Community Action on Salt Spring Island

Community Action on Salt Spring Island

Catherine McEwen and Chris Ling
Published May 21, 2008

Case Summary

In early Novermber 1999, Salt Spring Island residents learned that land developers had purchased 10% of the island, including large tracts of forest uplands, farmlands, and almost all the lands surrounding the near pristine waters of Burgoyne Bay. Within a week of purchase, the company began clear-cut logging the lands.  The new owners logged heavily, despite the community's repeated request to slow the rate of logging, and to use sustainable logging practices. By the end of 2000, over 400 ha of forest had been logged. This story concerns the efforts of the activist community on Salt Spring Island to protect their sense of place.  For the most part, it is a success story.  The land purchase is a result of extensive community involvement as well as involvement from many organizations such as Capital Regional District (CRD) Parks, Islands Trust, The Nature Trust of British Columbia, Forest Renewal BC, The Land Conservancy of BC, and North Salt Spring Water District.  Although much of the forest was logged, land was also bought for conservation. Burgoyne Bay protected area resides within a larger conservation area of 1800 ha of park, ecological reserve and community watershed lands.

 Photo© Howard Fry

Sustainable Development Characteristics

The conflict over land resources on Salt Spring Island is one of a clash between simple market economics as a more holistic consideration of the value of land. It also raises questions of private vs. public rights, responsibilities for land use, and the ability of local communities to determine the future of ecological resources that provide them with valuable natural and cultural capital.

The Texada Land Corporation is within its legal rights to log these lands as they see fit, subject to a few limitations relating to logging in creeks and avoiding extreme slopes, but there are very real long term concerns of the ecological integrity of watersheds and old and second growth forest, the contribution of the forest landscape to the island tourist based economy, and the previous recreation use island residents had had in these lands.

Critical Success Factors

  1. Positive community vision.

  2. Community cooperation, and cooperation with larger, external organizations.

  3. Wide range of activism carried out by independent self organising affinity groups involving extensive research on options and players, direct action, arts events, rallies, media engagement, fundraising and lobbying.

  4. The support of government and non-governmental organizations to provide funding and to act as purchasers and stewards for land.

  5. The provincial and federal governments were in the midst of the Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy, which involved the purchase and transfer of lands for island parks. This meant there was money available for land purchase that would not have normally been present.

  6. The Nature Trust of BC and Capital Regional District (CRD) also had ongoing campaigns of land purchase which contributed to the fund.

Community Contact Information

Catherine McEwen

What Worked?

  1. Continuous and varied community pressure.  Tactics of direct action and media events such as a “Lady Godiva” ride though downtown Vancouver did eventually, through pressure from their main investors, lead Texada Land Corp. to limit logging and allow the community time to raise funds for purchasing the land.

  2. The involvement of government agencies and NGOs helped to provide funds for land purchases and the means to protect the lands for conservation.

What Didn’t Work?

  1. The ability of public and community bodies to buy land for protection at market prices at market speed.

  2. Government inaction at the federal and provincial levels, slow delivery on promises and policies to restrict private logging operations, and lack of enforcement on existing laws, led to the conditions under which private logging could operate with little ecological or social consideration.

Financial Costs and Funding Sources

  1. Funding to support direct action activity came from private individual contributions, public contributions at the monthly community town hall meetings, and from donations made to the Green Party of British Columbia.

  2. The Salt Spring Appeal of The Land Conservancy of British Columbia coordinated the fundraising to buy the Burgoyne Bay land, and played a pivotal role in negotiating land purchase of Burgoyne Bay provincial park lands.  The Save Salt Spring group raised money separately and applied its the funds to watershed land purchase.

  3. A 475 ha region of land surrounding Burgoyne Bay was bought as provincial park. The Nature Trust of British Columbia, with financial assistance from Forest Renewal BC, purchased 280 ha of adjacent area.  The area contains the largest stand of Garry Oak woodlands in Canada. The North Salt Spring Water District purchased 130 ha of land within the Maxwell Lake community watershed. 

Purchase Overview

Funding: CRD Parks, TLC of BC/Salt Spring Appeal, and The Province of BC 
CRD Parks: $1.5 million

TLC/SSI Appeal: $1.0 million
Province of British Columbia: $13.4 million
Summary of CRD Parks' financial contribution

* Total contribution: $1.5 million
* $500,000 in 2001 
* $1.0 million over five years (i.e., 200,000/year from 2002 to 2006)

Much of the land purchased by the CRD has since been sold to the provincial government.

Research Analysis

The short-term time horizons and largely economic considerations of private landowners are likely to come into conflict with local communities, especially if the land they are operating in has significant value to those communities or if the area of land being modified is significant. In this case, the land on which logging was proposed had significant cultural and ecological value, as well as a history of recreation use and a significant value to the islands tourist economy.

These values provided the motivation to a concerned portion of the island community. Given strength from their beliefs about the value of the land, and from the cross section of community solidarity, as well as the sheer scale of the proposed logging operation, the community maintained a variety of activities to pressure the landowner and government agencies, and to preserve the profile of the campaign in the media. The strength of the vision around which this activity took place was key to the success of the campaign, and the social capital created in the process led to maintaining the pressure, and ultimately a significant degree of success.

Detailed Background Case Description

The Island Demographics

Lying within an archipelago of islands in the Strait of Georgia, off Canada’s southwest coast, Salt Spring Island is the largest and most populous of the Gulf Islands.  Geographically Salt Spring Island covers an area of 18,535 ha and has a population of over 10,000 people (Garvie. 2001). By virtue of its population size Salt Spring has the amenities of a small urban centre, such as educational, social, and health services and shops, despite its isolation as an island.  Most of these services are located in one centre, Ganges, with lesser centres offering gas and groceries near two of the BC Ferries terminals, at Fulford and Vesuvius.  The island economy includes tourism, agriculture, and the service industry, as well as telecommuters.  Salt Spring Island is a favourite vacation destination. The population swells with tourists and seasonal residents in the summer and the weekly Saturday market of local farmers and artisans draws as many as 3,000 visitors (Friends of Salt Spring Parks Society, 2003).

