A donation to the Nature Trust of B.C. will help ensure a large strip of land along the Englishman River, near Parksville — about 37 kilometres north of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island — remains protected.
The 71 acres, or 28.7 hectares of land worth over $5 million was donated to the trust by the Emil Anderson Group, a Chilliwack, B.C.-based contracting company.
"It's really ecologically important ... this is one of our highest priority landscapes," said Jasper Lament, chief executive officer of the trust.
The donated land will be added to the trust's Englishman River Kw'a'luxw Conservation Complex, a series of land plots along the river that the organization has been gathering since 1978.
This donation marks their 11th acquisition in the area.
The Snaw-naw-as First Nation will work with the trust to manage the long-term conservation of the land. The nation is recognized as a rights holder to the land under a new stewardship and management agreement.
Snaw-naw-as elected councillor Chris Bob said their nation has always used this land and harvested it.
Bob said the nation calls the area Kw'a'luxw, which means 'dog salmon.'
"There's natural resources there, there's medicine there, there's deer, elk, fish," said Bob.
"We want to preserve that for future generations and everybody to enjoy."
Lament said the Englishman River is an important salmon-spawning river on Vancouver Island and also a key watershed in the Coastal Douglas-Fir ecological zone.
He said the land includes old growth forest and traditional medicines.
The Emil Anderson Group initially purchased the plot of land in 1960 to mine a gravel resource located on the southeast corner, according to Mike Jacobs, chairman of the company's board.
Jacobs said the group will sell the gravel mine portion of the land to developers to become home sites. Their donation to the trust consists of the rest of the property that has remained untouched.
"We recognized that a large portion of the land was an ecologically sensitive area," said Jacobs.
"Although we had zoning and rights to log it, we didn't think that that was the ultimate best use of the property."
Lament said the Emil Anderson Group approached them over a decade ago to donate the land, and they have been working on the land transaction ever since.
"It's really a remarkable and wonderful gift, it's quite unusual for a company to step up the way that the Emil Anderson Group has," said Lament.
In addition to donating the land and covering transaction costs, the group also donated additional funds for startup costs and future land management of the property.
Lament said people have been enjoying the land recreationally without realizing that it was privately owned.
"There's trails on the property already that people have been using for many years."
He said they are currently working with the Snaw-naw-as Nation to determine how to manage the land.