Living on the coast of B.C. is like living on the cover of a National Geographic magazine. One can almost hear the camera of Wade Davis, famous ethnobotanist and anthropologist, author, and activist (who frequently visits the University of Victoria), clicking wildly, while excitingly citing distinctive ecosystems with some of the most exquisite and rarest fauna and flora on the planet.
In addition to these ecosystem attributes, it is important to also acknowledge that B.C. is an extraordinarily significant cultural landscape. In Saanich and the Salish Sea, we live in a cultural mecca on the unceded territory of the WSANEC, Coast Salish, Songhees, and Lekwungen First Nations.
The land management techniques First Nations employed revered nature, and were also a survival mechanism. It should be noted; the First Nations motto is: “Keep it Alive.”
First Nations ancestors employed fire to maintain open meadows for the harvest of Camas, etc., and it is such land management techniques which helped to create our current ecology (for example, Garry Oak ecosystems), and which helped to vitalize abundant fertility on the Saanich Peninsula. Consequently, all who live, work and play in Saanich benefit from this cultural legacy of land fertility. We do not own it today. It belongs to the future.
Most sensitive ecosystems in Saanich are located on private property, making stewardship vitally important. Saanich’s Environmental Development Protection Area (EDPA) was created as a mechanism to protect these special places on private and public land for everyone, forever.
Further, many Saanich properties are stewarded by exemplary land owners whose properties are in the EDPA, and are key to Saanich’s environmental vision. These land owners make a financial sacrifice via their economic donation to the municipality as a whole. These are the exemplars.
While, I believe ownership is an opportunity to pass the legacy of protected sensitive lands forward to the next generation, I also believe land owners stewarding areas of biodiversity today should be rewarded through tax incentive programs and financial assistance.
I also support the creation of a Saanich Legacy Stewardship Program, whereby exemplary stewards are acknowledged, profiled, and rewarded for stewarding biodiversity and sensitive ecosystems.
The above are several suggestions towards building solutions that benefit everyone. There are others, including models which can be tailored to meet Saanich’s environmental objectives. The Islands’ Trust Voluntary Tax Exemption Program is an example. The Trust, through its existing incentive program supports owners to voluntarily leave their properties in a natural state, rather than develop or log it to pay property taxes.
Stewardship is a shared responsibility. Let’s work together.