Although Salt Spring Island continues to have a reputation as a community of artisans, farmers and retirees, recent demographic analysis suggests a changing population profile.  Garvie’s (2001) report offers the most comprehensive and recent analysis of island demographics. Island population has increased approximately 50% every decade over the last 30 years. Population growth on the island during the ‘90’s increased at twice the rate (2.4%) projected.   The dominant age sector in 1996 was slightly older than a comparative BC average. A significantly high percent of the working sector is self-employed (34% compared with 14% in the Capital Regional District {CRD}). About half the income reported on the Island comes from non-employment sources (versus 31% in the CRD), including government transfer payments, corporate pensions, and investment income. Incidence of low income on the Island is significant, with 47% of the households reporting income of less than $30,000. In contrast to this, since the 1996 Census, buyers of high-end properties are noticeably more affluent than in the past.  Salt Spring Island has become a preferred address.

Land Ownership

In 1962, German Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis was visiting the area and purchased the land.  The lands became known as the Texada lands after the name of his company, Texada Logging Company.  Until the Prince’s death in 1999, logging activities were operated with a long-term harvest horizon.  The lands developed a history of use by island residents for hiking, camping, and hunting.  The uplands represented the largest continuous tracts of forest on Salt Spring Island, to the effect that the lands were unpopulated and relatively wild.

Prince von Thurn und Taxis was the second richest man in Germany with assets exceeding $2.5 billion. Following his death, these assets dwindled to $500 US, and the heirs to the Prince’s assets chose to sell the lands on Salt Spring Island, in addition to other land holdings on Vancouver Island.  Texada Land Corporation, owned by Rob MacDonald, and in association with Derek Trethewey, purchased the lands with the intent to log the land of its merchantable timber in two years and afterwards sell the land.

What was at Risk?

The Texada lands represent 10% of Salt Spring Island. The lands include: large areas of natural habitat and ecologically sensitive habitat; lands within the watershed of drinking water for Ganges, the island’s main centre; salmon bearing streams; and, the surroundings of a near-pristine marine bay.

“The south and west part of Salt Spring, within which the Texada lands fall, is one of the largest undeveloped areas in the southern Gulf Islands with over 6000 hectares of mixed public and private lands mostly under forest, park or agricultural zoning and use.  This area contains one of the largest continuous second growth stands of Douglas Fir in the Gulf Islands.  Otherwise Douglas-fir forests of the regions are fragmented, creating a loss of larger species that require greater tracts of land, as well as species sensitive to the forest edge. The two largest peaks of the Gulf Islands are in this region, as well as 18 km of undeveloped coastline and the highest concentration of sensitive ecosystems and rare and endangered species in the region.  Development has been slowed in this region because of its relative inaccessibility and the high costs of road development”. (Penn, 1999)

“Of Burgoyne Bay – the sheer physical beauty of the place is obvious – beneath the magnificence of Mount Maxwell an unpaved country road meanders through Douglas fir forest on one side, open fields on the other, to a sparkling bay where a tow-hold [sic] of industry flanks a sweeping bay fringed by forest. . . . The place is called Hwaaqwum (hwaw-kwum) “place of the sawbill duck” a name that described its most important resource. Saw-bill ducks were harvested by the hundreds (by First Nations) with large aerial nets during the summer and autumn months, speared, singed and dried for winter use.  Herring was raked in the bay and sea-mammals hunted.  The shoreline harboured rich clam beds and a stream with coho and chum salmon taken in summer and dried.  Further inland were clearings of red-clover and camas fields, cedar groves and berry patches.” (Arnett, 1999)

The land within and around Burgoyne Bay harbours historical and cultural values from thousands of years of human activity.  Although the area has had human impacts (e.g. land clearing for farming, log sorts on land and in the water), it has had relatively little modern development. The Burgoyne valley and bay retains an atmosphere embracing the cultural and spiritual values of local First Nations and the heritage of one of BC’s first inter-racial settler communities (Arnett, 2003).

Conservation and Development

“. . . three women are perched against the largest arbutus tree in Canada within an ancient Douglas-fir forest.  There are five species at risk living within 100 metres of this tree.  The whole slope is a high risk for soil erosion.  Under our community plan no one can log here, but under the Forest Land Reserve regulations, there’s nothing stopping anybody.” (Penn, 2000)

The Islands Trust Act was enacted through municipal legislation in 1974 with the specific focus “to preserve and protect” the unique natural features of the Gulf Islands.  The Islands Trust was created in the same year to oversee land-use regulations on the Gulf Islands.  On Salt Spring Island, two trustees are elected from the Island population to carry out the “preserve and protect” mandate.

Through the Islands Trust Act, island communities have each developed their own Official Community Plan (OCP) that effectively serves as a land use plan. Municipal by-laws are passed to support the OCP.  After years of public consultation and community advisory groups, the Salt Spring Island OCP was adopted by the elected local trustees in 1998.

The Forest Land Reserve Act (FLR) and Agricultural Land Reserve Act (ALR) are provincial legislation intended to preserve forest and agriculture land.  (FLR designation was removed from such lands after the period this case study covers). Priority on these lands is given to those activities that support forestry and agriculture, respectively.  Most of Texada’s lands lie in either ALR or FLR. 

BC’s Forest Practices Code applies only to forestry on crown lands.  Until April 2000, there were no regulations for logging on private lands.  As of April 1, 2000, a number of regulations came into effect for logging on private lands in the Forest Land Reserve.  These regulations focused on protection of riparian areas, slope stabilization and erosion prevention.  The regulations are considered by conservationists as weak and not adequate to protect small, ecologically-sensitive, forested areas.

In 1995, the British Columbia government had entered into an agreement with the federal government to commit $30 million to the Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy Trust for land acquisition for parks in the Gulf Islands.  The Salt Spring Island community reminded the government of this agreement, and urged the release of funds for land purchase on Salt Spring.

