The Anatomy of an Ecosystem Acquisition

This post was provided by Steve Housser, Leadership Giving for The Nature Trust of British Columbia, as part of our environment series.

Salmon River Board Tour 3

Considering that polls indicate the majority of Canadians claim to care about the environment, you might think acquiring habitats for birds, fish, wildlife and future generations would be an easy sell.

But when we learn only 1.3% of all donations through CanadaHelps are directed to environmentally focused charities, you could conclude raising money for acquiring and conserving ecologically sensitive habitat would be difficult.

While it is definitely not easy, with the right approach, patience and partnerships, it can be done. The recently completed purchase of the final piece of the Salmon River estuary by The Nature Trust of British Columbia is a perfect example of successful fundraising for the acquisition of an important ecosystem.


First – the location: the Salmon River is just below Sayward, BC, on Vancouver Island 45 minutes north of Campbell River. The estuary is a stunningly beautiful area and critical habitat for numerous species of wildlife including Great Blue Heron, Marbled Murrelet, Northern Pygmy Owl, Roosevelt Elk, all species of Pacific salmon and it boasts the largest steelhead on Vancouver Island.

Part of the reason it is such a prolific area is the nature of estuaries – where river meets ocean in a welling up of nutrients that are critical for birds, spawning salmon, and the animals that feed on them.


The Nature Trust of BC, the oldest and largest land trust operating exclusively in BC, started acquiring property in the Salmon River estuary in 1978. Since then The Nature Trust and its conservation partners, including Ducks Unlimited Canada, have secured 257 acres at the mouth of the river. Recently, the final piece of the estuary, 165 aces along the north side of the river, came up for sale. Purchasing the property was a strategic decision to acquire a larger, contiguous area of conservation. But how to find the money?

Bob McDonaldWith 44 years of experience in conservation, The Nature Trust of BC has a long history of partnerships with some of BC’s major conservation funders. Very quickly the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and the BC Hydro Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program stepped up with significant contributions. But the campaign still required $165,000. This meant an urgent appeal to loyal donors, many of whom had already given in 2015.  The campaign was fortunate to have the benefit of Bob McDonald, host of the CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, championing the cause.

Bob’s familiarity with so many searches for life on other planets has led him to believe our environment is the only one capable of sustaining life. So his simple message is, ‘conserve what we’ve got’.

Bob with ChequeThe campaign also tapped into the vast array of fish and game associations, rod and gun clubs, salmon conservation organizations and fly fishing groups. By visiting clubs and outdoor shows, slowly but surely it all came together.

As famous fly fisherman, conservationist, Order of Canada recipient and Comox Valley Record columnist Ralph Shaw put it, it was like an old fashioned quilting bee, “…where they bring together small patches of material to create a quilt that becomes a beautiful piece of artistic work that keeps the recipients warm and secure”.

Shaw says by collectively pooling resources conservation groups can secure relatively costly and important estuaries that would be too expensive for a single organization. “By applying the simple joys of quilting to the equally simple joys of working together to buy important natural places gives great pleasure to all involved.”

That was certainly true of working on the Salmon River estuary acquisition. It was an honour and pleasure to work with so many diverse groups which have one thing in common – a love of the outdoors, nature and a desire to conserve critical habitat for future generations. Thank you to all those who helped make this important acquisition possible.

Salmon River Board Tour 5

To learn more about The Nature Trust of BC, please visit their charity profile page >>>




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