlier, another small drama occurred over a number of days as a small female spider stood guard over her silken cocoon of eggs.  Quietly, apparently not hunting, she awaited the emergence of her many tiny offspring.  Eventually a small cluster of spiders was apparent, and for a few days the young fed on the protein of their egg sac.  Depletion of this initial food source indicated that it was time to explore the world beyond, and on gossamer strands the young floated off in the breeze.  While some would drift only as far as the nearest shrubbery, there are records of young airborne spiders hundreds of metres aloft.  With her young launched, the mother spider died beside the empty cocoon.

While not all spiders spin webs, all spin silk, which dries into elastic and waterproof threads. The varied types of silk are used for spinning webs, traps, and cocoons, creating drag lines, and for swathing prey.  

Spiders are not classified as insects, but are a separate group of invertebrates called arachnids. Insects have six legs and three main body segments.  Arachnids have eight legs and two main body parts.

More than 3000 species of spiders are found in North America, with two groups – trappers and hunters.  The trappers include the familiar orb weavers, as well as funnel weavers and cobweb spiders.  The hunters include large, hairy wolf spiders that hunt on the ground, active little jumping spiders that stalk their prey and pounce, and beautiful crab spiders often found lurking within flowers and displaying cryptic coloration to blend discreetly with their chosen bloom.

Throughout the summer, spiders have been one of the most important predators of insects, including those considered pests.  As autumn approaches, invertebrate activity winds down. Recognizing spider benefits and beauty, let’s be sure to appreciate the delicate traceries of the dewy orbs that bedeck our autumn mornings!

Sylvia Pincott

October, 2017  We took a break this month
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

September, 2017
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

The Rat Problem

Rats are intelligent and agile rodents. They are vectors of various diseases, cause significant problems in our homes by chewing electrical wiring, nesting in insulation, eating garden produce and leaving urine and fecal droppings in undesirable locations (particularly when the latter contaminates our food materials) and dying (with related odour) in some inaccesible location in the house, to mention but a few of their talents.   That's not all!   Rats can have a significant impact on the natural environment.

Rats do not have good eyesight but do have highly developed senses of smell, touch and hearing.  The influence of rats on native animal and plant populations is evidenced by the the killing of ground-nesting birds and their young and eating birds' eggs.  The impact upon nesting seabirds can be particularly devastating.   The ability to grasp small objects makes eating of naturally-occuring berries and fruits an easy task, thus depriving native fauna of their seasonal natural diet and impacting the food-chain.  Their reproductive prowess is notable – a pair of Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) may produce up to 80 young per year and a pair of Black rats (Rattus rattus) about 40 young per year. Young rats are capable of reproducing at about three months of age.  In any given area the rat population is proportional to the availability of food, water and shelter, and populations expand to a limiting optimum size.  Expansion above this optimum leads to population reduction by migration, cannabilism, fighting and increased killing by predators. Thus, incomplete human control of rats results in the survivors reproducing more rapidly to attain the optimum population for that habitat. The use of chemical pesticides is not recommended unless used by a qualified pest control person.  As a local point of interest, dead rats have been found by the roadside in the vicinity of Lively Peak followed shortly by a dead Barred owl close by.  Circumstantial evidence suggests that the owl's fate was sealed possibly by ingesting a rodent dying from pesticide poisoning.

In common with most of the rest of the world (except Alberta) the Pender Islands have more than their fair share of these invasive animals.  Eradication of rats from islands is not an impossibility but is a daunting task.  However, some steps can be taken to control and perhaps eradicate the rat population:

  • Use rat-proof bird feeders.
  • Prevent scattered food under bird feeders.
  • Do NOT leave pet food outside.
  • Use a pest-resistant composter.
  • Dispose of food residues according to Capital Regional District bylaws.
  • Ensure your home is rat-proof.
  • Cut trees and creepers away from the side of your house.
  • Use spring traps, NOT poison.
  • Set traps out of access to children, pets and birds.
  • Handle dead rats with gloves.

Graham Boffey

August, 2017
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

This article by PICA past-president Sylvia Pincott is part of an 8-year retrospective of her writings for Naturescape and the Pender Post.

Native Plants
Naturescape Notes

I was lured to our Pender property by its driveway!  Two tracks disappearing into an arbutus/Douglas fir woodland through thick salal.  An open slope extends to touch the lane at mid-point, with a moss-covered rocky outcrop that gleams in the sunlight with rich shades of green.  It is a property that has been minimally imposed upon by people activity (albeit that most of it is maturing forest, recovering from the logging activities that levelled much of the Penders early in the last century).

The undisturbed habitat spoke to me through burbling winter wrens and honking nuthatches – bird species that had all but disappeared from our former community with growth and development. Through the Naturescape British Columbia program I had been sharing the message of caring for wildlife habitat at home – mostly through attempting to restore something of what has been lost.  Here was habitat relatively undisturbed, and caring for itself.

At the time of my driveway discovery, it was also time for us to retire from our large Naturescape demonstration property in Abbotsford.  But what could take its treasured place? Here the driveway beckoned, and we have come to treasure this small piece of Pender as a special gift.  We left our former property protected by conservation covenants so that it will remain as a woodland home (a green island in suburbia) for the many creatures living there. Without abandoning them to the fate of bulldozers, we could thus make a new beginning here, letting Nature do most of the gardening for us, while bringing her pleasures to our doorstep.

We have since learned that our mossy outcrops (mossy balds) are tongues of the endangered Garry oak ecosystem with its unique vegetation and animal life.  We did have some tasks to begin with in that these openings had been invaded by Scotch broom.  Its removal two years ago has since unveiled lovely plant surprises previously hidden or dormant beneath that overwhelming cover.

This spring I carefully crept over the slopes, almost with a fine-toothed comb, removing other invasive species and revealing tiny pockets of many Pender treasures.  On my discovery area of less than 4,000 square feet, I counted 30 species of native wildflowers, ferns, shrubs and trees (and 12 species of invaders!).  There were delicate golden-backed ferns, harvest brodiaea, woodland stars, blue-eyed Mary, monkeyflower, rein orchid, montia, two camas species, along with two yet to be identified mysteries!  Juncos nested, hidden beneath a moss-covered shelf, and alligator lizards basked in the sun.

My project turned out to be one of the most satisfying of many years of gardening experiences! The message was certainly underlined that before we rush to transform the land to our own garden dreams there may be tiny gems awaiting discovery and asking for our care and respect.

While these plants may not be as colourful and exuberant as horticultural varieties that we might introduce, their simplicity and special beauty is part of Pender’s unique ecosystem, functioning in harmony – a community of indigenous plants, invertebrates, animals, birds – and alligator lizards!

Sylvia Pincott

July, 2017
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

June was another busy month for anyone interested in the environment.  On Saturday, June 3rd about 60 people gathered in the Community Hall for a presentation by Bill Henwood, “The Salish Sea as a Special Place for Special Creatures: A National Marine Conservation Area Reserve in the Southern Strait of Georgia”.  Bill Henwood was the Senior Protected Areas Planner for Parks Canada before his retirement and is currently a member of the Elders Council for Parks in British Columbia.  Bill began his talk with an overview of the various kinds of protected marine areas in other parts of the world that he has been involved with, either as a consultant or as a volunteer, and what he had learned from his experiences.  One of the lessons he learned was that size matters: the bigger, the better; small areas have a limited chance of success.  Another lesson: to be successful, the marine conservation area must include the adjoining land.  Trying to protect marine areas without considering shoreline use does not lead to success.  Another lesson was the effect on people of the concept of diminishing baselines.  "Diminishing baselines" refers to a shift over time in the expectation of what a healthy ecosystem looks like.  Protecting the ecosystem as it looks now, already diminished, ignores what it should look like.  This means that action must be taken not only to conserve, but also to restore.

The road to a NMCA in the Southern Strait of Georgia began in 1992 with the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.  Article 8a said: “Each Contracting Party shall, as far as possible and as appropriate, establish a system of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity.”  In 2002 at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Canada made a commitment to establish representative networks of Marine Protected Areas by 2012. In 2010, Canada made a commitment to protect of “at least ... 10% of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services … conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures … integrated into the wider landscape and seascape” by 2020.  (National Framework for Canada’s Network of Marine Protected Areas – Department of Fisheries and Oceans)

Bill’s assessment of how well Canada is doing in meeting these commitments – “not very well”. Currently less than 3% of the coastal and marine areas is in an MPA and only 0.02% is fully protected from commercial fishing, shipping, and industrial use.  The Canadian National Marine Conservation Areas Act of 2002 includes the seabed, subsoil, and the water column.  The intention of the act is to conserve marine biological diversity and maintain ecological and life support systems.  NMCAs are relatively large and are zoned to provide a range of levels of protection and conservation, from total protection to sustainable use. Various agencies must collaborate in the creation of these areas. Fishing is under the control of DFO. Shipping is under the control of Transport Canada.  First Nations traditional uses and treaty rights must also be respected.  The role of Parks Canada is to bring all the parties together to create a workable plan for the creation of a NMCA Reserve in the Southern Strait of Georgia.  In 2011, an agreement on the boundaries for the NMCA in the Southern Strait of Georgia was finally reached.  The proposed NMCA is 1400 square kilometres.  One of the quirks of negotiating the zoning and levels of protection is the fact that under Parks Canada, activities in parks are prohibited unless permitted, while under the National Marine Conservation Areas Act activities are permitted unless prohibited.

The audience had lots of questions and fortunately James Gordon from Parks Canada was on hand to answer questions about current developments and the types of negotiations which are now taking place.  Bill Henwood’s visit was sponsored by PICA and the Pender Islands Trust Protection Society with the support of the Pender Islands Canadian Power and Sail Squadron.  Thanks to everyone who helped make this event such a success.

On June 9th and 10th the 2017 Parks Canada BioBlitz came to Pender. This educational event is held every year to provide everyone with the opportunity to help identify plants and animals associated with the ecology of the Gulf Islands National Parks Reserves.  On Friday June 9th there was a monitoring presentation led by Parks Canada Ecosystem Resource Conservation Team Leader Tara Sharma.  She gave an excellent overview of the procedure for monitoring ecosystems on the 15 islands of the GINPR. The monitoring includes plant communities and animals, both terrestrial and marine.  When the monitoring turns up problems, action is taken to remedy the situation.  Tara gave the example of Sidney Island where the endangered Contorted-pod Evening Primrose (Camissonia contorta) was discovered in an area being invaded by introduced non-native species.  With the discovery of this rare plant, steps were taken to protect the area and Parks Canada staff and volunteers removed the invasive species.  Parks Canada staff are well aware of the need for diligence in protecting native species in park areas.  One area of concern on Pender is the spread of the American bullfrog. If you hear or see a bullfrog in any of the GINPR areas, please contact PICA with the details of the location and we will ensure that the information reaches Parks Canada staff.

On Saturday June 10th, volunteers of all ages headed out to various areas in the GINPR to do the actual monitoring.  The free t-shirts and hats were a special hit with the younger volunteers.  It was great to see so many school children taking part in the monitoring and learning first-hand about the islands’ ecosystems.

Rhondda Porter
Sara Steil

June, 2017
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar Entry: 

3 Saturday 1:30  PICA and PITPS present “The Salish Sea - Special Places for Special Creatures” with Bill Henwood at the Community Hall

The past couple of months have been a busy time for PICA.  April 22nd saw our annual Beach Clean-up in the morning and a special series of talks related to the Salish Sea at the Parish Hall in the afternoon.  Leanna Boyer from the Sea Change Marine Conservation Society and the Kelp Forest Monitoring Project talked about the importance of protecting nearshore ecosystems and the essential role of kelp and eel grass.  Bull kelp is annual seaweed which can grow up to five inches a day.  It reaches it maximum growth in August, which is when volunteers from PICA will be out on the water to continue the kelp forest mapping project.  Eel grass is a perennial flowering plant.  Up to 1000 species rely on eelgrass and 80% of the commercially important fish and shellfish depend on eel grass for part of their lives.  Both bull kelp and eel grass are threatened by increased shipping, which causes physical disturbance, and by pollution, which comes mainly from storm water run-off.  Jenna Falk from the Galiano Conservancy introduced us to rockfish and rockfish conservation.  There are 160 rockfish conservation areas; unfortunately not all the designated areas are actually used by rockfish. These charmingly eccentric, colourful fish are very sensitive to over-fishing.  It takes 8 to 10 years before they begin breeding, but they can live to be more than 200 years old.  Once a rockfish finds a rock it likes it will spend its entire life close to this “home rock”.  The final speaker was David Manning who presented some of his amazing photographs of the wildlife of Salish Sea islands.  For the 35 people in attendance it was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the marine and coastal ecosystems that our Beach Clean-up is helping to protect.

On May 4th PICA held its Annual General Meeting.  Unfortunately we failed to reach the quorum required by our constitution, so the business part of the meeting did not proceed.  This left more time for our speaker Garry Brooks to talk about his work in Zambia helping communities to create self-sustaining community forests.  He discussed the use of fast growing trees such as moringa and leucaena to supply wood for charcoal.  The seeds of another tree, jatropha, are 35% oil and can be processed and used in place of diesel.  Other trees supply food, and with the recent addition of pine trees, the electric and telephone posts of the future.  In 2016 almost a million trees were planted.  Of all the pictures from Zambia the most startling one was of Victoria Falls without water.  This World Heritage Site could lose its designation because it is now dry for most of the year.  As Garry noted when he began his talk, “no trees, no water”.  The destruction of the African forests has had far-reaching consequences.  

Garry’s work in Zambia goes beyond trees to the careful documentation of the villages’ forests and the local industries that they support to help villages establish ownership of their land.  This paper trail is necessary to try to protect the people from having the government sell their land to foreign investors.  If necessary, this documentation could be used to support the communities in court.  China is currently the largest land owner in Africa and controls Zambia’s copper production.  

On Saturday, May 6th, Parks Canada presented an information session on the American bullfrog at the Community Hall, hosted by PICA.  The presenters included representatives from Parks Canada, former members of the Farmers’ Institute who worked on a bullfrog eradication project, a frog researcher from SFU, and Stan Orchard, an expert on bullfrog eradication.  The afternoon began with an introduction to the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, the work that Parks Canada does to fulfill their mandate to “maintain or restore ecological integration in National Parks”, and the challenges which invasive plants and animals present to Parks staff.

All the speakers stressed the fact that bullfrogs are a major threat to ecological integrity.  They are currently listed as being one of the top 100 invaders world-wide and their range is expanding.  For example, in Italy, their range is expanding at the rate of 64 square kilometers a year.  The rate is slower in BC (28 km2 /year) but still significant.

Bullfrogs lack predators and can eat and out-compete native amphibians.  They have also been shown to carry pathogens which can wipe out native species.  They eat anything that will fit in their mouths. Stan Orchard has analyzed the stomach contents of over 60,000 bullfrogs and found Western painted turtles (a red-listed species), juvenile coho salmon, garter snakes, song birds, alligator lizards, voles, shrews and a baby duck which was swallowed live and dissolved by stomach acid.  Because the Penders are surrounded by water, an eradication program could be successful if all the known bullfrog ponds are cleared. 

The next date on the calendar is June 3rd at 1:30 when Bill Henwood comes to the Community Hall to talk about “The Salish Sea – Special Places for Special Creatures” and how the National Marine Conservation Areas will help protect these special places and the creatures which call them home. Please join us.

Rhondda Porter 
PICA Secretary

May, 2017
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar entries:

4 May 7 pm:  PICA AGM at the Hope Bay Studio with guest speaker Garry Brooks “Reforestation: the African Community Project”

6 May 2 pm to 5 pm at the Community Hall: Parks Canada and PICA are hosting an educational seminar on the American bullfrog and their impact on native species. 

On March 18th, we said goodbye to an old friend.  The arbutus tree on the cliff at Medicine Beach had to be cut down.  We had been concerned about the health of the tree for some time.  One of the main branches, overhanging the path, seemed to be dead and after watching for almost a year, there was no sign that it would recover.  We were worried that the dead branch could break off and fall on someone using the path.  When the biologist from Nature Conservancy Canada came for the annual inspection of the Medicine Beach marsh, she took a look at the tree and suggested that we get an arborist to examine it as soon as possible.  Rob Maxwell took a look at the tree and pointed out that not only was the main branch dead, but that the heavy winter rain had saturated the soil and the weight of the branches had dislodged the root ball.  The Islands Trust Fund, a co-covenant holder with PICA of the Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary, agreed that the tree was too dangerous and on the advice of the arborist it was cut down.

By the time you read this another Earth Day will be over and our Annual Beach Clean-up will once again have removed hundreds of kilograms of debris from our shores.  Thank you to everyone who participated and especially to the Beach Clean-up coordinators: Elizabeth Miles and Trinette Prior. A complete report on the day’s activities including the presentations at the Parish Hall will appear in the June Pender Post.

PICA’s Annual General Meeting will be held on Thursday, May 4, at 7 pm in the Hope Bay Studio.  After the business meeting we will have the pleasure of hearing Garry Brooks talk about his work with the African Community Project.  Garry lives in Victoria, having retired in 2001 from owning his own sawmill and forestry business.  He volunteered as a Community Development Advisor to Zambia in 2002 and after seeing the rapid deforestation of the country for firewood and agriculture use, decided to do something about it.  He started the African Community Project in 2004 and has been working with rural communities to create community-run forests, allowing them to manage the forests around their villages.  In 2016 the African Community Project’s membership received over 2,000,000 tree seeds, instructions on how to grow them, their uses, and also up to date education on changing climates that are affecting the community.  Most of the tree seeds that are distributed come from trees that have been planted over the past years by community forests partnered with the African Community Project.  Come and join us for a fascinating look at restoration and conservation in Africa.  Everyone is welcome, but as usual, only PICA members can vote at the AGM, so don’t forget to renew your membership!

On the Saturday following our AGM, Parks Canada and PICA are hosting an educational seminar on the American bullfrog.  Bullfrogs are a large, highly invasive species originally introduced to British Columbia by people planning to ‘farm’ them for frogs’ legs. The BC Ministry of the Environment’s Frog Watch Program has this to say about the diet of the bullfrog and why we should be worried about their spread on Pender: “What’s on the Menu? The short answer to this is – anything the bullfrog can fit in its mouth.  Of course, this applies to many frogs and toads, but since bullfrogs have such big mouths, they have more items on their menu.  Adult bullfrogs are highly predatory, consuming in addition to the conventional frog fare of insects and other small invertebrates, birds, small mammals, snakes, and other frogs (including smaller bullfrogs).  It is disconcerting to see a frog eating a duckling, but the aspect of the bullfrog diet of most concern to biologists is their habit of eating other frogs.  Most of BC’s native frogs are little more than a bite-sized snack for bullfrogs, and there is evidence that bullfrog colonizations of lakes is followed by declines in the native red-legged frog and Pacific chorus frog populations.”  It would be a wonderful gift to our native frogs and amphibians if we could all band together to eliminate bullfrogs from our island.  Come to the Community Hall at 2 pm on Saturday, May 6, to learn more and how you can help.  This seminar will be of special interest to people with ponds and wetlands on their property.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

April, 2017
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Earth Day Beach Clean Up and Celebration

Earth Day was first proposed in 1969 by peace activist John McConnell, who suggested a day of worldwide recognition of the damage being done to the environment and the responsibility of humans to care for the Earth.  The idea was taken up by American Senator Gaylord Nelson after seeing the devastation caused by the 1969 oil spill in California.  Earth Day was first celebrated in the United States on April 22, 1970, with the goal of educating people about the environment.  It is often credited as being the catalyst for the modern environmental movement.  Today, Earth Day is observed in 192 countries around the world by over a billion people, who celebrate by holding rallies, providing educational activities, and engaging in environmental service or restoration work. 

