The Nature Trust of B.C. plans to re-naturalize and enhance part of the Englishman River Estuary with a $6 million donation.
The group will be purchasing a 2.8-hectare property near Parksville with the goal of re-naturalizing and enhancing the area as well as creating a public access nature park.
Jasper Lament, CEO of the Nature Trust of British Columbia, says the acquisition is part of a long series of acquisitions by the Nature Trust along the Englishman River since 1978.
"It's an exciting week for land conservation on Vancouver Island," said Lament.
The Nature Trust now owns 67.4 hectares in the estuary.
The property is strategically located, at the point where the Englishman River meets the Salish Sea in the Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone — the most endangered of B.C.'s 14 biogeoclimactic zones.
"By purchasing this property and removing the buildings and other human infrastructure from the property, we'll be able to re-naturalize [the area], make a larger opening between the river and the sea, and improve the function of the estuary and benefit the entire watershed," said Lament.
The watershed is an important area for all five species of Pacific salmon in B.C., steelhead trout, and hundreds of bird species.
"The estuary itself is a really important stopover during spring migration," said Lament, particularly for Brant geese, which stops over in the estuary every March to feed on Pacific herring spawn en route to Alaska.
The restoration plans will take a number of years, Lament says, starting with the removal of buildings and power lines from the property, and then the re-introduction of native plant species and vegetation.
"It will take further time for the vegetation to mature and for the habitat to return to their previous level of function," he said.
The funds were donated by the Wilson 5 Foundation, the family foundation of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson.