British Columbia residents, visitors raise $3 million to save swath of wilderness from development

British Columbia residents, visitors raise $3 million to save swath of wilderness from development
© Courtesy of BC Parks Foundation

Residents and visitors to British Columbia have raised $3 million through crowdfunding efforts to save nearly 2,000 acres of pristine wilderness from development.

The BC Parks Foundation, an independent charitable foundation that works with BC Parks, the third largest parks system in North America, finalized the purchase of more than 800 hectares (1976.84 acres) of land in the Princess Louisa Inlet this week. CBC first reported the news.

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The foundation said that three lots of the Princess Louisa Inlet, a swath of wilderness that is almost four miles long and sits on the British Columbia coast, had been put up for sale at the end of last year by a private seller. But in the following months, the charity was able to secure an exclusive purchase agreement with the vendor to keep the areas from being logged for a brief period. 

That’s when Dr. Andrew Day, the chief executive officer of the foundation, said his organization began to reach out to British Columbians and visitors to crowdsource funds to save the undeveloped stretch of land, which he said had multiple offers from forestry companies. They also launched a crowdfunding campaign in June to meet the ambitious $3 million goal.

Though the group didn’t publicly announce the campaign until June, Day said the response from the public was “nothing short of astounding.”

“We knew locals and visitors alike are passionate about our beautiful province and its special places. But we had no idea about the amount of altruism and kind-heartedness that would come our way from so many different quarters,” he continued.

The campaign, which met its goal right before the deadline last week, raked in hundreds of donations from locals and park visitors from across the globe. Though the majority of donations came from British Columbians, Day told The Hill that the effort had brought in donations from Japan, Germany, and “certainly a lot of people from Washington because it’s such a popular boating destination.”

Day also added that there were “a number of groups who did their own fundraising for it and so we just received the one check from the group but they would have had a couple of hundred people that they were canvassing.”

The campaign was the first effort of its kind rolled out by the organization, which launched roughly a year and a half ago.

“We have not done something like this before,” Day said.

“I certainly thought it was going to be a stretch,” he said. “It certainly seemed like a very difficult goal to reach and I said to my board that it was a worthy cause. It was worth pursuing and sometimes these things just kind of have a magic and a life of their own that you never really know.”

“But having been there, I just felt like there was [some] kind of magic about the place itself … and there was so many people that had such a strong kind of attachment to it … that I felt like it had the right sort of ingredients to be successful,” Day said. “So, we went for it.” 

Now that the sale has been finalized, Day said his organization is working to transfer the land to BC Parks for conversion into a Class A Provincial Park. 

Day also said that the BC Parks Foundation will be working with the Sechelt First Nation, a people that are indigenous to Canada, on the agreement to transfer the land with the province of British Columbia, given the land’s historical and cultural significance to the group.

He said officials “recognize the area is very important culturally” to the indigenous group and that they want to “make sure that their interests and wishes and knowledge” are reflected in the agreement.

Though there have been a number of similar instances over the years where people in the province came together to purchase private land, Day said the government staff he has spoken to have called his foundation’s purchase the "largest" of its kind in the history of the British Columbia. 

According to the BC Parks Foundation, the Princess Louisa Inlet is home to grizzly bears, mountain goats, lichen, marine life and at least one threatened bird species. It is often called “the Yosemite of the North.”

Princess Louisa Inlet