Saturday, April 22 this year will be the 47th anniversary of Earth Day and all are invited to join with PICA in celebrating with two events, both aimed at celebrating the Salish Sea: the annual Beach Clean Up in the morning, and free presentations on our Salish Sea in the afternoon.

Beach Clean Up
Please help keep our island beaches clean and beautiful by joining us for the Beach Clean Up, which will be held at the parking lot of the Medicine Beach Centre from 9:30 to noon.  You can check in before you begin (and pick up the provided bags and gloves and a suggested beach to clean) or when you come to drop off collected garbage after cleaning your beach.  There will be food and coffee provided by Slow Coast Cafe, as well as children’s activities, music, draws, and prizes for the biggest and most unusual items collected. If you find something that is too big for you to bring in, let us know at the check-in site and we will try to arrange to have someone go and pick it up.  For those of you who would like to go out on kayaks to help clean some of the difficult to reach places, Kai from Dog Mermaid Ecotours, will have kayaks ready on Medicine Beach in Bedwell Harbour.  If you wish to go out with Kai, please meet at Medicine Beach at 9:30. Jay from Pender Island Kayak Adventures will be at Browning Harbour; please meet him at Hamilton Beach.  Please call Elizabeth if you would like to do the kayak clean-up, so that we will have an idea of the numbers.

Salish Sea Presentations
We are fortunate to have three great presentations lined up for the afternoon at the Anglican Parish Hall from 1 to 3:30 pm.  Leanna Boyer, from the SeaChange Conservation Society, will be coming from Salt Spring Island to talk about the Salish Sea kelp forests and the kelp mapping project they are conducting with the University of Victoria.  Jenna Falk, from the Galiano Island Conservation Association, will be doing a short presentation on rock fish and the Rock Fish Conservation Area project.  Pender’s own David Manning will wrap up the afternoon with a slideshow of Wildlife of the Salish Sea Islands.  Enjoy some tasty treats and Moonbeans coffee, and visit the several informational displays.   All are welcome, and there is no charge.  We are hoping to have some children’s activities arranged for the afternoon, and if anyone wishes to volunteer to help with this it would be most appreciated. 

Please contact Trinette Prior at 250-629-2213 or Elizabeth Miles at 250-539-8843 or, for more information about either of these events.

Elizabeth Miles

March, 2017
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

PICA's Webpage - A Tour

PICA's roots go back to its incorporation under the Societies Act on January 19, 1993.  In 1995 Pender Islands residents celebrated the successful culmination of a fundraising campaign to save the marsh at Medicine Beach. PICA manages Medicine Beach on behalf of the Islands Trust Fund with covenants on the Sanctuary held by Nature Conservancy of Canada and Habitat Acquisition Trust.

Our webpage chronicles PICA's current environmental activities and acts as an archive.  It is a good starting-place to find out more about what we do and who to contact, if you have been considering joining PICA & becoming involved with the protection and preservation of nature on the Penders.  Our current column here in the Pender Post, as well as columns going back to November, 2011, may be found in the Pender Post archive page.  Likewise, our Past Events page is a recent history dating back to October, 2012.

At the top of the home page, under our Brooks Point Pender Island Conservancy Association masthead, are more links to updates and current activities.  If you have missed any Pender Post articles, you will find them here, dating back to November, 2011.

If you scroll down on the homepage you will find photographs of some Pender properties that PICA has helped owners put into protective covenants.  Further down are the many Textures of Brooks Point which you can read about at the links on the top of the page. Non-profits & other environmental organizations we support come next.

You will find the following links to topics in the left column, under our PICA logo and the Donate Now button which allows you to update your membership easily from the home page.  Annual membership fee is $10 for individuals, $15 for families. 

Forage Fish Monitoring
Hope Bay Stream Salmon Restoration
Purple Martin Recovery Program Yearly Reports  
CBC4Kids Christmas Bird Counts
Covenant Monitoring
Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary
Earth Day Beach Cleanup
Eelgrass Presence on Pender Islands

Next is a Become a Member link to help you sign up to join PICA, if you haven't already. Visit (and LIKE) our Facebook page, for the most up-to-date information on our activities - just use the next link.

A series of Plastic links follows - have you have been wondering what the big fear is from this most insidious environmental threat, as well as ubiquitous modern product, made from petroleum?

Our last annual report and an 8 year archive of PICA past president Sylvia Pincott’s Pender Post and Naturescape articles brings us to the list of current PICA board members.

Then Invasive Species posters of the least-wanted here on the Penders and the Nature of David Manning, “Eagle-Man”, wildlife photos and notes from the American Southwest.  

End your tour of with a photographic visit to Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary and lastly to our page of links to environmental associations, local and national.

Use our Contact page link at the top, if you have questions, additions or suggestions, about the PICA website or for the board.  Visit us at, soon.

Davy Rippner  
PICA Webmaster/Media

February, 2017
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

By the time you read this, volunteers from the Hope Bay Salmon Restoration Project will have picked up this year’s supply of chum salmon eggs from the hatchery on the Goldstream River and placed them in the incubation chamber in Hope Bay Stream.  Once the eggs are in the stream, volunteers begin the daily monitoring and recording of the water temperature of the stream.  These records will help us predict the when the eggs will likely hatch, when the alevins will become fry, and when the fry will be ready to begin their journey down the stream, into the bay, and out to the ocean.  After that the baby chum are on their own until they (we hope) return to Hope Bay Stream in about four years to spawn.

Every year, we get our chum salmon eggs from the Howard English Hatchery.  The hatchery is run and staffed by the volunteers of the Goldstream Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Association.  The volunteers work “to help preserve and enhance the declining salmon stocks in our Southern British Columbian waters”.  The hatchery is “a model of how public involvement, in wildlife conservation and preservation, can provide environmental rewards without costing the taxpayers large sums of money.”   They make restoration projects like our own on Pender possible.

Like many volunteer-run conservation projects, the hatchery had a small beginning.  After years of watching the depletion of salmon in the Goldstream River and much lobbying of the Federal Fisheries Department, angler and naturalist, Howard English, finally got permission in 1971 to install one streamside gravel incubation box.  Since that time, the project to restore coho, chinook, and chum to the Goldstream River has grown.  In 1981 the association managed to secure funding to build a small hatchery.  The Greater Victoria Water District supported and continues to support the hatchery.  They provided the land and ensure that the hatchery has a good supply of water.  The efforts of the volunteers have meant that chum and coho have returned in numbers to the river.  Every year hundreds of people gather on the banks of the river to watch the spawning salmon.

For the past 30 years volunteers at the hatchery have worked to help local volunteers restore coho and chum salmon runs to rivers and streams around southern Vancouver Island.  The hatchery volunteers collect eggs from salmon returning to the Goldstream River, raise fry, distribute eggs and fry, and educate volunteers from restoration projects like PICA’s.  This year there was expected to be a run of 50,000 chum salmon returning to the Goldstream River.  Based on these numbers, for the first time in many years the DFO opened a commercial chum fishery in Saanich Inlet.  Far fewer chum salmon than expected managed to reach the Goldstream River to spawn.  As a result very few chum eggs or fry will be available for the various groups working to restore chum to streams such as Hope Bay. We will still receive some eggs but far fewer than hoped.   Chum salmon are an important secondary food source for the endangered southern-resident orca and the opening of a commercial fishery has reduced what is already a scarce supply of fish.

For more information about the Howard English Hatchery, visit the Goldstream Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Association’s website

PICA members, please don’t forget to renew your membership.  The Conservancy depends not just on the work of our volunteers, but also on memberships and donations.  Visit PICA’s website to learn more about our projects and how you can help.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

January, 2017
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Taking a break from the from traditional conservation articles and following conversations with several newcomers to the Pender Islands who are not aware of the purposes and functions of PICA, it is opportune to refresh the background information on what PICA is and what PICA does and how we can work together to protect those natural gifts that draw us to live on the Southern Gulf Islands. Pender Island is part of the endangered Douglas Fir ecosystem and along with changes to our biodiversity as a consequence of development and the anticipated effects of climate change it is more important than ever to protect those sensitive areas containing threatened plants and animals. Members of PICA feel that it is incumbent upon them to pursue the protection and preservation of lands of ecological significance and to encourage like thinkers to support these activities.

Like many organizations on the Pender Islands, PICA is volunteer-driven. PICA is a charitable land trust and a member of the Canadian Land Trust Alliance.  As a land trust the Conservancy provides information on and is qualified to hold or co-hold conservation agreements including those of the Islands Trust Fund NAPTEP Program and Federal Government Eco-gifts Program.  These agreements or covenants can offer substantial tax savings to the landowner, and may be applied to conserve parcels of land or conservation easements through a property.  Such covenants are legally binding and are written to the title of the property and may not be removed without the agreement of all holders of the covenant.   This means that in effect a covenant agreement is a permanent arrangement.  Thus a land covenant can provide very effective ecological protection to a property or a portion of the same to the limits specified in the covenant agreement.   Watershed protection is of importance to all of us on the Islands since we are completely dependant upon precipitation to replenish the aquifers and water courses.   Preservation of tree cover reduces the risk of siltation of streams and slows the rate of run-off so that more precipitation is absorbed into the ground.

In addition PICA supports various community events such as the Beach Clean-Up and Adopt-a-Beach Program, Forage Fish Monitoring, the Hope Bay Salmon Stream Restoration Project and educational events with speakers on conservation related topics to mention a few.  The Purple Martin Nest Box Project and CBC4Kids bird count are co-operative projects with Pender Island Field Naturalists.

Since the arrival of foreign settlers in the 19th century, significant changes have taken place such as land clearing for agriculture, logging activities, housing development and large predator extirpation, etc.  These changes all have impacts upon the natural environment and upon the biodiversity of the Islands as is well evidenced by the excessively large population of black-tailed deer which has flourished since the eradication of its natural predators such as the wolf.  The browsing impact by the high deer population on Arbutus and Garry Oak seedlings in unprotected areas calls into question the future of these tree species on the Island.  PICA, with community support, has taken and continues to take steps to support the protection of ecologically sensitive land.  Since its incorporation in 1993 PICA has been involved in establishing 17 covenants shared with the Islands Trust Fund, one with a private landowner and one with the CRD.  Brooks Point CRD Regional Park was established through the funding activities of PICA, Friends of Brooks Point and the support of other conservation-minded organizations.  The popular Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary, managed by PICA, was made possible through the financial support of Pender Islanders and partners including the Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Heritage Acquisition Trust and the Islands Trust Fund.  These protected areas not only provide areas of enjoyment for islanders but also refuges for some of our threatened native species.

The Conservancy cannot achieve its mandate to restore and protect the ecosystems of the Islands without the continued well-appreciated support of the Pender community.  Your participation as members of PICA or as volunteers in our various projects is always welcome.  This gives strength to our efforts to protect that which we respect and enjoy: the natural amenities of the Pender Islands.

Please take a look at our website which provides up-to-date information on our activities, contact information and a link to renew your membership or become a member.

Graham Boffey
PICA President

December, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

PICA encourages people to remove invasive species to help protect the islands’ sensitive ecosystems. Most of the species we work to remove are invasive plants. American Bullfrogs are an entirely different kind of problem; they are an Invasive Species in the extreme. They appear on the list of the 100 Worst Alien Invasive Species in the World and we have them on Pender.

The American Bullfrog Rana (Lithobates) catesbeiana is a large brilliant green amphibian. It occurs in nature only in North America, from southern Québec and Ontario, throughout the Mississippi drainage, south to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico. Its natural range does not extend across the prairies and Great Plains or west of the Rocky Mountains.  Unfortunately, this extremely invasive species was introduced to the Pender Islands several years ago, and its numbers are increasing.

Why was this invasive species introduced outside its range? And why are thriving populations of bullfrogs found all over the world? Simple: people imported and released them. Some people wanted to have nice big fat frogs to enhance their tiny aesthetic pond. Others thought of starting commercial farms to supply frogs and tadpoles for fish bait, pets, educational dissection, and human consumption. For the most part, ‘frog farming’ has proven not to be a viable enterprise and many ‘frog farmers’ simply released the frogs or allowed them to escape when the business failed. In any case, these projects inevitably resulted in unwanted, noisy, and ecologically damaging American bullfrog populations.

Adult bull frogs are carnivorous, cannibalistic, and feed ravenously. Each female produces 20,000 or more eggs in a season. The eggs hatch after only a few days. Tadpoles transform (metamorphose) into juvenile frogs by summer’s end. Many of these will leave their home lake on warm rainy nights and head off overland to colonize new lakes and ponds. Because the aquatic tadpole stage is long, bullfrog populations can become established only in permanent water bodies - although temporary pools, ditches and ponds can act as way-stations for transients.

American Bullfrog populations are ecologically destructive. They eat everything: wild and domestic ducklings, hummingbirds, ground-nesting birds, fish, other frogs, and anything that may come within their range. Their presence can radically alter local biodiversity. Because of their abundant egg laying and the lack of predators, their numbers can increase rapidly over a short period of time. Ignoring the problem will only allow it to worsen.

The Pender Islands Conservancy Association is working closely with the Pender Islands Farmers Institute which has continued to work towards eradication of the Bullfrogs on these islands since 2011. The eradication program is managed by volunteers with the help of conservation biologist and amphibian and reptile specialist, Stan A. Orchard, President of Inc. 

If you wish to assist in continuing this eradication program, so we can declare Pender Island bullfrog-free, please volunteer. Contact the Pender Islands Farmers Institute or the Pender Island Conservancy Association. You can also help by donating funds directly to the bullfrog eradication project. Please monitor your ponds, wetlands, or other fresh water bodies; we need to know how far the bullfrogs have spread.

Many of PICA’s projects rely on membership dues and donations for funding. Because PICA is a registered charity all dues and donations receive a tax receipt. You can drop off a cheque at the Pender Island Realty office or donate on-line through the PICA website and use the “Donate Now” button.

Mark your calendar: PICA and PIFN are co-sponsoring Pender Islands' 4th annual Christmas Bird Count for Kids, to be held this year on Thursday, December 29th at 10 am. To pre-register, or for more information, contact Jill at 3126, or email 

Sara Steil and Rhondda Porter

November, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

On Saturday, October 1st about 60 people gathered in the Parish Hall to listen to a fascinating talk by Jackie Hildering, one of the co-founders of MERS, the Marine Education and Research Society.  Her talk, “The Return of the Giants”, was an entertaining and educational introduction to Humpback whales, the gentle giants, returning from the brink of extinction.

MERS has been doing research in the area between Port Hardy and Comox as part of a campaign to prevent whale and vessel collisions.  As the number of whales increases so does the risk of collision. The average Humpback is the size of a large school bus and a collision can result in death or serious injury to the whale and considerable damage to the vessel.  MERS researchers are doing population studies of humpback whales.  They are also looking at the diet of the whales, how and where they feed, and how the risk of collision and entanglement can be reduced through education and training.

Humpback whales are baleen whales and filter their food from the 20,000 litres they take in with each mouthful of water.  Among the curious details that Jackie sprinkled throughout her talk was the fact that no one knows how humpbacks find their food.  They have no biosonar and unlike orcas, do not use echolocation.  This means that a humpback whale may have no idea that boat is near and may surface directly in front of one.

Among the curious facts that Jackie mentioned was the relationship between whales and barnacles. Many pictures of the bodies and fins of adult baleen whales show large patches of barnacles.  Each species of whale has its own species of barnacle.  Most articles say that these barnacles are just along for the ride and neither help nor harm the whale.  Jackie suggested that for humpback whales, these razor-sharp-toothed creatures living on their fins and bodies would act as the first line of defense against attacks by orca.  Trying to take a bite out of a humpback and getting a mouthful of tongue-cutting barnacles would deter all but the most determined of orcas.  There are no records of orca killing adult humpbacks, but mammal-eating orca will attack and kill humpback calves if the adults are unsuccessful in driving them off.  Predation by orca is believed to be the major cause of humpback calf death.

One of the most spectacular of sights at sea is a breaching humpback.  Again, there is no definitive answer as to why humpbacks breach.  Jackie suggests that in all things humpback, it is important to consider the context.  The whales may be posturing to show how big they are; they may be irritated by a boat which is too close, or it could simply be calves playing.  When ‘Maude’ - a 14.7 metre long humpback - breached in the middle of a group of kayakers, she might simply have been curious about the nature of these strange shapes floating above her.

The fact that there are any humpbacks left to thrill kayakers and boaters is something of a miracle.  In 1905 there were an estimated 4000 humpbacks off the west coast of Vancouver Island and an active whaling industry.   In the 1970s there were only about 1,400 humpbacks in the whole of the North Pacific.  Globally, 90 to 95% of all humpbacks had been killed.  In 1985 there were fewer than 5 humpbacks in BC waters; today 79 distinct individuals have been identified.

One of the fascinating parts of the humpback whale research has been the study of the different feeding strategies that different whales use on different parts of the coast.  Jackie explained and showed videos of humpbacks using bubble netting, lunge feeding, and trap feeding, the latter a strategy not reported elsewhere.  This research is key to understanding the movements of humpbacks along the coast as the location of populations of herring, pilchard, capelin, sand lance, and krill will determine where humpbacks will congregate to feed.

One of the goals of MERS is to reduce the threats to humpbacks.  In addition to vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear and marine debris could be a significant factor in humpback mortality.  A study of scarring on the bodies and fins of humpback whales shows that at least 47% of all humpbacks have been entangled at least once in their lives.  Due to their size, few humpback carcases get washed ashore; most sink to the bottom of the ocean, so the number of deaths due to entanglement is hard to calculate.

How can boaters help?  “See a Blow? Go Slow!”  Unlike orca, which usually swim in straight lines close to the surface, humpbacks tend to swim in more random circular patterns well below the surface, and may come up to breathe only once every 20 minutes.  If you are out on the water and see a whale entangled in fishing gear, don’t try to disentangle it yourself.  This is a job for experts. Instead, try to keep track of the whale’s location and contact the Department of Fisheries reporting line 1-800-465-4336 or the Coast Guard on VHF 16, or better still, both.  To learn more about humpback and minke whales, visit the MERS website at or follow them on Facebook.  Don’t forget to visit the PICA website for information on our projects and events. You can also follow us on Facebook at

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

October, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

In August volunteers from PICA helped to begin mapping the kelp beds around the Penders. September’s PICA article reported on the team’s involvement in the mapping of kelp forests in the Salish Sea with researchers from UVic and Sea Change. Most people are familiar with the sight of kelp either at sea or washed up on the shore after a storm, but probably give little thought to the importance of kelp.  Kelp is not just beneficial for marine ecosystems, it also benefits everyone who lives along the coast. Rafts of kelp close to shore act as a natural form of wave abatement. As kayakers know, if you find yourself in rough seas, head for a bed of kelp and drape the strands of kelp across your bow and stern to stabilize your kayak until it is safe to move on. Along coast lines kelp rafts help soften the force of the waves hitting the shoreline and thereby help to reduce the erosion of the beach.

Scientists are now just beginning to recognize the importance of kelp as a global carbon sink, which brings us to sea otters and sea urchins. A recent article in the Guardian Weekly (22.07.16 page 32) reported on research which has been done in Alaska by James Estes, an American marine biologist. Rather than studying food chains from the bottom up, from algae to plankton, and fish and seals further up the chain, he started at the top and worked his way down. For the past 45 years he has been studying how marine and terrestrial predators can change marine and land environments. His research considers how predators can influence the health of plants, kelp in particular. He also concludes that kelp has the capacity to absorb billions of kilograms of carbon, so healthy kelp forests are essential to controlling rising levels of carbon dioxide, which brings us to sea otters.