In June 2000, the community asked the federal government to buy Texada lands – especially Burgoyne Bay, which would double the area of the proposed Gulf Island National Park, and protect the largest Garry oak meadow in Canada. In July, the Capital Regional District (CRD), with an interest in buying 1000 hectares of the Texada lands for a regional park (they previously made land purchases with a vision for more regional parks in the forest area) left the negotiating table.  After four months of negotiations, valuations, and appraisals, the CRD could not reduce the value Texada had placed on the timber resource, making it unaffordable.

In September 2000, politicians from four levels of government endorsed a proposal to make Burgoyne Bay a national park.  The proposal was hand-delivered to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien with an autographed calendar, Salt Spring Women Preserve and Protect, 2001. In January 2001, the federal government considered a $140,000 biodiversity package for purchase of unique lands in British Columbia.  The SSI community lobbied Environment Canada to consider the Texada lands around Burgoyne Bay.

Community organizations believed privatization could, if handled creatively, be one of the keys to protecting BC’s forests in the next millennium, as it could allow sustainable forestry practices with a promise of a future.  The Islands Trust is one organization hopeful of this. The Cortes Eco-Forestry Cooperative and West Kootenay Harrop-Proctor Watershed Protection Society are two organizations (there are many) that received support from BC Forestry Minister as they pressed for community groups to buy private forest land and carefully harvest it, however, there are numerous examples of private land owners who do not consider the future long-term for the forest.  Texada Land Corporation is clearly focused on a short-term horizon (2 years).  It’s clear-cutting activities are 5 to 15 times the sustainable rate - on lands that represent 60% of the Island’s Forest Land Reserve.

Watershed Protection

In 2000, Texada Land Corporation confirmed plans to log Mount Maxwell’s secondary watershed area.  Since 1916, Maxwell Lake has been a drinking water source on Salt Spring and is currently the main water supply for almost half of north Salt Spring, including Ganges and its business community.  This watershed’s near-intact forest cover is unique on the island, and maintains the consistently high quality of Maxwell Lake water. Water quality in almost all other lakes on Salt Spring has deteriorated significantly. If the Mount Maxwell area is logged water quality may be threatened for five years into the future and the cost of protecting this land from logging would be less than the future cost of water treatment (Holman, 2000). Texada agreed not to log the secondary water basin during the wet, winter months when heavy machinery would increase sediment and create erosion (Wilde, 2000).

Although about 75% of Lot 9 is in a Development Permit Area (DPA) which precludes logging, the Water District feels that the only way to control access and agricultural activity is to purchase this lot.  Unless the Water District can pay for the value of the land plus the timber, Texada apparently intends to clear cut the 25% of Lot 9 outside the DPA, and most of its extensive holdings in the “secondary” watershed (Holman, 2000).

Vision & Networking

In 2000, Elizabeth White, Campaign Appeal Fund Coordinator in Penn stated “The vision of the land protected for ecoforestry, organic farm trusts, community watershed, and parkland is compelling and keeps me involved.” Organisers of the community action were advised early on by a resident life coach, Bruce Elkin, to create a vision. Assessing the details of the reality of the circumstances and focusing on the vision, one can start to move towards realizing the vision.  Knowing the reality requires research and investigation of the facts, actors and any leverage either party has. Thinking big and taking small steps to get results creates an energy that leads to building momentum.  And this momentum was clearly a feature of the Save Salt Spring cause.

The “cause” had organization, but it had no overall leader.  Instead, people worked within groups to which they had an affinity by virtue of their interests and skills, hence “affinity” groups.  These groups operated independently of other groups and also in concert with a shared overall aim – to stop the industrial scale clear-cut logging and save the land. One group met weekly to strategize and served as a coordinating body between the affinity groups.  One of these affinity groups was the direct action group.  Using non-violent, public disobedience as a tactic for stopping the logging and creating media attention, the actions of lockdown to logging trucks were among the bravest actions, as was the acceptance of arrest and a potential criminal record.

There were many affinity groups and their existence, as a characteristic of the organization of the cause, enabled a wide variety of community residents to join into the action in a creative and individual way.  Just as important as the independent actions of the affinity groups was the critical link between the groups.  This was achieved in large part by a few specific individuals who had the means to appreciate the foci of the various groups and were able to move between and among the groups. As with a systems approach, each affinity group was independent, but in relationship with other groups, and together defined the greater form or cohesive body of action to stop the logging and save the land.

Exposing Media

In order to gain significant mainstream media coverage community organizations carried out a number of revealing ‘stunts’ or art and cultural related protests. The first was a calendar:

“Women who have staged protests, blocked logging trucks and taken out ads in local newspapers to save Salt Spring Islands’ trees are now baring it all for the cause in a charity calendar.  The stripping strategy by the island’s “female eco-warriors” – the latest in a series of tactics by residents attempting to save Salt Spring’s trees – has barely raised an eyebrow in the community of 10,000.”  (Salt Spring women ardent tree buffs. The Globe and Mail, Aug. 17, 2000)

Exposing the body often flies in the face of social taboos. If done in “good taste” (and this is subjective) and for a good cause, society may enjoy its whimsical quality and its suggestion of eros, but it is a statement much greater than providing entertainment.  For those women who participate, it is a strong statement, provoked from their inner self and aligns with their sense of place.

If the calendar had raised the profile of the island and the cause of the community, then more flesh might yield more exposure and greater effectiveness:

“I have a Ph.D. and no one listens.  But if I take off my clothes and ride my horse through Vancouver, there are suddenly seas of media and people who show up to listen.” (Briony Penn quoted in Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, Jan. 24, 2001).

Briony Penn rode Lady Godiva-like around Howe Street, Vancouver’s finance section, and the office of Texada Land Corporation.  Upon her steed, she wore a long blonde wig with garland and flesh-toned panties while escorted by other bare-breasted eco-warriors and calendar women.

“In blasé worldliness, media, understanding all too well the prurient tastes of readers, listeners or viewers, will always pay more attention to naked flesh than naked truth. . . .  the bared female breast remains more persuasive, more powerful, than the disciplined female brain.” (Hume, 2001) 

Not to be outdone the ‘Hunks of Habitat’ set up a website in 2002, which proved successful in raising quick money when funds for the ongoing campaign were short. On the website, leaves were offered up for purchase: 100 leaves at $100 a piece covered a shortfall in fundraising covering the costs of the land transaction.  The last minute nature of this stunt precluded significant media coverage, although there was some in local environment and free papers.  All of these exposing events proved very successful in quickly raising significant amounts of money.

Activism and Rights

In February 2000, at least a dozen islanders were served notices of SLAPP suits, and the newspaper the Barnacle was served notice with libel. SLAPP suits – Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation – are civil actions aimed at enjoining people from defaming or interfering with a company carrying on its business.  SLAPP suits are a corporate strategy imported from the United States, although they have been eliminated from a number of states.  BC Premier Dosanjh had proposed to make such suits illegal in BC, but the bill was not passed before his NDP government lost to the BC Liberals (Pynn, 2000). A SLAPP suit is a Court injunction, therefore, non-compliance with a SLAPP suit, is viewed seriously by the Court; failing to observe the conditions of a SLAPP suit can result in imprisonment.

The Arts

The Arts, in all its dimensions, infused the actions for the campaign, if they weren’t in themselves the event.  Community rallies and monthly town hall meetings were often opened with a new song recently composed by a resident musician or the Raging Grannies, with playback theatre, or poetry. Road blockades often were accompanied with drumming or chanting.  Designing buttons and bumper stickers, photographing and filming community actions and those of the company’s logged land, and sign painting were foundational to community actions. Most of these creations arose spontaneously and were an individual or group of individuals’ personal contribution to the campaign and the cause. Music concerts were staged on the Island and in Vancouver, featuring big-names recording artists such as Randy Bachman, to raise funds for land purchase. 

Theatrical performances were staged in Victoria and Vancouver against Manulife Financial, the company financing Texada Land Corporation. Another event, Salt Spring Island, Where Art Meets Nature, started as an art auction, and blossomed into nearly a fortnight of talks and presentations featuring such renowned environmentalists as David Suzuki, Robert Bateman and Bristol Foster (Parkes, 2000). A documentary film, “Ah the Money, the Money, the Money: Battle for Salt Spring”, is directed by island resident Mort Ransen for the National Film Board of Canada and aired on CBC TV's The Nature of Things.

Texada Land Corporation’s response

After one year of operation, the company was over half-way to meeting its goal of clearing the land of its merchantable trees within two years. In January 2001, an island resident discovered flagging tape on the trees in the old growth forest in Burgoyne Bay, although Texada Land Corporationhad given the community its word that it would not cut old growth forest:

“We will be harvesting second growth timber only; old growth trees will be left in place,” (Texada Land Corporation, Code of Principles, unpublished, Nov. 25, 1999).

One islander, Nina Raginsky, made a proposal to Texada Land Corporation to stop cutting the trees and allow the community to raise the money to purchase a conservation covenant to protect the old growth trees (>100 years old), in tandem with the more visible protests described above.  Texada Land Corporation agreed to halt the logging and allow time for the community to meet conditions for land purchase, and also placed a moratorium on further logging until the end of February and outlined conditions to be met in order for community land purchase to be possible.

Protected lands

On November 30, 2001, a deal was reached between all parties to purchase 665 hectares of lands surrounding Burgoyne Bay.

Land included in the deal covers an area from Mount Maxwell to the south shores of Burgoyne Bay as well as the slopes of Mount Sullivan, Mount Tuam and Bruce Peak. The landscape is mixed Douglas fir, Garry oak and arbutus forest with scenic rocky bluffs and lush valley-bottom groves of red cedar and ancient Douglas firs. Burgoyne Bay itself is the largest undeveloped bay and estuary left in the southern Gulf Islands. It contains significant conservation, recreation, wildlife, fish, and historic values. Two salmon streams run into the bay, which has about 2 km of sensitive tidal flat with extensive healthy eelgrass beds. It is also adjacent to the proposed Marine Conservation Area in Sansum Narrows.

Other now protected areas include: Maxwell Lake community watershed purchased by the North Salt Spring Water District totalling 127 hectares (317.5 acres) for $1.14 million, and 282 hectares (705 acres) on Burgoyne Bay purchased this spring by The Nature Trust of BC for $3.5 million. The Nature Trust bought the 282 hectare area of prime Garry oak meadow from Texada Land Corporation with funding from Forest Renewal BC's private forest biodiversity program.

Timeline of events

Nov 1, 1999
Land Purchase

Texada Land Corp. buys land from German princess

Nov 8, 1999

“Welcome to Salt Spring Island” breakfast
70 people of SSI community gather along the road allowance to one of Texada’s farm parcels and area of intended first logging cuts, to greet the developers and offer breakfast; the developers do not appear, but those present rally together, share all that they know collectively about the details of the land deal, and initiate the first self-organizing process back at Fulford Community Hall


Month spent organizing as community – town hall meetings with open mike and briefings by locals to determine what is going on in the uplands – strategic group organizes self – also affinity groups in general start to self-organize – strategic group, media goods, organizing community meetings, direct action, etc.
- community organizes and researches – which laws and regulations apply, legal advantages, sources of fundraising, etc.
-          bulk of Texada lands within provincial Forest Land Reserve – therefore no bylaws apply, rather BC regulations for forestry – which are nonexistent at this point in time, by April 2000 there will be three regulations that apply to logging on private lands
-          Texada lands that are within the Forest Land Reserve or Agricultural Land Reserve are served by provincial legislation and regulations, not , therefore Salt Spring Island’s Official Community Plan and bylaws do not apply to these lands 
-          obvious conflict between community interests and those of  the land owner, Island Trustees and BC provincial government tell community to speak with the owners, owners not moved by community interests – will cut 60% of all merchantable timber within 2-3 years and sell land
-          re-emergence of  previous research and efforts for conserving these same lands by South and West Salt Spring Conservation Partnership
-          community starts evaluation of areas of environmental significance


- Tea at Hastings House – organized by one islander, invitees include a selection of islanders and Texada owners and their representatives; tea was organized by an islander to initiate face-to-face communications with the new owners and community members; first time for community members to meet the faces behind the names
- Local islander and forester serves as expert for interpretations of logging activities of Texada – estimates 100 acres of trees have already been removed in one month of logging
- Texada logging to boundary with Buddhist monastery



-launch appeal fund, The Land Conservancy of BC steps in as lead agency and fundraising body, a volunteer from the community offers to organize the fundraising (SSI Appeal Fund)
-launch of letter-writing campaign – to politicians in Victoria & Ottawa
-developers now say as much as $60 million needed to buy back lands
-an anonymous islander donates the first $100,000 to the SSI Appeal fund
- Texada commissions a conservation evaluation of its lands
-community plans first rally at BC legislature, to remind government of its ’95 promise to allocate $30 million to The Pacific Marine Heritage Legacy Fund for park acquisition in the Gulf Islands
- endless meetings – monthly community, weekly strategic

January 2000
Jan. 5

Direct action

First blockade – ends with a hat being passed around the blockade group to cover wages of inconvenienced truck driver – who donates it back to the cause
-Road rally, about 75 islanders present, 300 wooden crosses planted beside Fulford-Ganges Road, each cross for every truckload of trees removed by Texada, wooden crosses mowed down by truck, intentionally
-community starts to develop vision – to buy back Texada lands and enable community forestry, farm land trust, and parkland
- new website launched
-volunteers open Information and Fundraising Centre in Ganges
- Capital Regional District (CRD) conducts straw poll showing that most Victoria-area landowners approve of a property tax levy for the acquisition of parkland throughout region, including SSI (SSI being in the Greater Victoria Area)
- over next 10 years, CRD promises acquiring 3 of Texada’s mountaintops (identified in CRD Parks Master Plan) with assistance from the SSI Appeal Fund, which has now grown to $250,000

Feb/March 2000

Direct Action
Dialogue and visioning
Activism - Manulife affinity group
Fundraising & The Arts
Direct action
Whose Right?
Legal action

Road blockade – Sally Sunshine locks down to logging truck in her wheelchair
-at monthly community town hall meeting, a former Howe Street investigative reporter and now an island resident exposes story on bad debt by Texada principals  – Derek Trethewey owes substantial debt to gambling casino, Caesar’s Palace, among many other debts; Rob MacDonald, the owner of Texada, also has a record of development dealings with nefarious Nelson Scalbania
-mortgagers revealed – Texada has $16 million mortgage with Manulife Financial, ~$30 million with von Thurn und Taxis family
- mortgage payments paid with logging revenue
- local expert forester states Texada logging rate is 15-20 times sustainable rate despite the Islands Trust Policy statement: “It is the position of the Trust Council that on each island in the Trust area, the rate of forest harvesting should not exceed the rate of re-growth.”
-some islanders pursue research on von Thurn und Taxis family – Princess Gloria known for encouraging eco-certified forestry in Europe
-postcard campaign launched to Manulife – postcard picture depicts industrial-scale logging activities of Texada that are funded by Manulife
-representatives of Ethical Funds (holder of Manulife shares) publicly question Manulife’s conduct
-fundraiser – by local musicians “Woodstop”
-creation of peace camp – to protest Texada using road through crown land to access its land; camp renamed “Emerald Forest”
-threats to protesters by loggers grow
-tree-sit and lock-down to logging equipment , one night protesters say a logging contractor’s employee attacked blockade members that were locked to equipment and sitting in trees,
-assault charges laid against loggers by protesters; injunctions laid against protesters by Texada, restricting their presence on public roads, public blockade on road
-idea of naked women calendar emerges by islander after seeing the calendar from Yorkshire Women’s Institute

April 2000

Legal action
Activism & The Arts

-public protest on steps of BC Legislature – 200 people from 15 different island delegations, many in costume
-Texada obtains injunctions against 10 more islanders, and files a libel suit against local paper The Barnacle, its owner, Jeff Outerbridge, and two of its journalists, John Pottinger and Shelagh Plunkett.  Rob Macdonald (owner of Texada) suing them for “defamatory and malicious intent, discrediting his personal and business reputation”
-a local lawyer, John Davies, later defeats some of injunctions
-rally outside offices of Texada and Manulife in Vancouver, including Raging Grannies, costumed participants, and national columnists including Elizabeth Nixon (The Globe & Mail), Arthur Black (CBC), and Sid Tafler
- fundraising event, “Stump Stomp,” hosted by Salt Spring Island Conservancy – auction and dance
Appeal fund now over $500,000
-community holds beach bbq and invites developers; one arrives, Derek Trethewey, in a floatplane with his girlfriend whom he introduces as “Cinderella”

May 2000

Activism - Direct action
Whose Right?

Blockades and lockdowns and arrests continue
-representation at Manulife’s AGM in Toronto, little response
-attempts to meet with Princess Gloria – no meeting
-clear-cutting continues

June 2000

Whose Right? -Legal action

-nine arrestees by virtue of blockading and locking down have essentially defied the injunction, charged with contempt of court, elevated to criminal court
Greg McDade, appointed by federal Pacific Marine Heritage League (PMHL) to review national park proposal, polls islanders – many plead for feds to buy Texada lands, especially Burgoyne Bay; this would double the area of proposed Gulf Islands National Park & protect largest intact and remaining unprotected Garry oak meadow in Canada
- logging continues, now cutting in areas of CRD’s interest for park

July 2000

-after 4 months of negotiations to buy 1,000 hectares of Texada lands for regional park, Texada is immovable on price – at 2-5 times the appraised value, CRD leaves table (Texada includes value of standing timber as component of land price, CRD only evaluates the land value)

August 2000

Conservation -watershed protection
Fundraising & The Arts
Fundraising & The Arts

-purchase of small parcel of land of primary watershed (around Lake Maxwell) for cost of land plus cost of timber – purchased by Island Water District
Salt Spring’s marimba band Kushinga is hosted a benefit at Beaver Point Hall to raise funds for public relations around the campaign, media exposure of Salt Spring’s present forestry issues, and ongoing education about alternative forms of development and community managed forests.
-Save Salt Spring Society hosts rock concert at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom, featuring islander Randy Bachman and others

