closeup of the hands of many people leaning over a map to mark it up

Why is conservation so important?

Our rare Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem covers only 0.3% of British Columbia and is under threat from the effects of development and climate change. The efforts we make as an organization and as individuals matter.

We don’t have as much protected land as you might think. According to the Islands Trust Conservancy, in March 2020, 12% of the Gabriola Local Trust Area was protected, approximately 706 ha (1745 ac)—far below the 20% average for the Islands Trust area as a whole.

Many Gabriolans have the false impression that the 570 ha (1408 ac) of federally and provincially held land on Gabriola, sometimes known as the Kensington Lands are parkland. They are not. These lands, west of S’ul-hween X’pey (Elder Cedar) Nature Reserve and SE of Tait Road, are being held for Treaty Settlement with the Snuneymuxw First Nation—a memorandum of understanding concerning their transfer was signed in 2021.

Land Use Factors Impacting Gabriola Island’s Ecosystems and the Ability to Protect Them

Between 2004-2014, the Islands Trust Conservancy (ITC) found that the Gabriola Island Local Trust Area has higher than average ecosystem disturbance compared to other islands in the Islands Trust area, mostly from deforestation due to roads and rural development.

Gabriola’s potential for protecting land has been impacted by historical development and land use decisions. According to ITC’s Regional Conservation Plan (2018):

  • On Gabriola 11% of land parcels are smaller than 0.5 ha (1.2 ac). This is the highest percentage in the whole Trust area—the average (excluding Ballenas-Winchelsea) is 4.6%.
  • On Gabriola 13% of land parcels are greater than 50 ha (124 ac). This is the third lowest percentage in the whole Trust area— average is 32.4%.

In 2021, the Islands Trust identified 490 lots on Gabriola that are still undeveloped.

Our work

Conservation is critical to the health of our island and our island community, and is at the heart of what GaLTT does. GaLTT identifies priority ecosystems for protection, raises funds for land acquisition, establishes and maintains conservation covenants with private landholders, and supports people who are trying to protect natural habitats on their own lands. We also work to manage invasive plants, educate Gabriolans about the island’s special environments, and advocate for land conservation. Partnering with various government and community organizations makes our work more effective.

Conservation has been part of GaLTT’s mandate from the very beginning, though we are better known in the community for our work on trails. In 2019, our Strategic Plan 2020-2025 identified the need for a stronger and more strategic conservation role.

The protection of the rare and threatened Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem is fundamental. Our conservation mission encompasses a range of actions and initiatives.

  • We actively research and prioritize land for conservation through a range of tools.
  • We recognize that most land on Gabriolan is privately held, which means that the actions of individual landholders are of paramount importance.
  • We focus on inspiring, educating and engaging Gabriolans in personal actions to conserve, protect, and restore natural habitats.
  • We also work with numerous government and community organizations to accomplish our work.

Land acquisition and protection

GaLTT’s ability to purchase and hold land is an important conservation tool. To date, our land acquisition activities have been to contribute toward the purchase of lands for parks by government agencies such as the Regional District of Nanaimo. GaLTT maintains a segregated Land Acquisition Fund, earmarked for acquiring land or establishing conservation covenants.

Recent successes
Four people reaching out to cut a red ribbon.
Cutting the ribbon to open Dodd Narrows Community Park. L-R previous landowner Scott Littlejohn, MILTA rep Jes Anderson, RDN Director Howard Houle, GaLTT rep Jenni Gehlbach

In 2017 GaLTT contributed $10,000 toward the purchase by the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) of waterfront property on Mudge Island, creating Dodd Narrows Community Park.

Having achieved their goal, the Mudge Island Land Trust Association (MILTA) dissolved in 2019. They passed their remaining funds to GaLTT for our Land Acquisition Fund.

Similarly, in 2018, after overseeing the protective covenant and transfer to Islands Trust Conservancy of S’ul-hween X’pey (Elder Cedar Nature Reserve), the Gabriola Land Conservancy (GLC) folded and transferred its assets to GaLTT. This money was also placed in our Land Acquisition Fund.

GLC’s work was key to the acquisition of Coats Marsh by RDN and The Nature Trust of BC in 2009. GaLTT is proud to have built on GLC’s achievements by donating $57,000 from the Land Acquisition Fund toward the RDN’s 2020 purchase of a 3.6-ha (9-ac) property immediately east of Coats Marsh Regional Park to add to the 707 Community Park. This property includes an important feeder stream and riparian area adjacent to Coats Marsh.

Group of people with gardening loppers, kayaks and canoes standing on pebble beach.
GaLTT volunteers on a trip to Saturnina to clear invasives at BC Parks Foundation’s request

Late in 2020 GaLTT worked behind the scenes with several other organizations advocating for the purchase and protection of Saturnina Island, one of the Flat Top Islands at the south-east end of Gabriola. The 4-ha (10-ac) island was purchased by the BC Parks Foundation in the spring of 2021 with funds donated by the Wilson 5 Foundation. A popular day kayaking spot, the undeveloped island will be managed as a nature reserve by the Islands Trust Conservancy.


Since 2010, GaLTT can hold conservation covenants, a strong legal mechanism designed to provide long-term protection of ecological values on private land. GaLTT is currently actively involved with three covenants on Gabriola. With over 2/3 of Gabriola held as private property, GaLTT views covenants as an important and effective conservation tool.

Nature Stewards

Established in 2021, our Nature Stewards program focuses on helping private landholders conserve, protect, and restore native habitats on their lands and make their gardens wildlife-friendly. Many small steps can make a big difference. Learn more at our dedicated Nature Stewards website, including how to set up a home consultation visit.

Invasive Species

GaLTT’s Invasive Species Committee works with a large and dedicated team of member volunteers to manage invasive plants across the island and conducts research on invasive plant control. These actions play a key role in protecting our ecosystems. Learn more about the worst invasive plants, including what you can do and how you can volunteer.

Four people standing at an information table; one is holding a sign that says "I stand up for parks."


Advocacy is an important part of GaLTT’s work. We routinely

  • analyze local and regional conservation and land management issues relevant to our mandate
  • formulate positions, and
  • share our views with government agencies, local news media, other conservation organizations, and at public meetings.