Estes found that areas with healthy sea otter populations had healthy kelp forests. Sea otters are the main predator of sea urchins. Sea urchins are herbivores and kelp is their ‘grass’. The areas he studied where there were no sea otters had no kelp forests, just huge sea urchins littering the ocean floor, an ocean floor desert.

There are two main kinds of sea urchins found off the Pacific Coast: red sea urchins, which can live to be more than 100 years old, and green sea urchins, which live on average 25 years. Both species are found along the shorelines of the Salish Sea, although green urchins are more common. Here, there are no sea otter colonies to help keep the sea urchin population under control. If we have sea urchins but no sea otters, why do we have any kelp beds to map? The answer may surprise you. BC has a thriving sea urchin fishery and one of the planned for and recognized outcomes is a reduction in the number of sea urchins to help to protect the kelp. The sea urchins are harvested by divers and shipped to Asia, primarily to Japan, where they are a favourite in sushi. Good news for the kelp.

Another good news story from the Salish Sea is the return of the humpback whales. Humpbacks were virtually wiped out in many areas of the world as a result of commercial whaling. A whaling station on Northern Vancouver Island wasn’t closed until 1967, the year after an international ban on commercial whaling took effect. Recently in the US, the National Marine Fisheries Service took most humpbacks off the endangered species list. They have identified 14 distinct populations of humpbacks around the world and have said that nine of these have recovered to the point where they are no longer endangered. To learn more about the return of these gentle giants to the Salish Sea be at the Anglican Parish Hall on Saturday, October 1st at 4:00pm for “They’re big, they’re beautiful, and they’re back from the brink of extinction!” with Jackie Hildering, a researcher with the Marine Education and Research Society (MERS).

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

September, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Kelp Mapping Project

Last month, volunteers from PICA helped with an ongoing kelp mapping project being run jointly by Sea Change and University of Victoria. Bull Kelp (Nereocysitis luetkeana) is a large annual seaweed that comprise large underwater forests in coastal waters from Alaska to California, and are common to the Gulf Islands and the Salish Sea.  They are very important to the ecosystems of the coast as they provide habitat to an incredible variety of organisms, from plankton to crustaceans, snails to small salmon, sea otters to waterfowl. Unfortunately, bull kelp forests are vulnerable to changes in the ecosystems in which they live.  They are negatively affected by changes in temperature and salinity of the water, increased silt and toxins in runoff and an increase in creatures that feed on the kelp. (Declines in sea otter populations in the past and the current collapse of starfish populations have lead to a great increase in the numbers of sea urchin, who love to munch on kelp).

It appears that the kelp forests in the Salish Sea are declining; the beds are fewer and more sparse. This is of great concern, but there is little data about the previous sizes of kelp beds other than anecdotal observations of long time residents of the area. In order to reliably measure the changes in kelp beds, base line data has to be obtained.  Mayne Island Conservancy and other volunteers have been mapping out and monitoring kelp beds around Mayne for six years now, using a combination of satellite photos, and on-the-water- mapping using hand held GPS devices.  There is no reliable evidence regarding the kelp beds around Pender.

To that end, a small handful of volunteers, led by researchers Leanna Boyer from Sea Change and Sarah Schroeder from the University of Victoria, went out at low tide in canoes and kayaks.  Armed with GPS devices and weighted tape measures we sought out and mapped kelp beds in the waters around Pender Island.  Since we could only map for an hour on each side of lowest tide, it took three days (kelp beds are easier to see at low tide, and sticking to this timetable allows for standardization in data from other areas and years of mapping). Unfortunately we were unable to cover all the known kelp beds, but it was a good start. Hopefully, we will get more volunteers next year and will be able to cover more ground—um...water.

According to Leanna, the kelp mapping was a great success, and it is hoped that it will continue in years to come under the leadership of community volunteers.  For more information check out the link at

Elizabeth Miles

August, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Living on an island we are constantly made aware of the waters around us, whether we are travelling by ferry, out in our boats, kayaking, diving or standing on shore watching passing whales. The waterways of the Salish Sea are heavily used by humans and yet these waters are also home to an amazing variety of life, from the tiniest of zooplankton to the smallest forage fish and the largest whale. Over the years a number of groups and dedicated individuals have been working to create a National Marine Conservation Area. What is a National Marine Conservation Area (NMCA) and why is the implementation of the NMCA for the Salish Sea so urgently needed?

Over time, people became aware that the biodiversity of the marine ecology of the Southern Strait of Georgia was becoming in peril due to over use of the marine waters in this high traffic area. As a result, in 1995, the idea of a Southern Strait of Georgia Marine Protected Area was born. This area was first proposed for national protection over 40 years ago. The NMCA will protect about 1400 sq. km of ocean surrounding the southern Gulf Islands. .

The Southern Strait of Georgia is home to more than 3000 species. These include many “world giants” such as the world’s largest octopus, 100-year-old rockfish, forage fish spawning habitat with nurseries of eelgrass meadows and kelp beds, schools of herring and salmon, millions of birds, as well as seals and sea lions, dolphins and whales, including the iconic Endangered Southern Resident Orca Whales (largest of the dolphin family), and they are all in peril.

The incredible natural beauty and abundance of life led scientists, including world-renowned ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, to call for its protection back in 1970. In 2003, Parks Canada and the provincial government began working to establish the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area, but over a decade later, the area is still not protected.

National Marine Conservation Areas are a type of marine protected areas created by Parks Canada, which have the same goals as a national park – conservation, public understanding, appreciation, and enjoyment – in addition to the goal of sustainable use. Activities such as commercial and recreational fishing, shipping, transportation, tourism and recreation are still allowed in the region, but are managed in a conservation-oriented manner. Traditional food, social, and ceremonial harvesting by First Nations peoples are also allowed.

Exclusions include a network of ‘no-take’ core areas with buffer zones, as well as, special management zones (such as whale sanctuaries, research-only areas, and eelgrass protection sites), Also excluded from these areas are activities harmful to marine ecosystems including bottom trawling, large-scale dredging, dumping, salmon aquaculture and non-renewable resource development.

The waters of the Southern Strait of Georgia are a source of resources, transportation, recreation and inspiration for millions of humans, and a home to many plants and animals whose health and well-being is intimately connected to our quality of life. Known by Coast Salish peoples as “SQELATES” (meaning “home”), this very special body of water has long been revered for its role in nurturing both human and natural ecosystems.

Those of us who call the Salish Sea home or visit these waters will strongly agree that this stretch of ocean should be protected forever – from the seabed to the shore – before it’s too late! What can you do to help? While the boundary will be finalized during the next stage of discussions, the area proposed for the NMCA extends from Haro Strait to Gabriola Island and provide protection for a variety of marine life, including the endangered orca. You can help to protect this incredible natural habitat by showing your support for the Southern Strait of Georgia National Marine Conservation Area to protect the diverse marine life in this bustling body of water. The Canadians Parks and Wilderness Society is one the groups pushing to protect this area.  Go to their website and learn how to send an email to the provincial government.  Just click on the banner of the pod of orca and let the Minister know that you support the NMCA.

PICA is currently involved in three projects which directly involve life in the Salish Sea. A team of volunteers regularly monitors beaches for signs of forage fish eggs. We are also working with a team from Sea Change in the restoration of eel grass meadows. Our newest project, which begins this month again with Sea Change, involves the mapping of kelp beds from the water and then comparing the GPS coordinates with satellite images. Visit our website or find us on Facebook and learn more about what we are doing and how you can get involved.

Sara Steil and Rhondda Porter

July, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

I know that it is hard to believe, but the educational panels have been installed in the kiosk at Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary.  It is intended that the panels will serve to give an insight into some of the special features of the Sanctuary.  The information on forage fish illustrates the need to protect the beach from excessive disturbances in order to protect this spawning habitat for surf smelt.  The ecology of the Sanctuary includes rare plant species and ecological communities, particularly in the brackish marsh, which are deserving of protection.  The marsh also plays host to a number of migratory birds. The coastal bluff and the upland forest also have their own characteristic ecological communities.  Recognition of the significance of W̱SÁNEĆ (Saanich) First Nations' history at Medicine Beach and the ongoing protection of this historical site are of major importance.  It is hoped that a closer relationship between our local First Nations and the Pender Islands' communities will result.  All in all, it is hoped that with this new source of information at the Sanctuary that this gem on North Pender will provide even greater enjoyment and provide a learning experience to both locals and visitors to the nature sanctuary and beach while increasing awareness of the ecological sensitivity of this location.

The Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary was established in 1995 through fund-raising activities by PICA  and donated to the Islands Trust Fund.  PICA is the manager of the 8.44 hectare (20.12 acre) site which is protected by conservation covenants jointly held by the Habitat Acquisition Trust and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.  The Sanctuary is inspected annually by the co-covenant holders to determine the overall health and status of the ecological communities. 

The driftwood on the beach should not be removed as it provides important protection to the berm/midden and in turn the marsh from wave action during winter storms and high tides.  The influx of seawater into the marsh through the drainage channel during storm activity maintains the salinity of this habitat rendering it suitable for a variety of salt tolerant plant and animal communities.  Two ephemeral streams and a year-round spring-fed stream flow into the marsh from three different watersheds.

In spite of regulations to the contrary there have been at least two beach fires on Medicine Beach during the dry weather this year. Pender Island Fire and Rescue and the R.C.M.P. have been made aware of these incidents.  Please be fire aware and report open fires.  Also, please “Pack in/Pack out”, the dogipot receptacles are for pet waste only.

For current infomation on matters of conservation interest on the Pender Islands visit our website at

Graham Boffey
PICA Chair

June, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

May 5th PICA held its annual AGM at the Parish Hall.  At the meeting the Board presented its Annual Report and year-end financials.  The Board said farewell to John Chapman who is leaving the Board and welcomed our new board member, Elizabeth Miles.  The draft minutes of the 2016 AGM are on the PICA website as is the 2016 Report from the Board.  Go to  

After the short business meeting and refreshments, we welcomed Chris Genovali from the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.  Chris is the Executive Director of Raincoast and came to our AGM to talk about the Great Bear Rainforest, the work which has been done to protect it and the work which remains.

Chris began his talk by giving us a bit of background to the work of Raincoast by outlining the Foundation’s commitment to conservation, research and advocacy.   Their vision for coastal BC is “to secure protection for the habitats and resources of umbrella species” and to "investigate, inform, and inspire".  They do this by taking their scientific research to decision makers and communities to inspire people to take action to protect wildlife and wilderness habitats. 

The Great Bear Rainforest covers approximately 60,000 square kilometres (6 million hectares), which is about the size of two Switzerlands.  This area contains one of the largest intact tracts of temperate coastal rainforest.  The struggle to protect this area began in the 1990’s.  Earlier this year, the provincial government announced that a land use agreement had been reached and that 85% of the Great Bear Rainforest was now protected.  However, as Chris pointed out, this isn’t actually true. The new agreement protects 43% of the area through "eco-based management" which determines forestry practices.  The 42% defined as protected areas covers only 38% of the actual land mass.  Part of the agreement included a limited number of “focal species”, but Coastal wolves and wild salmon, a foundation species for coastal ecosystems, were not included.  

Many people who read the newspaper articles announcing the agreement may have thought that the announced protection would mean an end to trophy hunting in the area.  Chris explained that this is unfortunately not the case. Trophy hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest continues.  Chris pointed out that all the announcement means is that Raincoast and Coastal First Nations can purchase the commercial hunting tenures and the kill quota attached to the tenure will be permanently retired.  Hunting tenures are huge; one which Raincoast has managed to purchase was 24,000 square kilometres, and that was a relatively small one. (The Great Bear Rainforest includes portions of multiple commercial hunting tenures.)  However, the commercial trophy hunting announcement by the province does nothing to address the issue of trophy hunting by BC residents.  This hunt accounts for 60% of the grizzly kill in the Great Bear Rainforest.  Another animal which is accorded little or no protection from trophy hunting is the black bear.  Coastal black bears are particularly vulnerable when they come down to the estuaries to eat grass in the spring when the hunt opens.  They become “sitting ducks” as they feed in areas with little or no tree cover.  They are also “sitting ducks” in the fall when they come down to the streams and rivers to feed on salmon prior to hibernation.  Although it is illegal to kill the white ‘Spirit Bear’, there is no protection for the black bears, some of which carry the recessive gene which gives rise to the white form of the bear.

Since bear viewing generates ten times the revenue of trophy hunting, as Chris said, “It makes more sense to shoot bears with cameras.”

April 23rd was a wonderfully successful Beach Clean-up.  Look for Elizabeth Miles’ full report at the front of this month’s issue of the Pender Post.  Look here for pictures of the happy event.

Did you know that June 8th is World Oceans Day?  The original proposal for the day was made by Canada in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  After years of unofficial celebration, this day was officially recognized by the United Nations in 2008.  If you read the most recent copy of Seaside Magazine, you will have noticed that on Sunday, June 5th, the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea will be hosting a “big, outdoor party at Beacon Park on the Sidney waterfront” from 10am to 3pm to celebrate all things ‘ocean’.  

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

May, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar Event:
May 5 PICA Annual General Meeting and Great Bear Rainforest talk Parish Hall 7pm

PICA is holding its Annual General Meeting on Thursday, May 7th in the Anglican Parish Hall. You will be able to join PICA or renew your membership at the meeting. Everyone is welcome to attend the AGM, but only members will be able to vote. Following the business part of the AGM and a short break for refreshments, Chris Genovali of Raincoast Conservation Foundation, will talk about their work to protect the Great Bear Rainforest.

The Great Bear Rainforest is a 6.4 million hectare area of temperate rainforest on the north-central coast of the province. This area is part of the Pacific temperate rainforest ecoregion and is home to cougars, wolves, salmon, grizzly bears, and the white Kermode or Spirit bear, a unique subspecies of the black bear. The area got its name in the mid 1990’s when environmental groups and First Nations recognized that logging and resource development would soon destroy much of the remaining old-growth timber. Only this year did the Provincial government reach an agreement to protect 85% of the area from industrial logging. Following Chris’s talk, there will be an opportunity to ask questions and discuss some of the conservation issues involved in protecting endangered ecosystems.

As Executive Director of Raincoast, Chris has made it a priority to partner with coastal communities to monitor wildlife, keep ecosystems intact and healthy, and encourage the development of local conservation science. Before joining Raincoast in 1998, Chris led campaigns at the Wilderness Committee to conserve temperate rainforests and wildlife on southern Vancouver Island and coastal BC. Chris is a prolific writer, with articles, op-eds and features on Canadian wildlife and conservation issues widely published in Canada and internationally, including the Vancouver Sun, Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and Guardian UK. We are fortunate that he was able to take the time to come to Pender to speak to us. Please join us on May 5th at 7:00 pm at the Anglican Parish Hall.

By the time you read this, PICA’s Annual Beach Clean-up will be over for another year. Once again the success of the event depended on the hard work of the organizers, Elizabeth Miles and Trinette Prior, and their team of volunteers. Thanks to everyone who scoured the beaches and dragged in bags of litter to our drop off at the Medicine Beach Liquor Store parking lot. Thanks also to our sponsors and to the people who donated prizes. A complete write up of the event, including the total amount of debris collected and the prize winners will appear in the June Pender Post.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

March, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

March brings us a couple of special days related to the environment.  March 21st is the International Day of Forests, a day chosen by the United Nations to highlight the importance of the world's forests. The theme of this year's event is "Forests and Water / Sustain Life and Livelihoods".  The day is intended to draw attention to the importance of water in the "broader context of sustainable development.”  The International Day of Forests is followed on March 22 by World Water Day, chosen by the United Nations to draw attention to the many issues concerning water.  The theme for 2016 is water and jobs, to show how "quantity and quality of water can change workers' lives and livelihoods and even transform societies and economies."

According to statistics compiled by the UN, "Seventy-five percent of freshwater used for household, agricultural and industrial needs is provided through forested catchments", so it is easy to see how closely connected the themes of the two days are.

Locally, last October 10 we had our own Water Day.  We had the opportunity to hear a presentation from Dr. Jim Henderson about the groundwater on Pender and how important it is for us to plan for the future.  He also spoke about the importance of forested land in replenishing the water in our aquifers.  If you missed the talk or would like a refresher, you can see the information that he presented archived under Events on this PICA website.

PICA’s Forage Fish Monitoring team is hard at work, checking more of Pender's beaches for signs of sand lance and surf smelt eggs.  Many of Pender's beaches have an ideal configuration and location for forage fish spawning and we continue to check new beaches to add to our list.  If you are interested in joining the team, you can contact team leader Jon at 3748.  No experience or special equipment is required, just enthusiasm and a desire to become a "citizen scientist”.  All the data collected is forwarded to a forage fish biologist and shared with other scientists.

The Salmon People are continuing their work on restoring Chum salmon to Hope Bay Stream.  On January 20, 35,000 Chum eggs were placed in an incubation cassette in the stream.  Volunteers monitored the stream temperature daily and kept track of the ATUs (accumulated thermal units) to see when the eggs might hatch.  As a result of a flash flood after a couple of days of torrential rain in the middle of February, the cassette was dislodged.  Only a rope kept it from being washed out to sea. If this year was similar to last year, the eggs should have hatched and the alevin should have been out of the cassette and hiding in the gravel living off their egg sacs and hanging on tightly before the flash flood came.  Volunteers will continue to monitor the stream and check for fry.

Next month PICA will again be sponsoring the Annual Beach Clean-up in honour of Earth Day.   Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 23.  We are currently up-dating our list of Adopt-a-Beach volunteers.  If you have already adopted a beach, or if you have a beach that you would like to adopt, please contact one of the program coordinators: Trinette (2213) or Elizabeth (250-539-8843).   Adopt-a-Beach volunteers work year round collecting litter and other debris brought in by the tide. There is usually more than enough debris, especially in winter, to go around.  If you have a regular beach that you visit and already pick up debris as you walk or kayak, please let us know.  We would like to be able to have volunteers for every beach on Pender, and there are a lot of them!

To find out what PICA volunteers are doing, follow us on Facebook.  Don't forget to check our website for information on local conservation-related events and topics.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

February, 2016
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Have you ever wondered what you might be stepping on as you roam the beaches of North and South Pender?  Maybe “critters” not seen by the naked eye?  Perhaps it might be the embryos of several types of forage fish that spawn on these beaches of the Salish Sea.  These fish feed on zooplancton which is at the bottom of the food chain; the top being the three resident endangered Orca pods that live in these waters.

There are two types of forage fish that spawn here, Pacific surf smelt and sand lance (needlefish or sand eel).  They range throughout the near marine shores from Alaska to California. Surf smelts are a small, silvery, pelagic schooling fish. They are about 9" in length; olive green in colour with silver or yellow side bands.Their scales are small and they have an adipose fin.  Their life span is about 3-5 years.  Sand lances grow to 8".  Their dorsal fin is grey-green in colour with silver sides.  The elongated pointed body has no adipose fin and the scales are almost invivisible.  Their life span is about 7 years.  Both types are repeat spawners and both spawn during the winter months.  On the San Juan Islands, the surf smelts spawn year round.

Both types of fish lay their eggs in coarse sand or pea-size gravel 1 – 2 metres below the high tide line.  They are repeat spawners throughout the spawning season.  These eggs, too small to be seen by the naked eye, are very susceptible to shoreline disruptions, i.e. development, pollution, and recreational activities.  Vegetation above the high, high tide line is of great importance as shade from trees and bushes regulate the temperature of the air and sand.  Therefore it is of great importance that landowners maintain or restore these shore line for spawning purposes.

Of great importance for the survival of these juvenile fish are Eel Grass beds, which provide food and hiding places.  These grasses attract more than 70 species of fish, invertabrates and a 100 species of algae.  These young fish feed on the zooplancton which is attatched to the green algae.