September 2000

Fundraising & The Arts
Whose Right? Legal action against corporation

- Saltspring Women Preserve and Protect, 2001 Calendar – goes on sale with much media exposure, locally, regionally and nationally
Mass rally organized by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee at the provincial legislature in Victoria
BC Land Reserve Commission fines Texada $13,000 for logging damage to Tuam Creek – a laughable sum considering the millions Texada is earning,  LRC found evidence of damage through the community’s website where photos of Texada’s activities were posted
Nature Trust for BC offers $3.0 million on Garry oak meadows on Mount Maxwell, offer rejected by Texada
-politicians from all levels of government endorse proposal to make Burgoyne Bay a national park – proposal hand delivered to Prime Minister with autographed calendar

October  - November 2000

Fundraising & The Arts

Salt Spring Island, Where Art and Nature Meet, an art auction and fortnight of evening presentations with local and guest speakers, including Robert Bateman and Bristol Foster, David Suzuki, and others - for Salt Spring Appeal Fund; while billed as fundraiser, the event was meant as much to expose the issues and raise the community consciousness of what’s at risk
- lock down to logging truck

December 2000

Fundraising & the Arts

- by year-end, calendar has raised more than $100,000, continues selling into new year

January 2001
Jan. 22

Conservation offer

Elizabeth Nixon publishes story in Harper’s  magazine, Where the bee sucks: A Northwestern island doth suffer a sea change, an article about Salt Spring Island, set to Othello
The Nature Trust of BC, with funding from BC Forest Renewal, offers to purchase 280 hectares of Garry oak woodlands from Texada, to protect one of the largest and last remaining representative stands of Garry oak meadow in Canada
Texada flags old-growth trees in preparation for more logging, they specifically stated they would not cut OGF, community cries of protest re-ignited, Nina Raginsky asks for time to raise funds for conservation covenants for the trees
Briony Penn rides as Lady Godiva in Vancouver flanked by bare-breasted calendar models and others, Manulife tells Texada to sit down with community and negotiate
Texada stops logging, offers time for community to come up with terms of purchase

February 2001

Legal Action

Time allotted to meet Texada’s terms for purchase sunsets and offer closes, another offer with different terms will emerge later
-court cases of arrestees

March 2001
March 31

The Arts

Eight protesters found guilty of criminal contempt of court for breaching an injunction prohibiting interference with logging activities.  Six are sentenced to jail terms.
BC and federal governments announce agreement allowing purchase of Burns Bog and completion of creation on long-promised Gulf Islands national park
Ah, the Money, the Money, the Money
Mort Ransen’s film documenting the direct action for the Save Salt Spring cause premiers on Salt Spring Island before broadcast on CBC TV, The Nature of Things
-tenants on Texada Lands given notice

Conservation deal

-BC Parks and TLC reach deal with Texada, deal to close Nov.
-due to Sept 11, much of money pledged can not be made good, community short hundreds of thousands - Make up that amount in last month with urgent appeal and generous support of islanders

June 2001

Conservation purchase

June 2001 – Garry oak purchase

November 2001
Nov. 30

Fundraising & The Arts
Conservation Purchase

15 men bare all on the Internet.  “Hunks for Habitat” were covered by 100 leaves that donors can remove for $100 apiece.
The B.C. government kicks in $13.4-million to create 770 hectares of parkland.  A further $1.5 million from the CRD and $1.35 million from local fundraising brings the total deal to $16-million.

Organizations involved

-      Texada Logging Company (heirs to estate of Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis)

-      Texada Land Corporation (Rob MacDonald)

-      The Land Conservancy of BC (Bill Turner)

-      Mortgagers – Manulife Financial, & Princess Gloria Von Thurn und Taxis (one of the estate's heirs)

-      Capital Regional District (CRD) Parks

-      Provincial government – BC Parks, BC Forestry (Forest Renewal BC)

-      Federal government – Environment

-      Islands Trust Committee

-      The Nature Trust of British Columbia

-      North Salt Spring Waterworks

Resources and References

Arnett, C. PLACE – The Final Frontier. Unpublished document, 1999.

Arnett, C.  Appendix 1 – Cultural and Historic Values of Hwaqwum – Burgoyne Bay, Salt Spring Island, BC.  In:  Friends of Salt Spring Parks.  Burgoyne Bay Background Report. Unpublished report prepared for BC Parks, Salt Spring Island, BC, 2003.

Friends of Salt Spring Parks Society. (2003).  Burgoyne Bay Background Report – March 31, 2003.  Unpublished report prepared for BC Parks, Salt Spring Island.

Garvie, E. (2001). A Window of Opportunity:  Economic Profile of Salt Spring Island – 2000.  Unpublished report prepared for Human Resources Development Canada, Salt Spring Island, BC.

Holman, G. (2000). Private profit versus the public good. Green Island Vision Newsletter, Issue #1, July 7, 2000, published by the Green Conscience Fund.

Hume, J. (2001). Naked flesh still outdraws naked truth.  Islander.  Feb. 4, 2001.

Penn, B. Background information about the Texada Lands. Unpublished documents, 1999.

Penn, B. (2000). A Strange Year on Salt Spring – For 12 months developers have been logging Salt Spring Island.  Could nude island women bring chainsaws to a halt? Monday Magazine.  November 2-8, 2000, Vol. 26, Issue 44.

Parkes, A. (2000).  Art and nature meet on Salt Spring. The Barnacle newspaper, Oct. 24, 2000.

Pynn, L. (2000).  The Vancouver Sun newspaper, Feb. 26, 2000.

Wilde, A. (2000). Rally urges watershed protection. Gulf Islands Driftwood, July 26, 2000.



Community Action on Saltspring Island

As some of the MEM group may know, I grew up on Saltspring Island. This prompted me to read and discuss the Community Action on Saltspring Island case study. I was on the Island during the three-year period when it all took place. My father was actually the Parks and Recreation Administrator for the Island, and so had a minor, yet important role, often acting as facilitator between residents and the Islands Trust / CRD.

