Light breaks through the canopy of second-growth Douglas firs, as we walk astride fields of ferns and mosses. Birds twitter through the forest.
For Nancy Powell, this is nature as it should be – unspoiled, untouched and offering crisp clean air. And it should stay this way, technically forever. The eight and a half acres on Liberty Drive in Metchosin is the latest property in the Capital Region to be placed under a conservation covenant.
“There are so many animals and flowers, the place is so full of life, it’s bursting with life,” says Powell, 48 as we walk through property, which transitions from steep rocky outcrops and wildflowers to dense forest. “What ever happens here happens. If a tree falls down, it stays down. You can’t buck it for firewood.”
Powell, a blacksmith artist by trade who now resides in Fernwood, lived on the Metchosin property for 12 years and inherited the 10 acre parcel last year after the owner, her close friend, passed away.
Honoring the owner’s attachment to the land, she initiated the covenant process with the Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) last fall. In March the covenant – called “Ivan’s Island” covenant – was legally registered with the property title.
Although difficult to imagine under past and current Metchosin councils, Powell says its not impossible for a pro-development regime to be elected in the future. It’s an area home to cougars, black bears, deer and owls, all creatures great and small. If housing and condominium subdivisions are on the march toward Liberty Drive 50 or 100 years down the road, that patch of forest won’t be going anywhere.
“This property will never be a subdivision, logged or destroyed,” Powell says. “You can’t subdivide the property, but that doesn’t drop the value much. But in the future it might be the most valuable property in the neighhourhood.”
That fear of a Metchosin council allowing development akin to Langford or Colwood has driven, in part, the creation of the Metchosin Foundation. That foundation is working with a number of Metchosin property owners to establish a series of conservation covenants, in partnership with HAT.
HAT and The Land Conservancy both hold the Ivan’s Island covenant and bear responsibility for ensuring the property is monitored in perpetuity.
“We are responsible to monitor the property a minimum of once per year, to record what the property is like, make sure no one is cutting the trees or dumping garbage or clearing areas,” said Adam Taylor, executive director of HAT.
Under the covenant, the land remains private property and alterations can be made to the home and accessory building. Existing trails can be maintained and some brush clearing is allowed to avoid a buildup of dry branches, which could trigger a forest fire.
“The goal is to leave nature standing as-is, recognizing that we respect the safety of the neighbours,” Taylor said. “Fire hazards are a big concern. Chopping logs may take care of that with minimal ecological damage.”
HAT shares responsibility of 28 land covenants including, 14 on private properties in Greater Victoria and the Gulf Islands, including a few in Langford and Highlands. Sizes range from less than two acres to 100 acres.
Powell set aside a $10,000 fund for HAT to monitor Ivan’s Island, and she estimates it cost her $10,000 more for surveys and legal fees that established the covenant. It’s money well spent, she says.
“It’s important to me the land stay safe for the animals. It’s well worth the money,” Powell says. “I’d be very very happy to be an example for people on this. I don’t know how else land will be saved. It’s up to us to save it.”
For more on conservation covenants, see hat.bc.ca.