Eel Grass is not a seaweed but a green, ribbon-like grass that grows near the shore line.  These beds can often be seen at low tide.  This grass produces oxygen, and plays a role in global climate change and a critical role in ocean cycles.  They also protect coastlines by slowing down wave and currant actions.  There are many threats that affect these beds, from industrial and residential developments, to fertilizer and sewage runoffs.  Recreational activities are boat discharges, the dragging of anchors and propellers that can rip the young grasses.  As these grasses need sunlight to grow, the placement of docks is important.  These beds  are protected by law (The Federal Fisheries Act, Section 35).  If planning a project that might impact fish habitat, contact BC Ministry of Environment, Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Why not join us for about an hour or so to look for forage fish eggs that we can't see?  The sand samples are then looked at under a microscope for any signs of life.  A number of beaches on Pender Island have tested positive.  If you would care to join us, contact anyone at PICA.

Patti Badcock, Eleanor Brownlee

December, 2015
Medicine Beach Report

Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary at the head of Bedwell Harbour on North Pender Island has been a place of human experience for thousands of years.  Prior to the arrival of the first European settlers in the 1800's Medicine Beach was a location of the summer camps of the Coast Salish W̱SÁNEĆ First Nations or “saltwater people” where fishing, clam collection, plant and berry collecting occurred. The diverse ecology of the 8.44 hectare (20 acre) property is protected in perpetuity by conservation covenants held by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Habitat Acquisition Trust.

The Sanctuary, located in the endangered Coastal Douglas Fir zone, consists of a forested area, coastal bluffs and a brackish marsh which provide the community with a year round exceptional educational opportunity for learning about the inter-relationships between these ecological communities and their influence upon wildlife.  The beach is a popular place for relaxation and enjoyment by Pender Islanders and visitors.

Wandering along the beach one can find a variety of inter-tidal marine life, some adapted to living under the shattered rocks on the foreshore such as shore crabs, periwinkles and limpets, other species, particularly those sensitive to desiccation including the brilliantly coloured nudibranchs and sea cucumbers, surviving the period between tides in a pool or in the shallows along the shore.  After searching, always return rocks to the same place.  The foreshore provides habitat for the deposition and development of the eggs of the Surf smelt, an important forage fish species that provides food for many species of sea life including predatory fish, marine mammals and marine birds.  Never remove natural materials from the beach; kelp, driftwood, rocks, sand and gravel are essential habitat.

The brackish marsh is rare in the Gulf Islands and is a location where visiting birds may be observed during their migrations.  The blue-listed Henderson's checker-mallow is a member of the resident flora in the marsh but is threatened by the dietary habits of the Island's over population of black-tailed deer.  The logs and driftwood provide protection for the berm.

A clearly marked trail through the Douglas fir forest leads from Aldridge Road to the parking lot at Medicine Beach.  Visitors are requested to stay on the main trail to avoid ecosystem damage.  Oregon beaked moss provides a carpet under the trees and a variety of lichens and mosses grow on tree branches.  Unfortunately, invasive Spurge laurel (Daphne sp.) requires constant removal following seed dispersal by bird-life.  This area was logged in the early 1900's and was used as a sheep pasture. Thus, the forest is an example of second growth with evidence of developing mature forest ecological communities.  Western Red Cedar along with Douglas fir are the predominant tree species with Red Alder present in more moist areas.  Some Grand fir is present and an understory of Salal and Swordfern is abundant under the forest canopy.  The Garry Oaks and Arbutus are facing a limited future due to browsing on their seedlings by black-tailed deer.  Western garter snakes and amphibians such as Rough-coated newts and Pacific tree frogs are to be found in the forested areas.

The bluffs are evidence of the geological upheavals to which the area has been subject over millions of years.  The bedrock is a coarse grained sandstone deposited about 80 million years ago in primeval seas more than 200 metres deep and then uplifted by geological pressures, to where in the present day the strata have a near vertical orientation.  This rugged area provides habitat for species including arbutus and nodding onion.

On behalf of the Islands Trust Fund and PICA, a special thank you to those pet owners who are keeping the Sanctuary clean by using the Dogipots located in the parking lot and on the forest trail for collection of dog deposits, but please do not use them for garbage – always remember “pack in, pack out!"

Graham Boffey

November, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

On Saturday, October 10th, a full-to-overflowing crowd gathered at the Community Hall to hear Dr. Jim Henderson’s presentation “Truths and Misconceptions about Pender Islands’ Groundwater: Planning for the Future”.  Gary Steeves welcomed everyone, especially those travelling from other islands, including George Grams from Salt Spring, and Lee Middleton from Saturna.  Bill Deverell introduced Dr. Henderson, who first came to Pender in the early 1990s to study groundwater.  Dr. Henderson is a geophysicist based in Calgary who specializes in risk management as it relates to water. 

Dr. Henderson began his talk by explaining why small islands are such interesting places to study. Since the only potable water comes from rainwater and groundwater, studying the hydrology and answering questions about the water resources and their location becomes manageable.  He began with the four general ‘truths’ about water: 1) Water runs downhill (from high to low pressure); 2) Fresh water floats on salt water; 3) BC owns all groundwater; 4) The only freshwater is rainfall.  He pointed out that even these ‘truths’ are not always true.  For example, due to the area’s unique geophysical structure, Medicine Beach has a saltwater marsh, which means there is salt water floating on top of the fresh water.

In addition to explaining how groundwater data is collected, Dr. Henderson mentioned a number of issues related to water management on Pender and the other Gulf Islands: drought, saline intrusion and other contaminants, especially E. coli, water well interference, seismicity, and lack of alternative natural water sources.  One problem that he referred to several times in his lecture was the lack of a coordinated water management policy on the part of all three levels of government. 

An important part of his presentation was the tables of precipitation data for Pender.  The average for Pender is 803 mm per year.  About one quarter of the rainfall is in spring and summer with three quarters being in fall and winter.  Summer, the time of year with the least precipitation, is also the season of maximum consumption due to the seasonal increase in the number of residents and visitors.  

Drought is defined as any period which has only 60% of the average monthly precipitation.  Based on the historical precipitation data for Pender, every second year there is a summer drought; every third year there is a spring or fall drought; and every fifth year there is a winter drought. The records show that in 1943 there was a drought for the entire year.  Dr. Henderson stressed that water management must depend on the worst years, not on the average years.  Furthermore, total rainfall does not give a real picture of the availability of groundwater since approximately 64% of all rainfall is lost due to evaporation/transpiration and never becomes part of an aquifer.  In addition to total rainfall, a number of other factors influence groundwater recharge including texture and gradation of the surface, topography, temperature, the volume and intensity of rain, and the nature and use of the vegetative cover.  

Dr. Henderson gave us a fairly detailed explanation of the geology of Pender and how this affects groundwater storage and the availability of water from wells.  He referred to geology as “the bank that stores the water”.  Many people think of an aquifer as a bowl of water sitting on bedrock under more porous horizontal layers of rock.  Cross-sections of Pender show that rock layers here are anything but flat.  A view of the rocky shoreline of Medicine Beach from the top of the bluff will emphasize this point.  The geology of Pender is further complicated by the presence of faults.  The geology of Pender help explains why one well will produce ample water while a well on a neighbouring property will be dry. 

According to Dr. Henderson, water availability now and in the future will depend on a number of factors, many of which are within our control.  Protecting aquatic and wetland habitats helps recharge the groundwater.  Trees also play a significant role in recharging ground water by aiding infiltration and preventing run-off.   An island-wide campaign to encourage conservation and rainwater catchment even if it is only for outside use can reduce the drain on groundwater.  Educational programs have been shown to reduce consumption by 10%.  Installing water meters to help detect leaks and charging consumers for water also helps.  Monitoring and metering wells to determine the height of the water table and the quality of the water as well as the amount of water being taken out of the aquifer should be part of an integrated water management plan.  Every island has a limited carrying capacity and unfortunately no research has been done to determine what Pender’s carrying capacity is.  (Carrying capacity is defined as the maximum, equilibrium number of organisms of a particular species that can be supported indefinitely in a given environment.)

Dr. Henderson presented data which showed that 28% of North Pender is currently either protected from development or is agricultural land.  On South Pender almost 50% of the area is either protected or agricultural.  However on both Penders there are undeveloped lots.  On North Pender there are 2100 lots already built on with a potential of 4200 at total build-out.  On South Pender there are 270 lots, not all of which have been built on, but of these lots, 43 have potential for subdivision.  Every house that is built will require access to fresh water.  At some point there may not be enough water for everyone.

A major problem for islands is the fact that excessive extraction of groundwater through wells can deplete the aquifer.  This depletion can result in saltwater intrusion, especially in areas close to the shorelines. Salt water may not be that far down.   A test well at Roesland shows that the freshwater/saltwater boundary is only 56 metres below the surface.   Once aquifers are drawn down to the point of saltwater infiltration, there is no way to reverse the process. Digging deeper wells or additional wells to satisfy the demand is also not a solution.  

The amount of available groundwater is always limited by the amount of rainfall.  As Dr. Henderson pointed out, a change in the amount of precipitation due to climate change is one factor over which we have no control.  However, with effective water management strategies, areas dependant on rainfall for water can plan for the future.  Limiting development and controlling land use will help to protect the groundwater and prevent the rate of depletion from exceeding the rate of recharge. 

If you missed Dr. Henderson’s presentation or if you would like to review some of the data he presented and some of his recommendations there is a link to his slides on the PICA website at  Dr. Henderson’s visit to Pender was sponsored by PITPS and PICA with financial support from the CRD.

On Saturday, October 17th at 1pm, there was a 20th Anniversary party for the Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary.  In 1994, under the leadership of a fledgling PICA, a group of dedicated volunteers came together to rally the community to raise $533,997 to save this remarkable place. A plaque next to the path up the bluff commemorates the successful completion of this incredible community effort.

It was wonderful to have so many of the original fundraising group come together at the beach to share in the celebration and swap stories of their adventures in fundraising.  Andrea Spaulding and Lynne Wells lead the crowd in a verse and chorus of the Medicine Beach song written by David and Andrea.  Andrea read a poem written by a visiting English poet to commemorate Medicine Beach, and then after a chorus of “Happy Birthday” it was time for Lynne to cut the cake.  Slow Coast Coffee donated the coffee for the party. Musicians, Elizabeth Miles, Dobro Bob, Paul Scarnati, and Dan Charman provided us with almost two hours of non-stop music, only stopping once to take a short cake break.  Down on the beach, Jon Ruiz and members of his Forage Fish Monitoring Team, explained the monitoring procedure and demonstrated how samples are collected and prepared.  In the parking lot, Judy Felber set up a table with information about forage fish and a microscope to show what forage fish eggs look like. Thank you to everyone who helped make this event such a success!

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

October, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar entries:  

October 10  Truths and Misconceptions about Pender Islands Groundwater: Planning for the Future 1 pm upstairs in our Community Centre 

October 17  20th Anniversary of the Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary   1 - 3 pm at Medicine Beach

October will be a busy month, with two special PICA-supported events. On Saturday, October 10, PITPS, PICA, and the CRD will host a talk by Dr. Jim Henderson on “Truth and Misconceptions about Pender Islands Groundwater: Planning for the Future”. Dr. Henderson is a PhD geophysicist whose Masters and PhD work involved research on groundwater management on the Pender Islands. Jim’s presentation will provide an overview of water supply for the Islands Trust area, with a special emphasis on North and South Pender Island. He will discuss the limitations on our water supply and current water demands, along with what can be done to reduce demand now and in the future. He will also present an alternative approach to managing water issues on the Islands. Come to the Community Hall at 1pm to learn more about the protection of this vital resource. Admission will be by donation.

The second special event will be held the following Saturday, October 17, at Medicine Beach. Did you know that 20 years ago, in April 1995, the Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary came into being? The story of this remarkable feat on the part of the community is detailed in PICA’s newsletter from December 1995.  Here is part of the story.

On April 30 of this year (1995), Pender Island residents celebrated the successful culmination of a fundraising campaign to save the marsh at Medicine Beach. The effort behind this campaign was a truly remarkable experience for us islanders. It began more than a year before when the Pender Islands Conservancy Association negotiated with the property owners, the Atkins family of Vancouver, for an option-to-purchase on the 20 acre parcel of waterfront that included the 5 acre marsh. The purchase price of $477,000 was just under the assessed value of $500,000 and was a daunting figure in the eyes of the Conservancy directors. There was a mysterious feeling amongst us of actually pulling it off, we just didn’t know how it was to be done. Perhaps this is the advantage of novice fund-raisers—you set off to do the impossible because you don’t know it’s impossible to begin with.

The plan the Conservancy directors presented to the membership was to have an eight-month fundraising campaign. The Islands Trust Fund Board, an Agent of the Crown, had agreed to a request from the Conservancy to hold the property title, thus eliminating future property taxes on the property and creating tax advantages for potential donors to the campaign. Once the property was secured for protection, the Conservancy would manage it under agreement with the Trust Fund Board.

The Atkins family set the wheels in motion with an initial donation of $100,000. Suddenly we had to raise only $377,000. Psychologically this seemed to be achievable. The campaign began September 1 (1994) and the community responded enthusiastically. Over 37 events were held during the next eight months including a celebrity dinner hosted by James Barber, a huge barn dance, an art show, concerts, an auction, a home and garden tour, and many other activities involving all segments of the community. In the end these community efforts raised $267,000 towards the goal.

The visible community support also helped the Conservancy to secure additional funding for the project from other sources: $70,000 from the Habitat Conservation Fund of the BC Ministry of the Ministry of the Environment, $50,000 from Wildlife Habitat Canada, $10,000 from the Nature Conservancy of Canada, and $10,000 from the CRD. With the mounting success of the campaign, the Atkins family increased their initial donation to $127,000 and the fundraising thermometer located at the Driftwood went over the top.

The final fundraising tally is as follows: total amount raised by the campaign $533,997; fundraising expenses $31,859; purchase price $477,000. This leaves a total of $25,138 in a newly established Medicine Beach Management Trust Fund—funds that will be used for the next few years by the Conservancy in looking after the property.

PICA is still responsible for looking after Medicine Beach. In the past year we have added new trail markers, doggy pots, and the framework for an information kiosk which will have three panels with information about the First Nations use of the area and the ecology of the intertidal zone, marsh and upland area. Come and join us from 1 - 3 pm at Medicine Beach on Saturday, October 17 for a birthday beach party (with cake!) to celebrate this remarkable place and the community which made it possible. 

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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September, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar entry:  
October 10 Truths and Misconceptions about Pender Islands Groundwater: Planning for the Future 1 pm upstairs in our Community Centre 

Pender Islands Ground Water presentation:

We are anticipating a very interesting talk about Pender Island groundwater by Dr. Jim Henderson.  This will take place October 10, 1 pm at the Community Hall.  This talk is organised by PITPS (Pender Islands Trust Protection Society) and co-sponsored by PICA (Pender Islands Conservancy Association).  Dr Henderson is a geophysicist whose Masters and Ph.D. work involved research on groundwater management on North and South Pender Islands.  His presentation will provide an overview of water supply including supply limitations.  He will also present an alternative approach for managing our water issues on the Penders.

Why might you be interested in the groundwater of our islands?  Here are a few teasers that will also indicate the timeliness of this topic.

We know that we are in an exceptional summer with high temperatures and little rain. At this writing, the Sunshine Coast has just declared a stage 4 water use - no outside watering with potable waters at all by homes and industry.  Our own CRD has adopted a stage 3 Water Conservation practice - no lawn watering, filling pools/hot tubs/ponds, no washing of vehicles/driveways etc.  Of course these locations - the Sunshine Coast and the CRD - both depend on reservoirs which are seriously depleting, as they are in other locations in BC.

What about wells?  All of us on Pender, save those in Magic Lake Estates, depend on well water or we have cisterns, many of which are filled from a well.  It is much more difficult to determine the amount of water available from a well than in a reservoir or cistern.  As our summer progresses, the level of water in our ground/rocks aquifers is lowering.  Many of our residents experience sea water in their wells at these times, making them useless as a source of drinking water.  But, there is anecdotal and some factual evidence that the occurrences of salinization are increasing.  We have without question always expected that our winter rains will replenish our aquifers. However there is one monitored aquifer on Galiano that is getting lower with each successive year, as is found on the monitored well on Pirates Road on North Pender.  And again, our local climate is shifting in unpredictable ways, accompanied by a gradual rising of ocean levels.   Can we expect the same winter rainfalls we have always enjoyed in the past?  (`Enjoyed' is a fresh meaning for our winter wet period.)

Our increasing population puts heavier demands on our aquifers.  This also happens for the summer influx of part-timers and visitors.  Do you know the capacity of the aquifer your well draws from. Likely not.  Do you know your own consumption needs?  Likely not.  Do you know how many other wells are drawing from your aquifer?  It is likely that you, like me, know little about your aquifer. We need to be gathering data on our Pender wells and aquifers, an activity presumably done by the CRD and/or our Provincial Government.  After listening to Jim we may better know what questions to ask and to whom.

Many of us, including myself, will be very interested in what Jim Henderson has to say about our ground water and aquifers.  Our fresh water supply is precious and at risk.

Hope Bay Salmon Stream update:

PICA has sponsored restoration of the chum salmon-bearing capability of the Hope Bay Stream actively starting in 2010.  Chum were last seen in this area in the mid-80's. Of course, this is a seasonal stream and does not flow during summer.  But Chum spawn on a suitable gravel bed in November-December when the stream is running, and eggs hatch in February-March.  

Eggs and fingerlings have been released in past years.  They have a 4-year lifetime period in the ocean before they return to spawn. We hope to see them in the Hope Bay stream this fall for the first time. That is a desired outcome for this project.  

Much volunteer effort over this time has gone into cleaning up the stream and banks.  Native vegetation was planted along the banks to reduce erosion and to give shade to the fish. However deer have stymied us by choosing to eat the unexpected.  And tree branches have been inadvertently removed in an effort to get more light to the creek.  PICA is altering its strategy about how to make this creek a sustainable salmon stream and outsmart the deer.  Stay tuned for details, and let's see what comes back this fall!

Eel Grass Project update:

PICA is working with Nikki Wright and SeaChange on another habitat restoration project, this one to restore Eel grass meadows.  Eel grass is essential habitat for a number of marine creatures including herring, the main food of Chinook salmon, which in turn are the main food of our resident orcas.  On July 31st volunteers from Pender and Brentwood Bay met at Browning Harbour to attach weights to Eel grass.  About 24 volunteers prepared the seedlings for the divers to plant on the sea bed. This is the second year of this project and in July divers found that 70% of last year's planting had survived. If you missed this event, more Eel grass restoration events are planned for Pender.

John Chapman
PICA board member

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August, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

On Saturday, July 18th a super pod of people gathered at Thieves' Bay for "Celebrating the Orca of the Salish Sea".  They were joined by a transient pod of orca researchers from Whidbey Island and Friday Harbour on San Juan Island.  There were displays, whale adoptions, presentations by Ken Balcolm from the Center for Whale Research, Howard Garrett of the Orca Network, and Jenny Atkinson from The Whale Museum.  The only thing missing was a visit from J pod.

Ken Balcolm gave the audience a chance to ask questions about orcas in general and the southern resident population in particular.  Although residents and transients are classified as one species, research suggests that at least 700,000 years of non-breeding separate transient populations from resident populations.  Transients don't mix with residents.  Transient pods will give way to resident orca if they find themselves in the same waters.  Even northern and southern residents populations have social arrangements which prevent mingling.  If they meet in a channel, they will travel along opposite shores. 