This case study demonstrates the inherent conflict between simple market economics and the holistic value of land in a semi-rural island community of roughly 10,000 people (CRC, n.d.). Many Islanders survive on the income they generate in the summer months, as tourists flock to the island to encounter the beautiful parks, and patches of near-pristine ecosystems (eg. Canada’s largest Garry Oak Ecosystem). Livelihoods were certainly threatened by the clear-cutting taking place, and so was the health of the ecosystems surrounding one of the islands most important and ecologically sensitive watershed areas, Maxwell Lake.

This case study also shows that there is more than one strategy to use when trying to mobilize residents and use community action to deter unwanted activities within a region or community. Saltspring residents mobilized, got organized, and then came at the problem from many different angles, and although clear-cut logging was not stopped completely, residents were able to negotiate that various sensitive ecosystems could be preserved.


a.) Should there be guidelines in place to increase public awareness and consultation when clear-cut logging threatens ecosystems and social prosperity within a region or community?

Although this case study does offer a plethora of tactics to use when trying to deal with an unwanted activity, it does not offer a clean solution, largely because it is a unique situation and context. The town was fortunate enough to get the funds, and work with Texada to come to an agreement. What happens in other communities where there are less passionate people available to take on these tactics? Community consultation should be mandatory for projects at this scale, as the effects of the clear-cut will trickle down to other natural systems that the residents rely on.

b.) What does this case study tell us about the residents and their long-term community sustainability goals?

I feel that there is a strong sense of community on Saltspring. The community is a little bit divided, as there are a lot of retirees who live there, but haven’t grown up there and do little to integrate with the greater population. However, people are passionate about keeping things small scale, as I remember when they talked about getting a Dairy Queen on the Island… It did happen, but it didn’t last more than a few years.

Below are some points of importance from the Saltspring Island OCP

-Current zoning measures support a population of roughly 17,000 people (58% increase

- maintain and improve the quality of the island's natural environment

- protect areas of high biodiversity. To recognize and protect the island's native plant, animal and bird life.

-To give particular attention to the streams, wetlands and shorelines of Salt Spring Island.

-put away 30% of the Island for conservation

(Saltspring Island OCP, 2008)

Saltspring Islanders, like many Gulf Islanders certainly value long term sustainable planning. The OCP is littered with in-depth goals and targets for shoreline, aquatic, and terrestrial habitat improvements.

c.) Should social activism be used in many more contexts, as a means of improving social welfare and environmental protection?

We all know that Social Activism is becoming more and more prevalent across the globe. Societies are gaining access to information, and the means to transfer this information instantly. The proposed Enbridge pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to the BC coast is creating a similar, yet larger scale protest and it will be interesting to see what the government decides to do as this project has the potential to devastate a much larger tract of land and ocean.

d.) How can the knowledge and lessons from this community be transferred to other municipalities looking to combat a similar scenario?

Documenting the event with as much accuracy as possible is the first step to transferring knowledge. I think websites like CRC are great examples of how knowledge is being shared to anyone who wishes to learn.


McEwen, C., Ling, C., Community Action on Saltspring Island. Retrieved from:…

Islands Trust. Saltspring Island Official Community Plan. 2008. Consolidated September 10, 2010. Retrieved from:


I have been to Burgoyne Bay on Saltspring (the preferred spelling of many locals), and it is very special place near the site of some of the island’s original settler farms established in the mid 1800s. The Garry Oak meadows are beautiful.

By way of comparison, I would like to turn to a similar situation on nearby Galiano Island, also part of the Gulf Islands archipelago. As with Saltspring, the issue involves a clash between individual and community rights and obligations. The Galiano controversy hinges on thousands of acres of forest leased land that were purchased decades ago from the Macmillan Bloedel logging company by private landowners.

Because it is sold as land to be logged, forest leased land is cheap. The land on Galiano was purchased for less than $6,000 an acre. Recently, the owners have been attempting to convert their leases into freehold rights so that they can subdivide and sell land for development at a healthy profit of perhaps more than $50,000 an acre. Financially, there is quite a lot at stake. Prospective developers have made various undertakings to preserve portions of the land, including with covenants. This has appeased some, but not all Galiano residents.

At issue here are private landowners who want to change the nature of their legal title to their financial benefit, and to the detriment, some believe, of the community and local ecosystem. Unlike the Texada Land Corporation on Saltspring—which was not based in the community— the landowners on Galiano have a long history on the island. And while the Texada Land Corporation was entitled under law to log its land, the Galiano landowners do not have the right to subdivide their properties and develop them.

The issue has caused a sharp rift in the Galiano community—more so than on Saltspring over Burgoyne Bay—between those who support the rezoning (and the benefits they believe it will bring to themselves and the economy) and those who oppose it. Protests have been vocal; various local government trustees have been unceremoniously unseated; incidents of vandalism have been reported; and some people have weighed leaving their beautiful island rather than facing further conflict.

As with Saltspring Island, the dispute revolves around the rights and economic goals of landowners versus their obligations to the broader community and the environment. The point I am making is that the conflict between private landowners, the community, the environment and economic interests is quite common on the Gulf Islands.

One of the root causes of these disputes has to do with governance. The Islands Trust, an organization that is based on Vancouver Island, manages the islands politically. It comprises two or three representatives elected by residents of each island. Some locals feel the Trust is out of touch with islanders’ needs. Bowen Island, near Vancouver, withdrew from the Islands Trust model a decade ago for this very reason and won municipal status, and control over its own affairs. There is a strong movement on some Gulf Islands, and Saltspring in particular, to emulate this model.