All orca are extremely sensitive to sound.  They can communicate over 30 miles underwater.  There is no commonality between the resident and transient calls, but they can recognize each other acoustically and change direction to avoid contact.  Resident orca are more vocal than transients. Transients, which hunt sea mammals such as seals, don't say much until they gather to celebrate a kill.  

The 81 individuals of the southern resident orca population belong to three pods: J, K and L.  Our local pod, J, has 27 individuals, including the 104-year-old matriarch, Granny, and the four calves born this year.  K pod has 19 members and L pod has 34.  Lolita, who currently is in Miami in a marine park, is one of several young females taken from L pod off Whidbey Island in 1970.  She is the only one of the 46 orca taken from the southern resident population to survive. Efforts continue to have her released and returned to her family.  

Howard Garret of the Orca Network described how the network started and the work that it does in keeping records of orca sightings and collecting demographic data.  Orca Network is a non-profit organization registered in Washington State, dedicated to raising awareness about the whales of the Pacific Northwest (not just orca), and the importance of providing them healthy and safe habitats. You can report orca and other whale sightings to the Orca Network website  The Orca Network also has links to information about the campaign to free Lolita. 

Jenny Atkinson rounded off the presentations with a brief summary of the work of the Whale Museum and then answered a few more questions from the audience.  The Whale Museum collects information on whale and marine mammal sightings.  You can report sightings through the whale hotline at their website  The data which has been collected for over 30 years is being used not just to identify individual orca, but also to identify critical habitat in the hope that law-makers on both sides of the border will take action to protect this endangered indicator species and the habitat it needs to survive.

The Fall Fair will soon be upon us.  Come to the PICA table to say “Hi” and learn more about some of our projects.  We always have room for more volunteers!

Also, don’t forget to visit the PICA website at to find out more about what we do and for links to useful information.  Check us out on Facebook for the latest updates on projects and events.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

Calendar entry:

July 18  “Celebrating Orca of the Salish Sea” – 1:30 to 4:00 at Thieves Bay

July, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Since the beginning of the year, three orca calves have been born to the endangered southern resident orca, bringing the total in the three resident pods, J, K, and L to 81 individuals. It has been several years since so many calves have been born in one year.  With so few individuals, every birth is a cause for celebration.  On July 18th there will be a celebration of the Orca of the Salish Sea beginning at 1:30 at Thieves Bay.  There will be presentations by the Whale Museum, Sound Watch for boaters, and the Orca Network.  Whale research biologist, Ken Balcomb from the Center for Whale Research will be the featured speaker. The Whale Museum will be offering ‘Endangered Resident Orca Pods’ adoptions. Lester Quitzau will be providing music and there will be a “Children’s Corner”.

Parking is limited so please walk, cycle, use Car Stops, carpool or take advantage of the Park & Ride shuttle bus service from the school parking lot. The clinic parking lot can be used for overflow parking. Shuttle service begins at 1:30 pm and continues until 4:15 when the last shuttle bus leaves Thieves Bay.

Bring a picnic lunch and a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy the afternoon with our visitors from the San Juan Islands and Whidbey Island. Don’t forget to bring water and sunscreen. Admission is by donation. Information: Contact Sara at 250-629-6885 /

The celebration is sponsored by the Pender Islands Squadron of the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron, the Pender Islands Conservancy Association, the Pender Islands Trust Protection Society, and supported by the Friends of Brooks Point, the Kikuchi Family, the Pender Islands School Children, and Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS).

Chinook salmon are a keystone species for the marine ecosystem and are the main food for our southern residents (78% of their diet). Overfishing of chinook threatens the well-being of orca and degradation of the marine environment affects the food supply of the smaller fish and invertebrates which feed the chinook.

PICA is involved in a forage fish monitoring program to establish which beaches on the Penders are being used for spawning by forage fish, the small fish which feed the larger fish. Come to Thieves Bay on July 18 to learn more about forage fish and the complex ecosystem which supports the orca. If you are interested in participating in our monitoring project, please contact Patti Badcock or Jon Ruiz.

Correction: In last month’s Pender Post, the excellent article written by Elizabeth Miles about the Annual Beach Clean-up was mistakenly attributed to the writer of this column.  

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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Calendar entry: 

Saturday, July 18 at Thieves Bay from 1:30 to 4:30 – “Celebrating Orca of the Salish Sea”.

June, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Despite the forecast predicting rain, PICA's Annual Beach clean-up for Earth Day held on April 25, did not get rained on. The volunteers came out; the garbage came in, and by the time volunteers had gathered for soup, coffee, and carrot cake at the Slow Coast Café, the sun was shining. At one point the parking lot got so crowded that people coming to drop off household garbage found themselves surrounded by volunteers unloading bits of boats off trailers.

An amazing amount of broken boats and other nautical debris was pulled off our beaches and out of the water: mooring floats, styrofoam from broken up floating docks; and derelict boats, including collapsed Zodiaks, a small dingy, half a canoe and a large aluminum kayak which went to the recycling depot.

Thank you to all the volunteers who came to help clean up the beaches and a special "Thank you" to the organizing committee of Elizabeth Miles and Trinette Prior, and to Margaret Alpen and Bob Simons who coordinated volunteer activities at the sign-in table. Also thanks to all the tall guys, including Director David Howe and Trustee Derek Masselink, who helped unload and sort the arriving debris and load it into the garbage skip.

On Thursday, May 17, PICA held its Annual General Meeting at the Hope Bay Studio. After a presentation of the 2014 Financial Report and the Annual Report from the Board, elections to the Board were held. Two new directors, Patti Badcock and Sara Steil, were welcomed to the Board. The Board bid a reluctant farewell to Paul Petrie who retired from the Board. Paul has agreed to continue as PICA’s Brooks Point liaison with the CRD and the ITF as work on the final covenants continues. Eleanor Brownlee, Graham Chapman, Davy Rippner, Rhondda Porter and Ursula Poepel were re-elected to another two-year term.

After a short break for refreshments, Jim Stafford gave a fascinating talk on “The Archeological Landscape of the Penders”. Jim started his talk by explaining that archeology is the study of the physical remains of past human activities, while landscape archeology is the study of the ways in which people in the past constructed and used the environment around them. Landscape archeology is increasingly being used to validate people’s oral histories. Jim’s talk covered so much information, illustrated by maps, charts, and photos that it was hard to take notes without missing something.

The Coast Salish peoples who lived on the shorelines of the Salish Sea are referred to as the Salt Water people because they had no salmon rivers and instead relied on the bounty of the marine waters. The area inhabited traditionally by the Coast Salish peoples is one of the most inhabited of the province, both now and in the past. The Archeology Branch of the provincial government has a registry of 53 known archeological sites on Pender alone.

Jim took us through a whirlwind historical tour of the paleoclimate and paleobotany of Pender, beginning 14,000 years ago. There was the potential on Pender for the earliest post-glacial inhabitants. Both the Spaulding Valley and the Weins farm were at one time intertidal zones. An aerial photo of the Spaulding Valley shows a semi-circular terrace. Spear points have been found there and the site appears to be 8,000 to 11,000 years old. Changes in sea level mean that some sites in the Gulf Islands are now under water. For example, there is a stratified shell midden on the bottom of Montague Harbour.

Jim introduced us to some of the landscape modifications that First Nations made to their environment. Most of us are familiar with shell middens and the cultivation of Garry oak meadows for camas, but there are other forms of modification. One of the most recently studied is clam gardens. Clam gardens are tended intertidal zones designed increase the number of clams available for harvest. Stones are moved out of the area, down to the water’s edge. From the pictures that Jim showed us, it seems obvious that the rock walls created at the water’s edge could not be natural formations and had to be man-made. For information on clam gardens and pictures go online and do a search. One article of interest is dated May 10th is on the CBC website.

There is ample evidence of the continuous First Nations’ use of the Penders. The area now occupied by Poet’s Cove shows evidence of 5000 years of year-round occupation. Jim mentioned several other archeological sites on Pender including the reef net fishery site off Peter Cove, a number of middens including Medicine Beach and Clam Bay, and burial sites at Bedwell Harbour and Shark Cove. For information on the Shark Cove and Mortimer Spit sites, google archeological sites + Pender and look for the article “The Pender Canal Excavations and the Development of Coast Salish Culture”.

Cultural modifications did not always occur at the water’s edge. There are also inland camps which contain animal and fish bones and lithic scatters (stone tool fragments). On George Hill there is a culturally modified Douglas fir. The tree has a bare patch where the bark was removed possibly to make a storage box. Beacon Hill in Victoria has a number of rock burial mounds which mark family burial sites where the cremated remains were placed. Jim’s talk and slides showed us that what we see in nature may only be part of the story and that the real history of the landscape is still waiting to be discovered.

Our next big event will be “Celebrating Orca of the Salish Sea” on Saturday, July 18th at Thieves Bay. Watch for the posters and check next month’s Pender Post for all the details. Don’t forget to visit the PICA booth at the Farmers’ market on Saturdays. Pender Ocean Defenders (POD) and Pender Island Field Naturalists (PIFN) will be making guest appearances, so come and learn more about the organizations working to protect the environment.

Visit the PICA website for updates on our activities and for links to a number of sources of information and articles.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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May, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar entry:
May 7 - PICA Annual General Meeting, 7pm at the Hope Bay Studio

Fragmentation, Edge Effects, and Invasives

During his fascinating talk in March on the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem, Andy Mackinnon covered a lot of information in a limited time. Among the topics he only had only limited time to mention were habitat fragmentation, edge effects, and invasives. These three related topics are of particular interest to people involved in habitat conservation and habitat restoration.

The term habitat fragmentation refers to the loss of habitat which results in the division of large, continuous habitats into smaller, more isolated ones. The term covers the following: a decrease in the total area of the habitat; the isolation of one area of habitat from another; the cutting up of one larger patch of habitat into several smaller sections; a decrease in the size of each section; and a decrease in the interior to edge ratio. Because habitat fragmentation always involves some degree of habitat destruction, the biodiversity of the remaining fragments is also affected. Plant species tend to be most affected, but birds and animals which inhabit the ecosystem also suffer and may face increased competition for food and in the case of birds, loss of suitable nesting areas or increased predation. (Wikipedia -

The Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem (remnants of which are protected by the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve) has been especially affected by development. In 2006, the BC Ministry of Environment formally designated the Coastal Douglas-fir forests for protection, not just for their rarity, but also for their incredible bio-diversity.

This brings us to ‘edge effects’. The decrease in the interior to edge ratio which results from fragmentation leads to more ‘edges’, as each new section has its own edges, rather than there being one continuous edge around the entire, un-fragmented ecosystem. Small habitat fragments show especially pronounced edge effects. Edge effects include the loss of plants native to that zone due to changes in the amount of light or temperature. The shrubs, plants, and fungi in the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem live under the canopy of the trees. The trees protect them from strong direct sun and help keep the soil cooler and damper. When new ‘edges’ are created by the loss of trees and the shade they provide, native plants such as salal and mahonia tend to be replaced by plants which are more tolerant of drier, more exposed areas. This brings us to invasives.

Invasive plants are those non-native plants which move into native ecosystems from the “edges" created by development. These invasive plants don’t appear magically; they are introduced by humans, often as garden plants, or by road builders to stabilize exposed slopes alongside roads. They move into areas where the native vegetation has been removed and the conditions have been altered to such an extent that the native vegetation will not regrow. Once invasives are in an area they can spread rapidly. In the case of broom and gorse, this is due to their prolific seed production and the long-term viability of their seeds.

What can we do? Don’t plant invasive plants and remove as many as you can. Spring is a good time to work on removing broom and gorse. The plants are putting their energy into flower and seed production so anything you can do to remove or weaken the plants now, will mean fewer plants in the future. For a list of PICA’s ‘Wanted Dead’ invasive species, visit our website at

On Sunday, April 19th, the Friends of Brooks Point hosted another educational Raincoast event at the Hall. Misty and Lori from Raincoast presented up-to-date information about risks of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project to the Salish Sea and the consequences of a spill. Many of the people who attended are involved in some way with submissions to the NEB as part of the mandated review process. If you are interested in participating and learning about the newest research, contact Monica Petrie.

Don’t forget to mark your calendar for PICA’s AGM! Thursday, May 7th at 7pm at the Hope Bay Studio. Come to learn more about PICA’s activities in the past year and our plans for the next. Everyone is welcome. We have a number of on-going projects, plans for a few more, and we can always use more volunteers, no experience necessary! Hope to see you there. 

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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April, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar entries:
April 25 - PICA’s Annual Beach Clean-up in honour of Earth Day.  10am in front of the Slow Coast Cafe
May 7 - PICA 2015 AGM  at Hope Bay Studio at 7pm

On Saturday, March 7th, more than 60 people gathered upstairs in the Community Hall to hear Andy MacKinnon’s presentation “The Coastal Douglas-Fir Zone – Ecology, Status, and Conservation Challenges”.  Among the audience were Parks Canada staff, CRD Director David Howe, the Trustees from South Pender, Wendy Scholefield and Bruce McConchie, and North Pender Trustee, Derek Masselink.  

As Stuart Scholefield reminded us in his introduction, Andy is well-known as the “mushroom man”, but his talk was based on his expertise as a research ecologist with the BC Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.  Andy’s talk was so full of fascinating information that it was hard to take notes without missing some of the information shown in his slides. 

Andy opened his talk with a brief discussion of how any study of ecosystems must consider the system’s geographic and historic context.  After briefly touching on the value of ecosystems as processes which help modify temperature and filter water, Andy began the main part of his talk with one of his favourite subjects: fungi.

Indian pipe, which lacks chlorophyll, is classified in most books as a saprophyte, an organism which lives on dead or decaying organic matter, but Indian pipe has fungal threads which are attached to nearby conifers.  The conifers use chlorophyll to produce sugar, which moves to the roots where fungal threads connect the tree to the Indian pipe.  All the trees in a stand are connected either directly or indirectly through underground fungal threads.  Recent research looks at how the seedlings in a stand are linked to adult trees and how nutrients move along the interconnecting fungal threads.  Fungi attached to roots of seedling firs are the same fungi as the ones on roots of the parent tree. This interconnected system is sometimes referred to as the “wood-wide web”.  The biggest trees are the most connected and the removal of the largest trees in an area will break the fungal web.  About 3000 different fungi species are attached to Douglas-fir roots.

There is very little of the Coastal Douglas-Fir ecosystem left and less than 1% of it is old growth. Other zones, such as the Coastal Western Hemlock and Mountain Hemlock have about 50% of the original area left and much of it is old growth.  In BC, protected forest areas are usually found as parts of Crown land, rather than on property in private hands.  Looking at land ownership in BC, as a whole, approximately 5% is privately owned and 95% is public or Crown land.  In the CDF zone, however, approximately 93% is privately owned, and only 7% is public.  Only about 5% of the CRD zone is protected, in other zones 16% to 17% is protected.  Provincially, 116.6 square km of CDF is protected.   In the CRD 23.9 square km is protected.  The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve protects an additional 28.3 square kilometers.  Within the CDF zone there are 127 plants at risk, 81 animals at risk and 36 ecological communities.  The CDF zone is one of the most biologically diverse zones in the province and the one most threatened by development.

On the landscape level there are a number of factors which affect the CDF zone: fragmentation and edge effects due activities such as road building and urban development and global climate change.  On a more direct local level, vegetation removal and damage, soil removal or compaction, ditching, and invasive plant species all affect the health of the ecosystem.

So, what to do?  Andy suggested the development of an international conservation strategy including more formal protected areas, more private land stewardship activities, tax incentives for conservation, strong invasive species management, restoration and research.  Less than 9% of the remaining Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem is viable mature forest and less than 0.5% is old growth and this remnant is under threat.

Before the audience got too depressed, Andy interjected a hopeful note.  Within the CRD, Victoria has purchased a large area of watershed which it is working to restore.  The long term plan is to restore the area to old growth to protect the water supply of the future, because old growth and older second growth forests make the best watersheds.

After an enthusiastic round of applause and some questions from the audience, Andy and a small group of walkers set out for the GINPR at the end of Hooson Road for a guided walk in the forest.  Fortunately there was time for a second walk, so more people got to hear Andy explain what they were looking at and what they weren’t aware was happening right under their feet.

Don’t Forget!  April 25 is PICA’s annual Beach Clean-up.  The event begins at 10am in front of the Slow Coast Cafe.  There will be snacks, prizes, and a lot of fun as gangs of garbage guys and gals hit the beaches in search of all the junk which has no place in a marine environment.  Come and join the crowd, rain or shine.  If you have questions or want to volunteer with set-up, sorting, or anything else, contact Trinette at 629-2213.

Mark your calendars!  PICA is holding its annual AGM on Thursday, May 7th at the Hope Bay Studio beginning at 7pm.  

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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March, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar entries:
March 7 - Andy MacKinnon – "Coastal Douglas-Fir Ecosytem" 1 to 4 pm at the Community Hall.
April 25 - PICA’s Annual Beach Clean-up in honour of Earth Day – garbage drop off at Medicine Beach Liquor Store parking lot starting at 10 am 

Thursday, February 5th, PICA held its annual community potluck.  About 30 people came together to enjoy a gourmet meal with curries, a variety of salads, sushi, and of course several not-to-be-missed desserts.  After dinner, we had the opportunity to listen to a talk by an expert in ecological restoration, Dave Polster:  "Broom's gone; Now what? Restoration of Sensitive Ecosystems"

Dave Polster is a vegetation ecologist who specializes in the restoration of severely damaged ecosystems.  Through a series of slides, he showed us some of the projects that he has been involved in and some of the challenges of ecosystem restoration.  He gave us the following definition: "Ecological restoration is the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed."  He discussed something most of us had not previously considered - the various values connected to ecosystem restoration.  His diagram illustrated how individual personal values and collective cultural values are connected to individual ecological values and collective socio-economic values.  He used the Garry Oak ecosystem as an example.  The Gary Oak ecosystem is a culturally modified ecosystem, with collective cultural and socio-economic value.  Some Gary Oak meadows show evidence of 4000 years of First Nations’ habitation. Camas-harvesting areas were burned yearly to keep down unwanted vegetation and to encourage the growth of Camas, an important food source.  The use of fire as a management tool by the First Nations, means that when we restore Gary Oak ecosystems we are restoring a culturally modified ecosystem, not a “natural” one.  Restoration of any ecosystem should always start with the question of what we want the end result of the restoration to be and what values need to be considered in the process.

Dave used a variety of slides to illustrate the various ways that we can assist in ecosystem recovery. One of the primary ones is the removal of invasive shrubs, such as broom, English hawthorn and gorse.  Often this is enough to allow native vegetation to regrow.  Since fire is not usually an acceptable management strategy, other methods have been studied.  In one study, involving the restoration of a Garry Oak meadow, only the woody species were removed and the area was mowed.  In another study, an area was mowed twice yearly to allow an endangered plant to recover from an infestation of non-native grass.  Although fire might be a more efficient management tool, regularly mowing of invasives during a period of maximum energy utilization (usually summer) depletes the plants’ energy reserves and allows native species to re-colonize the area.  

In his talk and during the question period after, Dave discussed some of the challenges which groups and individuals face when planning to restore any ecosystem.  One question he raised is whether we should be conducting active management in an ecological reserve.  The answer goes back to the question of what we want the area to return to.  When broom and gorse are being discussed the answer is usually to get rid of them.  However, in addition to invasive alien species there are also invasive native species.  Although we don’t usually consider our native Douglas firs to be invasive, when Gary Oak meadows are not subject to burning, the Douglas Firs begin to take over and change the ecosystem. Regular mowing removes seedlings, but if the goal is to return the area to a Gary Oak ecosystem, some of the firs will need to be limbed to allow more light to reach the ground and other firs will need to be killed by girdling.  Dave showed an example of 200-year-old Gary Oaks which were being crowded out by 50-year-old Douglas firs and how limbing and girdling of the invading firs allowed the Gary Oak ecosystem to re-establish itself, something you might want to think about when you next visit Brooks Point.

Mark Your Calendars!  March 7th at 1pm.  Join us for a special presentation by Andy MacKinnon, Provincial Research Ecologist for the Coast Area with Ministry of Forests, Lands & Natural Resources Operations, and co-author of Plants of Coastal British Columbia.

Andy will be giving a talk on the Coastal Douglas-fir (CDF) bio-geoclimatic zone, an area of "coastal rain shadow forest”   Only fragments of these unique ecosystems remain in an old-growth state and we are in danger of losing what is left.  The protection of this increasingly rare and threatened ecosystem is the reason that the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve was established in the Southern Gulf Islands.

The event commences at 1 pm upstairs at the Community Hall with an opportunity to view information about the CDF, talk to Andy and have him sign your copy of “Plants of Coastal British Columbia” (You still have time to pick one up!).  Andy’s talk will begin at 1:30.  After the talk, you will also have the opportunity to sign up for an ‘out in the field CDF Zone walk-about with Andy’. The number of number of participants for the walk will be limited.  The terrain will be moderate to steep, so bring those hiking boots if you plan to sign up!

Earth Day is coming and so is PICA’s Annual Beach Clean-up!  On Saturday, April 25th, teams of garbage gatherers will descend upon Pender’s beaches to collect the vast array of debris tossed up by the winter seas.  Join us for fun, prizes, and general good feelings as we do our bit to contribute to a cleaner, healthier ocean.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary 

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February, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar entry:
February 5th - PICA’s Annual Community Potluck – “Broom’s Gone, Now What?” - 5:30 in the Parish Hall
March 7th – Endangered: Coastal Douglas-fir Ecosystem with Andy Mackinnon – 1 PM in the Community Hall

Thursday, January 15th an overflow crowd of 130 to 140 people of all ages crammed the upstairs room in the Community Hall to see the Raincoast film “Directly Affected”, and to participate in the panel discussion which followed.  

The evening opened with a welcome sent by Gwen Underwood on behalf of the Tsawout First Nation. 

The introduction to the film, including background information on the NEB hearings into pipeline construction, was presented by Lynne Wells. This introduction was prepared by The Friends of Brooks Point and Raincoast Conservation Foundation to give the audience a bit of the background to the topic. 

Here are a few of the points which were mentioned in the introduction: the NEB tried to restrict participation in the Kinder Morgan hearings in order to shorten the time required to approve the pipeline expansion; the number of interveners in the Kinder Morgan hearing is ten times greater than the number who spoke to the Embridge proposal; and the Federal Government’s view of pipelines as “nation building” is turning out to be true, but not in the way they thought.  The title frame of the film formed the backdrop for the evening’s events.  It read, “Our future. Their pipe dream.” 

The film documented some of history behind pipelines carrying oil to the coast.  When the first Trans Mountain pipeline was constructed 60 years ago, its purpose was to carry crude oil to support local refineries.  This pipeline has a large degree of local support because of the jobs that would be created by the Burnaby refineries. Now the sole purpose of the pipeline is to carry diluted bitumen for export to Asia.  Kinder Morgan isn’t applying to replace their 60-year-old infrastructure; it is applying to add a new “twin” pipeline.   

Among the people “directly affected”, who were interviewed for the film, were some people from an Abbotsford neighbourhood.  In 2012, they had to leave their homes after an oil spill at a tank farm, a tank farm that they weren’t even aware was in their neighbourhood.  In 2007, people living on Inlet Drive in Burnaby had to be evacuated when 200,000 litres of oil spewed from a ruptured pipe, 70,000 of which ended up in Burrard Inlet. The film points out that although these people would be directly affected by the new pipeline, their voices will not be part of the review process. 

One of the highlights of the film was an interview with Robyn Allan.  Robyn Allan has held numerous executive positions in the private and public sectors, including President and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, Vice-President Finance for Parklane Ventures Ltd., and Senior Economist for B.C. Central Credit Union.  She is highly critical of the review process and makes the point that she is in favour of market capitalism, but not unregulated market capitalism.  The film makes the point that the NEB is conducting its own review according to its own rules and that many who are “directly affected” have no voice (including the orcas).

After the showing of the film, the members of the panel, Misty McDuffy (Raincoast), Zack Embee (the film’s producer), Mae Moore (Artist/Founding Member of PODand Adam Olsen (Tsartlip First Nations and interim Leader of the BC Green Party) spoke briefly and then took questions from the audience.  Since the NEB hearings are focussed on economic impacts of the pipeline project, the local First Nations will be in the forefront of the opposition as they seek to assert their Douglas Treaty rights to hunt and fish, not just for subsistence, but commercially. Adam Olsen pointed out that he is descended from reef-net fishermen and under the treaty, they have protected fishing locations scattered around the Salish Sea. They also have a right to “unimpeded access”, and the tanker routes are impeding their right to commercial fishing.  This historic commercial right earned him intervener status at the hearings.

There were a number of questions from the audience as to how the NEB hearings are structured.  The hearings are supposed to be a court with judicial standing.  However, since the Enbridge hearings, the rules have changed to speed up the review.  At the Enbridge hearings, 4000 commenters got to speak, and interveners could cross-examine.  At the Kinder Morgan hearings, commentators can only send in written testimony, and while interveners can speak, they can’t cross examine.  As a result, none of Kinder Morgan’s models to describe risk can be questioned and even the scientific data that they say they used to construct their models does not have to be made available.  Perhaps the last words should go first to the National Energy Board:  “The Board does not intend to consider the environmental and socio-economic effects associated with upstream activities, the development of oil sands, or the downstream use of the oil transported by the pipeline.”  And then to Robyn Allan: “This review process is supposed to determine whether these oil pipeline projects are in the public interest.  How can it effectively fulfill this task with a large part of the public interest concern excluded from their assessment?”

Two poems read by the poets (“Mother Earth on the line”- Leslie McBain and “I am a Casualty” - Crystal Smith de Molina) offered reflections on climate change and the impact of an oil spill.  Brent Marsden auctioned a limited edition of a Mark Hobson Orca print donated by the Friends of Brooks Point as a fundraiser.  In an interesting twist, Laurie from Raincoast proposed that everyone pitch in $5 to purchase the print for the community.  The auction raised $767.75 to cover event expenses and to support future related events.

After the program upstairs, people were invited to go down to the main floor for the last part of the program: information tables from PICA focusing on protecting the marine environment; Raincoast Conservation Foundation; Pender Solar Initiative 2020; Pender Ocean Defenders and Dog Mermaid, which included a life-size replica of J50, the newest member of J POD.

The event was co-sponsored by Raincoast, PICA, Friends of Brooks Point, Dog Mermaid Kayaking and supported by Pender Ocean Defenders, Greenangel Woodchoppers, and the Pender Chamber of Commerce.  A big “Thank you!” to the organizing committee, consisting of representatives from the above groups, for arranging this event and for bringing the community together to discuss the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (K-M TMX).

PICA is holding its Annual Community Potluck at 5:30 on Thursday February 5th.  The potluck will be followed by a presentation by Dave Polster, a plant ecologist, who specializes in ecosystem restoration.  His talk, “Broom’s Gone: Now What?  Next Steps in the Restoration of Sensitive Ecosystems”, will encourage those of us who have diligently removed patches of broom and are now wondering what to do with the empty spots.  Dave has had an extensive career in restoration including streams, cliffs, and mining sites. Come and learn more about habitat restoration.  For all the people on South Pender who are battling broom’s nasty cousin, gorse, I am sure that Dave will have some advice, and of course sympathy!  Even if you aren’t a member of PICA, you are more than welcome to attend.  Come and join us for dinner and an exciting evening of ecology.  Bring some food, an appetite, and your questions.

On March 7th, Andy MacKinnon is coming to the Community Hall from 1 to 4.  He's a research ecologist in the Forests and Coast Forest Region Research Section of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources of British Columbia.  His areas of responsibility include research in forest ecology and ecosystem-based management (EBM), bio-geoclimatic ecosystem classification (BEC) and zone mapping.  He will be discussing the importance of our local Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem.  According to the Centre for Forest Conservation Genetics at the Department of Forestry at UBC, “the CDF is the least protected zone in BC and has the lowest number of large (>250 ha) protected areas.  Most of the protected areas are small, isolated land parcels surrounded by development.”  The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve was established to try to protect some of the larger tracts of this increasingly fragmented ecosystem.  Come to the Hall on March 7th to learn more.  Admission is by donation.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary 

January, 2015
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar entry:
January 15: “Directly Affected”, a film and panel discussion at the Community Hall – 7pm
February 5:  Annual PICA Potluck at the Parish Hall – 5:30pm, speaker at 7:00pm

The new year 2015 is already shaping up to be a very interesting one.  Despite years of opposition by environmentalists, farmers, and First Nations, the Provincial government has approved the Site C dam on the Peace River.  This mega dam will flood 55 square kilometres of river valley, much of it highly productive agricultural land.  The estimated cost of $8.8 billion will make this the largest infrastructure project in the province’s history and one of the most controversial.  In addition to the legal cases currently before the courts, we can expect more public demonstrations of opposition.

The price of oil continues to remain low, making the exploitation of the Athabasca tar sands economically even more questionable.  The environmental cost of these mega extraction projects is incalculable, not that the Federal or Provincial levels of government seem to be willing to acknowledge this.  The large number of people who protested on Burnaby Mountain obviously did not agree, as the opposition to the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline continues.  The National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on the Kinder Morgan proposal have again been postponed, this time until July.  PICA will be there to represent the environmental concerns of islanders.

On January 15th at 7pm, the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and PICA are co-sponsoring the short documentary film “Directly Affected” at the community hall. The film describes how we are all directly affected by the proposed Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion proposal.  After the showing of the film there will be a panel discussion about what we can do to protect our coast.  Downstairs, there will be a number of tables with information about a variety of conservation- related topics.  PICA is co-sponsoring this event as part of our commitment to provide conservation education opportunities on Pender.  Refreshments will be available.

On February 5th, we will be holding our annual potluck at the Parish Hall, starting at 5:30.  In addition to the usual amazing food, we will have a special speaker, Dave Polster, a plant ecologist, who specializes in ecosystem restoration.  He will be discussing strategies for restoration from the general to the specific, including dealing with invasive species.  Dave has had an extensive career in restoration including streams, cliffs, and mining sites.  Come and learn more about projects that we could tackle here on Pender.  Even if you aren’t a member of PICA, come and join us.  Everyone is welcome.  Bring some food, an appetite, and your questions.

On March 7 from 1 to 4 in the Community Hall, the Pender Islands Trust Protection Society and PICA will be sponsoring a presentation by Andy MacKinnon, the province’s leading research ecologist and co-author of “Plants of British Columbia”.  He will discuss the importance of the Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem and why this ecosystem is in peril.  According to the Centre for Forest Conservation Genetics at the Department of Forestry at UBC, “ the CDF is the least protected zone in BC and has the lowest number of large (>250 ha) protected areas.  Of the 80 protected areas, only five are larger than 250 ha, together covering 1% of the zone.  Most of the protected areas are small, isolated land parcels surrounded by development.”  The Gulf Islands National Park Reserve was established to try to protect some of the larger tracts of this increasingly fragmented ecosystem and the threatened and endangered species which call this zone home.  Come to the Hall on March 7 to learn more.  Admission by donation.

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary 

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December, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar entry:  
December 30 - PIFN and PICA host the 2nd Annual CBC4 
Kids at Brooks Point from 10:30 to 1

The season of cold, wet, and possible snow is upon us and while many Penderites are checking their supplies of wood and cozying up in front of their fires, groups of intrepid PICA volunteers are out in the field, working on the Hope Bay Stream, taking samples from beaches for the Forage Fish Monitoring Project, and holding Gardening Parties at the Community Hall.

On November 11th, after the morning Remembrance Day ceremony at the Legion, a group of volunteers met in the afternoon at Hope Bay Stream to continue the work of removing invasive species from the stream banks.  Our target this time was a large area infested by spurge-daphne, aka daphne-laurel.

Spurge-daphne (Daphne laureola) is a small, evergreen shrub with dark, waxy leaves and pale yellowish-green flowers.  This native of southwestern Europe was introduced as an ornamental garden plant, but is now recognized as being a serious invader as it spreads rapidly, especially in shadier, moister areas. Daphne grows rapidly and flowers in its second year.  Large numbers of purple or blackish fruits develop in early summer.  Although the seeds are poisonous to humans, they are palatable to various birds, which aids in their dispersal.  Daphne plants develop deep tap roots and also produce new plants from lateral roots.  It is easier to remove the plants when they are small or when the soil is moist, but cutting the plants off, unless the cuts are well below the soil line, won’t kill them, just slow them down.  Volunteers filled a large black garbage bag with spurge-daphne of various sizes from the very tiny to the very large, but there are still more to remove before we prepare the area for replanting with native shrubs.

PICA is on the list to receive Chum salmon eggs from the Goldstream Hatchery next spring.  In January volunteers will begin to monitor the stream temperature.  If the temperature variance within the stream is too great, the eggs will die from thermal shock, so we need to keep careful records.  After incubation in the stream, the alevin move into the gravel and remain until their egg sacs have been consumed.  It is important that the stream velocity doesn’t move the gravel around, so we are planning on using large rocks and logs to slow the stream down around the hatching area.  We are hoping to see our first returns (from a fry release in 2011), next December.  Old timers on the island remember when there were salmon in Hope Bay Stream, and on November 11th as I watched a determined thirteen-year-old wrestle with a large spurge-daphne, I was thinking that all the volunteer work over the years would mean that one day he would be able to bring his children down to Hope Bay Stream to watch the salmon returning to spawn.  

The Forage Fish Monitoring group continues to meet monthly to take samples from various Pender Island beaches.  Thus far this year we have taken samples from Medicine Beach, Mortimer Spit, James Point Beach, and Hamilton Beach.  On November 24th, volunteers met again at Hamilton Beach to take more samples.  The results of the various samplings are not yet known, but Ramona de Graaf will be coming back this month to do more sampling on other beaches and we hope that she will have more good news for us - another beach on Pender testing positive for forage fish.

Other PICA volunteers have been meeting at the Community Hall for ‘Gardening Parties’.  This is not the kind of garden party where you find cucumber sandwiches and cups of tea, but rather a party of people with spades, secateurs, loppers, trowels, and rakes ready to tackle rampant rose bushes, gigantic horsetails, and a variety of other weeds.  There is still work to be done, but the garden is already starting to look better.  If you want to join the Gardening Group, send an email to and we will send you an invitation to our next party!   

If you want to be on our general e-mail list to learn more about PICA events and volunteer opportunities, e-mail us at 

PICA’s normal membership year runs from January to December, although there are a few people with memberships which begin partway through the year.  If you would like to renew now for 2015, you can pick up a membership form from the Conservancy folder in the Pender Island Realty office or download a copy HERE.  You can also pick up your tax receipts from the same office folder.  If you aren’t sure about your membership status, please contact our Treasurer, Ursula, or e-mail  As usual, there will be an opportunity to renew or join at our annual pot-luck in February.  

A date for your 2015 calendar!  PICA’s annual pot-luck will be held on Thursday, February 5.  More about our guest speaker, Dave Polster, and his talk about “Strategies for eco-system restoration – from the general to the specific”, will appear in the January Pender Post.  

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

November, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Of marches, trails, and doggy pots … On September 21st, an estimated 570,000 people gathered in 162 countries around the world in advance of a September 23rd gathering of world leaders at the United Nations for a meeting on climate change.  The largest climate march was in New York City where an estimated 310,000 people marched through Manhattan to the United Nations.  In Paris, an estimated 25,000 people marched, and in Melbourne, Australia approximately 30,000 people gathered to highlight the importance of governments’ taking action on climate change.  In London, England where about 40,000 people took part, Monica Petrie was one of the marchers.  Here is Monica’s report:

"I happened to be on holiday in London on September 21st this year.  Thanks to I was able to locate the gathering place for the London Climate March at Temple tube station.  After pushing my way into the crowd I joined two women carrying a homemade Green banner, one of many that I saw from places as far flung as Cornwall and Newcastle.   Placards included 'Green Party – say no to fracking', 'London – 100% green energy', and 'Tell Cameron to frack off- no dash for gas, climate jobs now' from the Socialist Worker.  Friends of the Earth were there with banners and drums.  A man pulled by bicycle played a drum set and his boom box belted out 'Wild Thing, I think I love you'. Several marchers were in animal costume – lions and tigers.

"It took more than an hour to get moving and by then I’d had a few conversations. I told people that my MP is the leader of the Green party in Canada, and that Elizabeth May was marching to the UN in New York, as was my daughter-in-law Hannah Petrie who had flown out from California.  Oh yes, I mentioned PICA and the conservation work that we do here on our islands. By the time I got to Westminster, the speeches were over so I missed hearing Green MP Caroline Lucas and actor Emma Thompson.  But Emma Thompson was front page news in the Independent and the Guardian next day." 

If you want to see pictures and videos of the various marches around the world and be amazed by some of the costumes, just ‘google’ Climate March September and you will get lots of hits, including an entry in Wikipedia!

If you have recently been to Medicine Beach you will have noticed a couple of changes.  There are now signs marking the official trails through the covenant area on the bluff.  Over the years a number of unofficial trails have been opened up, often when people follow deer trails which eventually peter out, forcing people to backtrack to find their way out of the area. Please follow the trails marked by the signs to lessen the impact on the ecosystems the Medicine Beach Nature Sanctuary was intended to protect.   

The second change is the addition of two doggy-pots.  The first is located at the parking lot near the beach; the second is located on the main trail near the entrance to the forested area, just off the road.  If you come to Medicine Beach with your dog, please clean up after it and use the doggy pots to dispose of the plastic bags.  

One of the risks of climate change is the danger of rising sea levels. With the number of high tides in the winter there is always the danger that the berm protecting the Medicine Beach marsh will be breached.  The marsh is protected by a berm which consists of a midden and a line of large logs directly in front of it on the seaward side.  If logs are cut up for firewood and removed from the berm, there is the danger that a high winter tide will punch a hole in the berm and flood the marsh with salt water.  The marsh is the home of some rare species and their continued survival depends on the marsh, so if you see people cutting up the logs at the base of the berm, please remind them that the area is protected.   PICA is responsible for the care and management of Medicine Beach as we are co-covenant holders with Nature Conservancy Canada and the Islands Trust Fund.  Please contact Graham Boffey if you have concerns about anything happening on Medicine Beach, in the marsh, or in the forested area.

Brooks Point Management Plan: A public meeting was held at the Community Hall on September 16th to review the new draft management plan for Brooks Point Regional Park.  Paul Petrie, the co-chair of the Brooks Point Committee, gave a brief background to the creation of the park and then turned the meeting over to Lynn Wilson, Regional Park Planner for the CRD.  Lynn gave an excellent presentation of the plan and explained how the management plan will help to protect this precious piece of coast line.  People were given the opportunity to ask questions and Lynn encouraged everyone to fill out the public comment forms.  The next step is to send the Management Plan to the CRD Parks Committee in November and from there to the CRD Board in December.  The plan is to have the covenants finalized in December. 

Forage Fish up-date: The forage fish monitoring group was out again on October 7th, with a return to Mortimer Spit.  The weather was once again kind to us, no howling gales or torrential rains to make the sampling a bit of an endurance test.  Our leader Jon Ruiz tries to get the weather to cooperate with the best low tides, but it isn’t always possible, unless we want to go out at 3am.  We are planning on another monitoring session in November. Volunteers are always welcome. 