Back to Saltspring. While the action in the Burgoyne Bay case study focused on communal obligations, more recently Saltspring’s private landowners and citizens have begun asserting their rights. Central to their argument is that the Island Trust is harming the island’s economic interests. For example, some time ago the Saltspring Trust placed onerous restrictions on part-time cottage rentals (aimed a curtailing locals renting cottages to short-term vacationers). This has been controversial and many on Saltspring feel the Trust (in the name of the community) has overstepped its mandate. It has also caused financial hardship for many of the Island’s less well off who have lost an important source of income. The fines that can be imposed are onerous, so few people flaunt the law. It is important to understand that the population on Saltspring is broadly split between local residents, who tend to be younger and have less disposable income, and offshore recreational property owners and retirees, who tend to be older and wealthier. The latter group is growing in number, while the former are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet, and to raise their families. These are complex issues with no easy solutions that everyone can buy into.

All this goes to show the delicate political balance between economic, social and environmental issues, especially in smaller communities. And the imperative for an inclusive, bottom-up democratic process. Dale (2001) discusses the need for a “new sense of relatedness” and for revitalizing democracy “by restoring the moral basis of political life.” (Dale, 2001, p. 132). She argues that instead of focusing on controlling and doing things, government should facilitate the empowering of communities by developing strategic partnerships (Dale, 2001). Her emphasis on “devolving power and authority to the most effective level of government wherever possible” is of particular interest in these smaller Gulf Island communities (Dale, 2001, p. 132).

Certainly, almost anyone who has lived on the Gulf Islands intuitively will understand Dale’s argument that mutual learning occurs when dialogues about policy are open and explore not only areas of agreement, but possibly more importantly, areas of disagreement (Dale, 2001). People need to stop yelling at each other, and learn to listen. Only then may they be able to work cooperatively. This is something islanders are not well known for, or disposed to do. But a change to a more cooperative approach is necessary. In fact, it is a prerequisite for improved governance and the consequent sustainable development of these islands and their fragile ecosystems.

As a follow up on the Galiano Island forest leased land controversy, I would like to reproduce part of an article from a recent Island Tides newspaper article that speaks to many issues I have raised here, and shows a way forward:

“Residents of Galiano Island showed remarkable unanimity on an unseasonably warm day May 6, when the Local Trust Committee convened a public hearing into a ‘win-win’ solution in the often fractious issue of residential development of forestland.

“Richard Dewinetz, Galiano’s largest private owner of forest-zoned lands and a long-time protagonist in the extended conflict, agreed to transfer 161 of 221 acres of forest-zoned land adjoining Bodega Ridge Provincial Park to BC Parks as part of a rezoning, in exchange for extra density—a 12-lot subdivision of five-acre residential lots. Dewinetz has posted a billboard off Vineyard Way for ‘The Estates at Panorama,’ with views from Vancouver to Mount Baker, and prices starting at $259,000, including GST and driveway.

“Every speaker supported the rezoning. Dewinetz told the hearing that he was pleased to sign over waterfront and forest lands, thus giving to Galiano residents—and all of BC—a ‘coast-to-coast’ park ‘that the public will own.’ In a brief break, over coffee and treats provided by the Galiano Food Program, Dewinetz joked that the somewhat uncharacteristic harmony of the meeting might have been due to the ongoing ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ week on Galiano.”
(Fournier, 2013, p. 1)

Dale, A. (2001). At the edge: Sustainable development in the 21st century. Vancouver, Canada: UBC Press.

Fournier, S. (2013, May 23-June 5). A win-win for Galiano’s forest lands. Island Tides, pp. 1, 6. Retrieved from:


The southern Gulf Islands are near and dear to my heart after having lived and worked around them over the last 26+ years. I well remember the controversy between the Salt Spring Island community and the Texada Land Corp. regarding logging the private land surrounding Burgoyne Bay. At the time I didn't pay a great deal of attention to all the details of the situation but I felt in my heart that the situation would ultimately be resolved to protect these lands that are culturally, historically, economically and environmentally very important indeed.

After studying the finer details of this case study, there are a few large philosophical points that offer some poignant lessons regarding future community action scenarios elsewhere, and environmental protection in general.

1)Putting the horse after the cart:
This is my most important point and it is a complex societal problem to be sure. Historically in Canada the protection of many important natural areas has only been achieved after much pressure and community action along with years of wrangling with corporate and private land owners (or lease owners). All to often, lands that have extreme cultural, historical, economical and environmental importance for Canadians, are not considered until after the fact. Typically a corporate entity makes plans or begins alterations and it is not until that point that concerned citizens or communities begin action to protect the land. This scenario has been repeated countless times. I believe that a more proactive shift in governance is needed. Government needs to allocate resources to identify areas of extreme importance that are not publicly owned and pursue the protection of those lands long before people come into conflict or livelihoods are threatened. For some of the most ardent environmentalists, criminal records can be the result of protecting lands that society as a whole really has the responsibility for. On the other side of the coin are working class people like truck drivers and office staff who are only trying to feed their families. These people are not the enemy and illegal environmental actions only really punish those who are not directly responsible for the degradation of lands in question.

Society needs to put its money where its collective mouth is and preemptively pool resources to purchase these lands before conflict
begins. Communities need to be the ones to identify areas of concern but they should not have to carry the weight for the rest of society that will benefit from the protection of the lands in question.

2) Shooting left to hit a target at right:
Obviously the fundamental shift in environmental protection governance outlined above is a monumental task and it clearly cannot address the entire task at hand. At some point only community actions can provide desired outcomes. It is at this point that I have some serious reservation about what actions were appropriate in the Salt Spring example as well as many other past situations. First of all, a strict adherence to law is paramount. Illegal environmental activities diminish society at its core and ultimately defeat the social imperative as described by Dale (2001). Additionally, these illegal actions miss the target entirely. Real change to environmental policy is predicated through a response by those responsible for policies in the first place. Furthermore, private land owners and corporations operating within legal bounds are doing what they are entitled to do. Putting non-illegal pressures are these groups is a much more effective tactic as demonstrated by the ultimate reaction of the Texada Land Corp's credit holder in the Salt Spring case.

I propose that future actions to sustain-ably protect the environment be grounded in the thoughtful, coordinated and legal targeting of putting the horse first, and then the cart.

Dale, A. (2001). At the edge: sustainable development in the 21st century. Vancouver: UBC Press.