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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October, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

(See eelgrass maps)

The two most recent PICA events both involved the marine environment.  On August 19th, Nikki Wright of SeaChange Conservation Society came to Browning Harbour with boxes of eelgrass seedlings for PICA volunteers to prepare for transplanting.  Volunteers attached weights to the seedlings to hold the eelgrass to the seabed until they can attach themselves.  In the afternoon divers from SeaChange transplanted the 800 clumps to the bottom of Bracket Cove.  The SeaChange team will be back in the spring to check on the health of the transplants.  Future transplanting sessions are planned.

Eelgrass, Zostera marina, is the thin green seaweed that grows in estuaries and along shorelines with low wave energy.  Eelgrass forms ‘meadows’ which provide food and shelter for many fish and invertebrates. Here are a few interesting facts about eelgrass taken from The Nearshore Eelgrass Inventory, a report prepared for the Islands Trust and Islands Trust Fund by Nikki Wright, Leanna Boyer, and Keith Erikson. “The productivity of native seagrasses rivals the world’s richest farmlands and tropical rainforests….The plants offer surface area for over 350 species of macro-algae and 91species of epiphytic microalgae – the basis of the food web for juvenile salmon in marine waters… nearshore marine environments containing eelgrass beds are home to over 80% of commercially important fish and shellfish species, including all species of salmon, at some point in their life histories…Like terrestrial forests, eelgrass habitats capture and store large amounts of carbon but at much more efficient rates - up to ninety times the uptake provided by equivalent areas of forest…” Eelgrass is definitely a natural resource worth protecting and restoring.  To learn more about eelgrass, go to the PICA website ( and click on the link to the Eelgrass Inventory.  There are maps of North and South Pender showing the locations of eelgrass.

The second event was another Forage Fish monitoring session, this time at a new location on James Point at the end of MacKinnon Road.  On September 4th, a group of PICA volunteers met to take samples to see if the beach is being used for spawning by either sand lance or surf smelt.  This is a new beach for the monitoring team but the beach has all the characteristics of a good spawning beach, a mixture of sand and pebble, partial shading of the beach from foreshore vegetation, and no structures such as docks, seawalls or riprap to interfere with the natural wave action.  Just as with Mortimer Spit and Medicine Beach (both successful forage fish spawning beaches), there is also evidence of eel grass growing just off-shore.

Sand lance and surf smelt lay their eggs on the upper beach near the high tide level just a few meters below the line of logs on the upper shore.  The eggs are sensitive to any changes which affect the spawning substrate.  Alteration of the foreshore by removal of vegetation, or activities which cause an increase in the volume of runoff carrying fine sediment, can result in the eggs either being cooked or smothered.  Other foreshore activities such as shellfish aquaculture can also make the beach unsuitable for forage fish spawning.  

There will be more monitoring sessions this fall.  Check our website for dates, times and locations.  

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

September, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

September is PICA’s official “Be a Volunteer for the Environment” month. We have a lot of volunteer opportunities for people who want to become more involved in the work that PICA does. Here are some of those opportunities.

Forage Fish Monitoring: Since 2011, PICA volunteers have been involved with Forage Fish monitoring on Medicine Beach, under the guidance of Ramona de Graaf, a fisheries biologist. This January she sent the exciting news that two beaches on Pender had tested positive for forage fish spawning: Medicine Beach for surf smelt and Mortimer Spit for sand lance. On August 7th, PICA volunteers met Ramona on Mortimer Spit and took samples and then moved to Hamilton Beach to take more samples. Ramona would like us to expand our monitoring to other beaches, but we need more volunteers. Each monitoring session takes about 90 minutes. To learn more contact our Forage Fish Coordinator, Jon Ruiz at 250-629-3748. Email:

Hope Bay Stream Salmon Recovery Project: The Hope Bay stream is the only documented salmon stream on Pender Island. Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) records indicate chum salmon were using the creek for spawning and rearing up to the mid-1980s. PICA volunteers have been working to restore chum salmon to the stream. In 2012, salmon fry from the Goldstream hatchery were released into the stream. In 2013, the eggs were actually incubated in the stream and then released. There was a shortage of eggs in 2014, so there was no incubation of eggs or release of fry. The plan is to have eggs incubated in the stream for release in April 2015. Before then volunteers are needed to monitor water temperature and water flow in the stream. Work also needs to be done in building a weir, creating riffles (to slow down the water flow), restoring native vegetation to the banks of the stream, and getting the culvert under Hoosen Road replaced with a more fish-friendly one. The first chum may start returning later this fall, so if you are down by Hope Bay, keep your eyes open. If you are interested in becoming involved contact our program coordinators:
Elizabeth Miles at 250-539-8843 - email
or Lisa Fleming

Purple Martin Next Box Program: Here is the latest update from the Program Coordinator, Bob Vergette. “Last summer we provided information about the Purple Martin Stewardship and Recovery Program that PICA supports and how with the efforts of a local team Purple Martins are again nesting and rearing young on Pender. As a reminder Purple Martins are the largest bird of the swallow family and the Western sub-species like to nest over water in communal sites but in separate boxes. On Pender we now have 29 nest boxes at 6 sites around the island with 4 to 6 boxes at each site. This year, under the oversight of Charlene Lee, Purple Martin Coordinator for the stewardship program, we banded a total of 30 nestlings in 7 boxes and there were another 10 boxes that contained a combination of nestlings too young to band or eggs totaling 36 in number. This has been the best year yet with all sites having birds present and 5 of the 6 sites have breeding pairs but not all were nesting. For those interested Purple Martins can best be viewed the Otter Bay Marina and the government wharf at Port Browning. For more information on the stewardship program visit the website PICA thanks Parks Canada for their support of this project and would like to especially thank Janet Mercer of Parks Canada for volunteering her own time and arranging for the Parks boat to access two of the sites that require water access.” For more information on volunteering with the Purple Martin Team, contact Bob Vergette at 250-629-3820 email or Jill Ilsley at her email

Pender Lake Stewardship: PICA is a member of the BC Lake Stewardship Society and the monitoring of Pender Lake (commonly referred to as Magic Lake) is one of the newest projects that PICA is involved in. The Stewardship Team has been monitoring the lake for turbidity and hopes to expand to program to include more detailed analyses of the water quality. Future plans include doing a survey of all the plant and animal life which either live in the lake or around it. For more information or to become involved, contact Don Peden at

Other opportunities: PICA is also looking for people to help with preparing brochures and educational materials, to represent PICA at the Farmer’s market, and to participate in invasive species removal. If you are interested in any of these additional volunteer opportunities, contact us at

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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August, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

On Friday July 18th the Pender Island community came out in force to celebrate the completion of Brooks Point Regional Park.  It has been a long, and at times a rocky road to get to the point where we can say that the land is protected for now and for future generations.  

The story of the park began in the early 1990’s when Alan Brooks approached the Board of PICA and asked how best to protect the undeveloped waterfront property that he owned on Gowlland Point Road from future development.  In 1996, he agreed to donate one of the three undeveloped lots if the community could raise the money to purchase the other two. The Friends of Brooks Point launched a fund-raising campaign with the support of PICA to raise the needed money. This was just the beginning of what was to become a multi-year effort to secure the future of the remaining undeveloped land between Brooks Point and Gowlland Point.  

In early 2000, Phase I was completed and Brooks Point became a CRD Regional Park Reserve with a covenant jointly held by the Islands Trust Fund and Nature Conservancy Canada.  The covenant states in part that “the lands be used and maintained in a manner that will protect, preserve, conserve, restore, and enhance the ecosystems and native biodiversity of the lands in perpetuity.”  

Phase II of the project was the purchase of Gowlland Point adjacent to Gowlland Beach in September 2000.  It wasn’t until 2010 when the property between the two areas became available that Phase III began. The CRD took out a loan to purchase the property but retained the option to resell or divide the land to recover some of their costs. 

PICA, through its Brooks Point Completion Committee, again became involved in fund-raising and in April 2011, launched an ambitious 150-day campaign to raise $150,000 with two goals: “to retain the property in its entirety for inclusion on Brooks Point Regional Park and to maintain the ecological values of the property in perpetuity.”  The campaign raised $152,000.

In March 2013, the CRD Board entered a contribution agreement with PICA.  The CRD would remove the resale, sub-division option on the condition that PICA raised an additional $150,000 before December 2014.  This goal was reached in December 2013, a year ahead of schedule.  The wonderful coastal bluff, the chocolate lilies, the Garry Oak meadows, and red-listed Sharp Tailed snake, will be protected in Brooks Point Regional Park by conservation covenants so that future generations will be able to share in the park’s natural beauty.  For a more complete history of Brooks Point, visit the PICA website and look for Brooks Point under “Projects”.

People may hear the term “conservation covenant” without really understanding what they are and how they work.  Conservation covenants are a way for landowners to ensure that natural features of their land are protected now and in the future.  PICA and the Islands Trust Fund are co-covenant holders on 17 Pender properties.  The properties range in size and protect a variety of ecosystems, from ponds and wetlands to Douglas fir ecosystems and Garry Oak meadows.  Each covenant is different and each specifies what portion of the property is covenanted and what features are protected.  

In addition to the satisfaction of knowing that the special places on your land will be protected even after you are no longer around to watch over them, there can also be significant tax savings.  For more information on conservation covenants, visit the Islands Trust Fund website at or give their office a call at 1-250-405-5186.  You can also drop in at the PICA booth at the Saturday market and pick up information on covenants. 

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

July, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Are you looking for an excuse to go the beach all year round?  Join PICA’s Forage Fish Monitoring Group.  In January Ramona de Graaf, our forage fish mentor, confirmed that two of Pender’s beaches are spawning areas for forage fish.  Apparently, surf smelt like Medicine Beach and sand lance like Mortimer Spit.  Ramona has identified other beaches on Pender which have the necessary conditions to be suitable spawning areas for these and possibly other forage fish.  More monitoring is needed to confirm whether or not the fish agree.

On June 5th a small team met on Medicine Beach and took more samples to send to Ramona for analysis.  PICA has been participating in a monitoring program on Medicine Beach since 2010.  The next scheduled monitoring of Medicine Beach will occur later in July.  More volunteers are always welcome.  No experience or scientific background is necessary to join the team.  If we get a large enough core group of monitors, we could expand our monitoring to include Mortimer Spit and other beaches.  For more information, contact Jon Ruiz at 250-629- 3748.  We will also be sending out notices to everyone on the PICA email list.  Join our group of citizen scientists and come to the beach!

This year, the Provincial Government proclaimed June 9th to 15th as Invasive Species Week.  To help celebrate, PICA held a prize draw at the Saturday Market on June 14th.  People were asked to complete an entry form indicating how many invasive plants they had removed that week and how many they intended to remove the following week.  Honesty was assumed and entrants did not actually have to produce the plants for inspection and counting, which is just as well, as one entrant indicated that he had just finished removing more than 100 broom plants from his property. Remember: every time you remove an invasive species, you make room for a native one.

PICA will be at the market every Saturday during the summer.  Come talk to our volunteers, renew your membership, or sign up to join one of our project groups. 

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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June, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

PICA held its Annual General Meeting on Thursday, May 15th in the Hope Bay Studio.  About 25 members attended the meeting. The Board reported on the year’s events, finances, and talked about some of PICA’s future plans.  One new director, John Chapman, was added to the Board.  John has been active with the Brooks Point Committee and we welcome his joining us.  There is always more than enough work to go around!

David Manning also spoke to the meeting.  After nine years coordinating the Eagle Watch program, David is retiring.  He is looking for people willing to coordinate the project and keep track of the records.   If you are interested, please get in touch with David.  This is a fascinating project and is an example of citizen scientists producing useful data when there is no official agency doing the monitoring.

After a break for juice, coffee, tea, cake and cookies, the meeting continued with Misty MacDuffee’s fascinating talk “Salmon, Orcas, and Humpbacks: The State of the Strait”.  Misty is a fisheries ecologist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation (  She started her talk by giving us the historical context of exploitation in the area.  The earliest species affected were the sea otters which were hunted almost to extinction  Sea otters were extirpated from most of the coast and even today the species is listed as endangered.  The Northern Elephant Seal was the first species hunted for its oil.  It to was almost hunted to extinction.  Gray whales were also targeted for their oil and by the late 1800’s were commercially extinct.  Both baleen and toothed whales were hunted from land-based whaling stations on the Mainland and Vancouver Island.  Baleen whales are an important part of the marine ecosystem.  They dive deep and eat krill, rich in iron.  The whales return to the surface to breathe and excrete the iron in their feces.  This iron acts as a fertilizer for the phytoplankton and the amount of phytoplankton, which is an important food source for other marine animals, increases.

Once the commercial salmon industry became established, several marine animals were targeted because it was believed that they were competing for salmon with the commercial fishermen.  Prior to 1970, when the Fisheries Act came into force, about 55,000 Steller Sea Lions had been killed to protect salmon stocks, although only about 10 to 20 percent of their diet is salmon.  About 500,000 harbour seal were killed for bounties and perhaps the most tragic victims were the basking sharks. These large, gentle, plankton eaters were easy targets as they lay on the surface.  Boats were fitted with long knives off their prows to cut any sharks on the surface in half.   The basking shark population has still not recovered and sightings are incredibly rare.

After giving us this historical context, Misty talked about the three types of orcas which are found in and around the Salish Sea: the resident orcas, which eat salmon; the transient orcas, which eat marine mammals; and the off-shore orcas, which eat fish and sharks.  There are two main populations of resident orcas: the northern residents (Johnstone Strait and the Central Coast) and the southern residents (the ones we see).  The population of the northern residents is increasing while the population of southern residents is not.  It is estimated that in 1960 there were only about 100 resident orcas.  About 48 of them were removed for the aquarium trade.  The removal of almost half of the group was devastating for this matriarch-based social group.

About 80% of the residents’ diet is chinook salmon with chum being eaten in the fall.  The chinook salmon stocks are key to the resident orcas' survival.  In the north the chinook stocks are stronger and there is evidence to show that if the chinook decline past a certain point, there is an increase in orca mortality.  The southern residents are also eating fish which is more contaminated by industrial activity.  In addition to stress due to the food supply, there is also the physical and acoustical disturbance as a result of marine traffic.  Misty played us a recording of what one freighter sounds like at 170 metres depth.  Given the amount of marine traffic through the Strait, the resident orcas must be exposed to almost constant noise.

In 2003 the southern resident orca were listed as endangered.  In 2009 a Federal court ruled that the government was legally bound to protect their habitat.  This court decision forced the Federal Government to come up with a recovery strategy, which they released in 2011 with a target date of March 2013.  Thus far the government has only designated an area as critical habitat but has done nothing about the biological, acoustical, physical, and chemical components of the Southern residents’ habitat.  There is no protection for the orca’s food supply, the chinook salmon, which supply the majority of their diet.  For a so-called Action Plan it is “woefully lacking in action.”

Misty then dealt with the current controversy over the increase in oil tanker traffic and the effects that any spill could have on these endangered mammals.  In March 1989 when the Exxon Valdez ran aground, there were orca in the area.  Both the resident and the transient pods were affected by the spill.  The resident pods have not recovered and since the transient pod lost all its breeding females it is likely going to disappear.  Since orca are long-lived it is difficult to assess exactly how they are affected by spills, but a study of a 2007 shipping barge accident which released 10,000 litres of diesel oil showed that there was a higher mortality rate among the Northern residents after 25% of them swam through the spill.  The recent down-listing of the humpback whales from “threatened” to “a species of special concern” removes the government’s requirement to protect their critical habitat. Since part of the proposed route of oil tankers out of Kitimat goes through critical humpback feeding areas, the timing has struck many people as being highly convenient for both Enbridge and the Federal Government.  To learn more about whales on our coast, go to, the website of the BC Cetacean Sightings Network.

PICA volunteers will be at the Saturday Market throughout the summer.  Drop in and visit, renew your membership, and volunteer for one our projects.  You can read the minutes of the 2014 AGM and the 2014 Report from the Board here.

Don’t forget to save July 18th for the big party at the Community Hall to celebrate the completion of Brooks Point Regional Park!

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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May, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

May 15th - PICA Annual General Meeting – 7:30 Hope Bay Studio

Despite the dire weather forecast, the annual Beach Clean-up began and concluded under cloudy skies, not torrential downpours!  About 100 volunteers scoured the beaches of North and South Pender to remove an amazing variety of debris.  There were the usual cans, bottles, plastic bags, and chunks of Styrofoam, including some rather large pieces of old docks and floats with attached ropes. Among the more interesting articles turned in at the Medicine Beach Market drop-off were a Boaters Advisory sign from Ladner Habour in Delta and a pair of Kodiak work boots in their original box which was found behind the fence around the Medicine Beach marsh.  In addition to the beaches, a few intrepid souls tackled the roadsides and ditches.  One Pender Pacer was observed running up Scarf Hill in the direction of the drop-off carrying a large, half-full, black garbage bag!  Thank you to everyone who contributed to the day’s efforts and especially to Amanda for overseeing another successful Beach Clean-up.

Thankfully the promised rain didn’t arrive until all the volunteers had had a chance to get to the Community Hall for their reward, a cup of lovely hot chili or minestrone soup.  At 1pm the Stewardship Day events began in the lounge upstairs in the Hall.  A variety of displays provided information on the various ways that we can be good stewards of the land and the seas.  At 2pm Ramona de Graaf gave a fascinating talk on Marine Shorelines as Critical Fish Habitats.  She discussed the importance of protecting Marine Riparian Habitats, the edge of vegetation around the shoreline.  This vegetation provides necessary shade for forage fish spawning beaches, is a source of insects for juvenile fish including chinook salmon, and helps stabilize shoreline slopes.

Two beaches on Pender have been confirmed as forage fish spawning beaches: Medicine Beach for winter surf smelt and Mortimer Spit for sand lance.  There are other potential spawning areas on the Penders.  To learn more about the beaches of Pender go to the Islands Trust website and look under Initiatives for marine conservation/ forage fish (link)  There are maps for both North and South Pender.

At 3pm, the Chair of the Islands Trust Council, Sheila Malcolmson, spoke about the risk of oil tanker expansion to our shorelines “Salish Sea Shorelines at Risk”.  In its role as an advocate for the residents of the Southern Gulf Islands, 13 major and 450 smaller islands, the Trust Council has long voiced its opposition to oil tanker traffic through the waters of the Islands Trust area.  The proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline would increase the current 300,000 barrels of tar sands bitumen going past our island to 800,000 barrels per day with a corresponding increase in the number of tankers.  Since 2009 there have been three incidents in Plumper Sound of bulk tankers dragging their anchors and coming dangerously close to the rocky shoreline.  The more tankers, the greater the risk of a catastrophic spill.

Various Federal government reports warn about the lack of an adequate spill response on the west coast.  Oil at sea is Federal; oil on the shore is Provincial, but the province currently has no money allocated to spill response and only 14 full-time monitoring staff.  In comparison, Washington State has a $7 million dollar spill response fund and 70 full-time staff.  Alaska has a $50 million dollar fund and 146 full-time staff.  Since most spill response is dependent upon being able to see where the oil is using aerial surveillance, dil-bit presents a problem; it isn’t visible from the air.  Since the current response to oil spills is to skim the oil from the surface of the water, dil-bit presents an additional problem; it sinks in the presence of waves, something the ocean has in abundance!  When industry and government talk about a “world class spill reponse”, one has to wonder what it could possibly consist of.

On a happier note, PICA’s annual general meeting is being held on Thursday, May 15th at the Hope Bay studio at 7:30 pm.  Everyone is welcome.  You will be able to join or renew your membership and meet some of the great people involved in conservation on the island.  There will be a great speaker, goodies, elections to the Board, reports on the various PICA projects and various ways for you to become more involved.  We are looking for volunteers for our Stewardship Committee, our Forage Fish Monitoring group, Invasive Species Removal team, and for people to help at the PICA booth at the Saturday market.  Come join us and learn more! 

Rhondda Porter
PICA Secretary

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April, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Calendar Dates:

April 19th  PICA’s Annual Beach Clean-up drop-off at Medicine Beach Market 10-12
May 15th   PICA AGM at the Hope Bay Studio 7:30
May 24th  Brooks Point Chocolate Lily Celebration

PICA’s annual Beach Clean-up for Earth Day will be held on Saturday, April 19th.  You can pick up bags and gloves from the smiling volunteers in the parking lot of the Medicine Beach Market.  After walking one of Pender’s many beaches, you can drop off your ‘treasures’ at the bins in the parking lot from 10 to 12.  After the Beach Clean-up come to the Community Hall to help the Island celebrate Stewardship Day.  There will be a ‘thank you’ lunch for the Adopt-a-Beach volunteers and Beach Clean-up crew.  There will also be displays and speakers, as we all get together to celebrate stewardship on the Penders.

One of PICA’s stewardship initiatives is our Forage Fish Monitoring Project.  We first became involved after Ramona de Graaf, a forage fish expert, was a PICA guest speaker in 2010.  She proved to be a very dynamic, enthusiastic and passionate presenter with impressive knowledge of the subject.  This resulted in PICA being inspired to become part of the forage fish monitoring program which attempts to locate fish eggs and thus verify spawning activity in a given area.  The major forage fish in the Salish Sea are Pacific sand lance, surf smelt and Pacific herring.  Surf smelt and sand lance lay tiny eggs in pebble and sand beaches just below the high tide line in the intertidal zone and are the fish on which this project focuses.

We ran into many snags along the way in arranging for an all-day workshop to train volunteer monitors, but finally made it happen in July, 2011.  Participants spent the morning at the library meeting room hearing presentations and observing displays, then the afternoon unfolded at Medicine Beach in a hands-on session that took us through the monitoring process.

Subsequent monitoring sessions have also taken place at Medicine Beach, but it would be desirable to add more beaches in the future.  Ramona has also done pretty extensive monitoring herself at a number of beaches on both North and South Pender.

In July of 2012 Ramona conducted a follow-up practical workshop that was open to the public and we were pleased to have some new faces, including children, take part that day.

Ramona felt that several beaches looked promising for sand lance, and possibly winter smelt.  Sadly, smelt have been elusive everywhere.  Sand lance eggs were found in the winter of 2013 on Lasqueti Island and the San Juans.  We were very excited this January to hear from Ramona that she had discovered positive samples for winter smelt at our Medicine Beach and positive results for sand lance at Mortimer Spit.  The winter smelt finding was especially thrilling as it is so rare an occurrence. 

Why are forage fish so important?  These small fish form a key link in the marine food chain. They travel in large groups (called schools) and consume plankton and tiny animals floating near the surface, and in turn become protein for everything higher in the food chain, for bigger fish such as salmon, for seabirds, for marine mammals like seals and sea lions, and ultimately for whales.  They are a crucial food source for all ocean wildlife, and thus are of both commercial and economic importance.  Healthy stocks of forage fish impact the commercial fishery, the recreational fishery, bird watching (80% of the diet of puffins, marbled murrelets and rhinoceros auklets is sand lance), whale watching and even forestry (forage fish feed the salmon whose carcasses provide important nutrients for the forests).  These days forage fish are often converted into secondary uses such as feed for livestock, pets and farmed fish.

These wee fish are very vulnerable to overfishing, climate change, habitat loss, and changing ocean chemistry.  Chemical or oil spills from the land, or oil from vessel operations near beaches can cause mortality of eggs incubating on the beaches.  Of course, an oil spill would be disastrous for them.  However, the biggest threat to their habitat is shoreline development because they spawn mainly on mixed sand and gravel beaches, and anything that affects the composition of beaches can render those beaches unsuitable for spawning.  Particularly problematic are the hardening of shorelines using seawalls or riprap, altering shorelines with docks and groins, taking away the logs that prevent shoreline erosion, and removing the vegetation that provides shade and cooling.  Shoreline vegetation helps protect the beaches from drying winds, and is an important habitat for the insects that feed juveniles.

We are particularly concerned with two species of forage fish that are shore spawners: Pacific surf smelt (spawn May to September) and sand lance (spawn November to February).  Both depend on nearshore habitat for their survival, but also require eelgrass beds and kelp forests for rearing their juveniles.  Monitoring takes place on the nearshore, and requires specific equipment, much of which Ramona purchased or made on our behalf.  Last year we purchased a clinometer to measure beach elevation, as we didn’t do very well with the low-tech method of measuring the height of water in a plastic tube to determine the slope of the beach. The samples and the data sheets are sent to Ramona who does the analysis of the samples and records the data.  Any positive samples are then recorded in the Forage Fish Atlas.

Monitoring is an interesting process.  Should you be beach-walking and encounter a group of people with long measuring tapes, scoops, buckets and assorted filters, and some who look like they are doing the hula while swishing a dishpan in front of themselves, chances are you are seeing a group of forage fish monitors!

A huge vote of thanks is due to our wonderful volunteers without whom this research could not take place.  New volunteers are most welcome, especially as some of us are unable to continue.  We would be delighted to hear from anyone interested in joining the team.  For information about doing so, please contact our newly appointed team leader, Jon Ruiz (250-629-3748).

Submitted by Eleanor Brownlee with much assistance from Ramona de Graaf

If you are interested in learning more about Forage Fish Monitoring on the Gulf Islands go to the Islands Trust Fund website and under Our Initiatives, click on Caring for our Shorelines. The Forage Fish Habitat Assessments will give you more information on the work that Ramona has been doing on North and South Pender to assess our beaches for their potential as spawning areas for forage fish.  We will put the link on our website 

PICA’s Annual General Meeting is coming soon!  Put Thursday, May 15th on your calendar.  If you are interested in joining the Board, please contact Eleanor Brownlee for information on the nomination process.  The AGM will also be an opportunity for people who missed our potluck to renew their membership for 2014 and for people interested in becoming members to find out more about us. 

Brooks Point Completion

On March 12th we delivered PICA’s final $55,000 cheque to the CRD to complete the community’s contribution to join Brooks and Gowlland Points as a “Regional Conservation Area.”  PICA is now working with our conservation partners to establish a strong covenant to fully protect this important ecological gem for future generations.  PICA is also working closely with the CRD to update the 2008 Park Management Plan to emphasize park use that respects the sensitive ecological habitat and will have minimal impact on the natural environment.  The CRD is planning to install a pump-out toilet on the new acquisition and remove the old boathouse.  There is also a plan to install steps to provide safe access from Gowlland Beach to Gowlland Point in the area of the “goat trail.”  There will be an opportunity for the community to participate in the Management Plan review.  In the meantime, we welcome your suggestions for improving the current Management Plan found on the CRD website.

PICA will be making a submission to the National Energy Board on the Kinder-Morgan pipeline proposal in the next six weeks.  The proposal would dramatically increase the oil (bitumen) tanker traffic through Boundary Pass close to the sensitive South Pender shoreline including Brooks Point.

Save the Date!

In the last Pender Post article we indicated PICA is planning a community celebration to recognize our collective achievement.  We have set Saturday, May 24th - Chocolate Lily Day - as the date.  This celebration is not about speeches (although there are a few well deserved awards to be made).  You are invited to PICA’s party to Celebrate Brooks Point Completion!  So please mark your calendar and get out your dancing shoes.  We will provide more details in next month’s Pender Post.

Monica Petrie, Co-chair for PICA’s Brooks Point Committee: Paul Petrie, Rhondda Porter, Ursula Poepel, Trallee Dun, Jill Ilsley, John Chapman.

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March, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

Friday, February 7th, about 35 people braved the cold and dire threats of snow to attend PICA’s annual potluck.  As usual there was an amazing variety of delicious food.  A couple of people suggested that in future all the dishes be labelled with the cook’s name so that the cook can be tracked down and badgered for a copy of the recipe!

The highlight of the evening was a lecture by David Boyd, “The Optimistic Environmentalist”, who spoke about some of the successes achieved by people involved in the fight for environmental rights.  He mentioned people like Antonio Oposa, Jr. in the Philippines, who won a landmark law case in the Supreme Court of the Philippines and established the right of individuals to sue on behalf of future generations in order to stop environmental damage today.  David also spoke about the work of Beatriz Mendoza and a group of neighbours from a shanty town in Buenos Aires who filed a case at the Supreme Court arguing that the systemic pollution of the watershed and the river basin had caused and was causing damage to residents’ health.  In 2008, the group won the lawsuit and the court legislated a cleanup of the area.  

Argentina and the Philippines are just two of the approximately 150 nations which have recognized the right to a healthy environment as being a human right.  Ninety countries have constitutions which explicitly recognize the right to a clean environment.  Countries as diverse as Brazil, South Africa, East Timor, Egypt, Mongolia, Costa Rica, Portugal, France, and Norway are all on the list.  Noticeably lacking are the United States, Great Britain, Australia and Canada.  In Canada the “right to a healthy environment” is not part of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has been part of our constitution since 1982.  However, Section 7 of the Charter does refer to “the right to live”, and since the constitution has already been amended 11 times, there is reason to hope that some future government of Canada will add Canada to the list of countries which have included environmental rights in their constitutions.

Although North America does not have constitutionally recognized environmental rights which would make it easier to protect the environment, some states and provinces have legislation which can be used to protect the environment.  To encourage us, David mentioned a few good news stories.  Regulation of CFCs and a reduction in the amounts released into the atmosphere have slowed the depletion of the ozone layer.  Measurements of the layer suggest that 2014 may be the first year in which the ozone layer actually shows signs of recovering.  The banning of DDT has helped many populations of raptors recover.  For example, the peregrine falcon has been removed from the endangered species list.  Protection through legislation has helped populations of other endangered species, such as humpbacked whales, grey whales, Bald eagles, and sea otters to recover.  Of course there is always more work to be done, and the shorelines of Pender are a good place to start.

Thank you to all the people who turned up to help at the potluck and especially to the valiant kitchen cleanup crew of Eleanor Brownlee, Sue Kronen, and Davy Rippner.  If you weren’t able to attend our potluck, don’t forget you can still renew your 2014 membership.  Individual membership is $10 per year and family membership is $15 per year.  Cheques can be left in the PICA folder in the Pender Island Realty office.  New members are always welcome.  You can find membership forms in the PICA folder or on-line at

Advance Warning!  Beach Cleanup and Stewardship Day are fast approaching.  On Saturday, April 19th join our annual Beach Cleanup, which will be held in the morning, followed by Stewardship Day events at the Community Hall in the afternoon.  There will be more details in next month’s Pender Post and on the PICA website. Watch for posters announcing the times of the various events. If you would like to sign up in advance for the beach cleanup, contact Amanda Griesbach at 250-629-3915.

David Boyd: The Optimistic Environmentalist

"In a world besieged by bad news about the state of the planet, almost everyone is thirsty for good news, for stories that inspire hope about the future.   Pessimism breeds apathy and despair, whereas optimism fuels action and progress.  As Winston Churchill wrote, "The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.   The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty." To be sure, modern society faces substantial environmental challenges, but these are far from insurmountable, as our surprising track record of success demonstrates.

Concerted efforts have pulled endangered species from bald eagles to gray whales back from the precipice of extinction.  Thousands of new parks have been established across the globe, protecting billions of hectares of land and water.  We saved the vital ozone layer, which protects life on Earth from UV-B radiation emitted by the sun.  Clean, renewable energy harnessing the wind, water, and sun is booming.  There is a race to be the greenest city in the world.

Transportation innovations feature smart public transit, electric vehicles, the renaissance of cycling and walking, and the prospect of self-driving cars and solar roads. Buildings are being engineered to produce more energy than they consume. We’ve made remarkable progress in cleaning up the air we breathe and the water we drink.   The leaded gasoline that damaged children’s brains was phased out.  We’ve eliminated the production, use, and release of dozens of the world’s most toxic chemicals.  We’ve ended the acid rain that ravaged lakes, forests, and soils.

With the completion of Brooks Point Regional Park a year ahead of schedule, it is time to send a big round of applause to all the people on Pender who helped make it possible: the supporters, the donors, the volunteers, the grant writers, and all the people off-island who recognized the value of the unspoiled coastal bluff of Brooks Point and donated so generously to our fund-raising efforts.  

Thank you!"

February, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

PICA’s Annual Potluck   February 7 in the Anglican Church Community Hall

Our invited speaker will be David R. Boyd, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University, an adviser on environmental policy to governments in Canada and Sweden, and one of Canada’s leading environmental lawyers.  He is the former Executive Director of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund (now Ecojustice), Canada’s leading public interest environmental law organization.   David was recently a Trudeau Scholar at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia and is currently an Adjunct Professor in Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University, Associate Faculty in the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University.

Boyd’s current research focuses on the effects of enshrining the constitutional right to live in a healthy environment, a right now recognized in at least 100 nations.

He is also an international expert on human rights and the environment, assisting countries from Iceland to Tunisia in securing constitutional protection for the right to a healthy environment.

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Brooks Point Regional Park

With our goal of raising $300,000 accomplished in the final days of 2013, the Brooks Point Committee turned its attention to having some seriously youthful fun at the beginning of the New Year.  We joined with Amanda Griesbach and Julie Johnston to host Pender Islands' first ever "CBC4Kids" - a birdwatching event that introduces kids to counting birds, much like the Christmas Bird Count carried out here on the islands by adults in mid-December.

Under kind winter skies on January 4th, 26 kids accompanied by 16 parents met at the boardwalk entrance to Brooks Point Regional Park.  Small birding groups were formed, each with its own experienced adult bird mentor, and off they went down the trails through forest and meadow, atop bluffs, binoculars and checklists at the ready.  Crows cawed, Harlequin ducks dove, Bald eagles soared, a Song Sparrow sang; together the kids identified and counted 17 bird species, 84 individual birds - and one seal!  Afterwards, all repaired to the Petries's place for hot chocolate, snacks and more bird games.  Smiles abounded.

PICA would like to thank Amanda Griesbach, Julie Johnstone and Jill Ilsley for organizing the event, as well as all the mentors who volunteered their time to nurture the kids' appreciation of wild birds and Brooks Point: Jackie Gill, Michelle Masselink, Robyn Pirie, Ian Pirie, Diane Swindell, Don Williams, and Kelly Skrukwa. Thanks also to Hans Tammemagi, John Heinonen and David Ohnona for capturing the fun on 'film'! 

It is good to know that the completed Brooks Point Regional Park, with its tapestry of habitats, is protected for our youth and the wild birds - forever.

Monica Petrie

January, 2014
Pender Islands Conservancy Association

January always seems such a slow month, far less exciting than December with all its festivities, but if the ground isn’t frozen and it isn’t pouring with rain, pulling broom is an excellent way to start off the new year and burn off a few calories. 

The introduction of Scotch broom to British Columbia has often been blamed on homesick Scottish immigrants but broom (Cytisus scoparius) is actually a native of the Mediterranean countries, not Scotland.  The plant was first introduced to the province in 1850 by Captain Walter Grant who had a farm in Sooke.  He planted some broom seeds that he got from the British consul in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).  From the three plants which germinated, broom spread up the east coast of Vancouver Island.  From there it spread to the Gulf Islands and on to the Mainland.  Its spread was aided by the highways department which used broom to stabilize the slopes alongside roads and by gardeners who liked the bright yellow flowers.  Unfortunately no one realized how aggressively the broom would spread, nor what its impact would be on native plant species.

Broom is a highly invasive perennial shrub.  It is drought tolerant, grows in almost any soil and needs an exposed area with only about four hours of sun a day to thrive.  Broom won’t spread into areas with good tree cover, but it can quickly invade any cleared area, which is another good reason to leave as much of the native vegetation as possible on your property.  Broom plants mature and flower when they are about three years old and plants can reach a height of nine or ten feet.  After flowering the plants produce large quantities of black seed pods.  Each pod contains between five and nine seeds.  When ripe, the pods explode, distributing the seeds in an ever-widening circle. Slower growing and slower reproducing native species such as salal (Gaultheria shallon) or Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) can’t compete.     

Any time of year is a good time to pull broom (except when it is covered with unexploded seed pods), but if you want to tackle a large bush or have a lot of large plants to get rid of, you can borrow PICA’s trusty broom puller (check our homepage).  Later in the year, when the broom is in flower, but before it produces seed, plants can also be cut off close to the ground.  They might regrow from the stem, but after a couple of years of cutting the stems, the underground roots will die.  Another method which works on larger plants and doesn’t disturb the soil is to strip off all the flowering stems and as many side branches as possible.  If you find the idea of "broom-bashing" with a group of like-minded individuals exciting, let us know; we are always looking for volunteers.  No experience necessary!  

On January 4th an enthusiastic group of young birders and their parents will be on Brooks Point from 1 to 3pm.  If you missed the other announcements about this event and want to join, the information you need is below.  Many thanks to Julie Johnson, Amanda Griesbach, and Jill Ilsley for organizing this event, and to Monica and Paul Petrie for offering to host the hot chocolate party afterwards.     

Christmas Bird Count for Kids!

A family event over the holidays, the Christmas Bird Count for Kids will take place on Saturday, January 4 at Brooks Point from 1 to 3 pm. There will be bird games and activities for the younger children and opportunities for older kids to do some bird watching, identifying and counting (as "community scientists”), with experienced Pender birdwatchers.  This feathered friend-raising event will be the first of many youth-oriented activities in 2014 sponsored by the Pender Islands Conservancy Association's Brooks Point Committee.  Pre-registration is necessary to ensure enough hot chocolate for everyone!  Please contact Jill at to register, letting us know 1) how many people in your family will be coming, 2) the age/s of your child/ren, and 3) whether any of them are passionate about bird watching and would like to "count" with a birding mentor during the event.  Bad weather date: Sunday, January 5.  Please remember to bring your binoculars!

PICA is planning its annual potluck for February.  We will let you know via e-mail and on this website as soon as we have a confirmed date.  This year we will have a very special reason to celebrate conservation on our small islands, the completion of Brooks Point Regional Park on South Pender. 

Rhondda Porter 

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December, 2013
Brooks Point Completion Update

GOOD NEWS for Brooks Point completion keeps on coming!  In October, PICA received two substantial legacy gifts.  The first gift honours the memory of John and Dorothy Henshaw. John and Dorothy were mainstays of the South Pender community who made many lasting contributions to Pender.  The following week we received another unexpected legacy gift from Ruth Hamson to honour the memory of her late husband Leo Hamson.  Leo was a lifelong conservationist who recognized and appreciated the importance of protecting special places for future generations.  These legacy gifts give PICA’s Brooks Point campaign a huge boost as we enter the final year to meet the community contribution requirement to complete Brooks Point Regional Park.

In October we applied to Shaw TV for a $5,000 community partnership grant.  There is no decision on the grant application yet, but Shaw sent reporter Karen Elgersma from Go Island to do a piece on Brooks Point.  This important coverage will carry our message to Vancouver island and beyond to gather wider support for Brooks Point completion.  We’ll have a link to that video here in a day or two.

Check out the piece on PICA’s valued conservation partner, the Greenangels woodchoppers, telling their story while splitting another cord for Brooks Point:

In the November Pender Post we announced that with contributions from our conservation partners, we were able to reduce the remaining community funding requirement down to $85,000.  With the incredible legacy gifts and other donations in October - November we are happy to report that we now have $53,000 left to raise by December 2014.  Since March 2013 when we agreed to raise another $150,000 if the CRD would remove the subdivision option, PICA has raised close to