Once in a while something special comes along to change our normal fishing and hunting activities that are so much a part of our fall schedule. As I write this column we could be beach fishing for coho, trolling at Browns Bay for chum and coho salmon, fishing the Puntledge River for chums, hunting black tailed deer, shooting geese, lake fishing for trout, stream fishing for cutthroat trout or steelhead, hunting ducks, just to name a few of the things we can do in our Island paradise that has all the qualities we associate with a “seventh heaven.”
However on Wednesday, Sept. 25 I was invited by Len Everett, a local director of Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC), to join him and DUC vice-president James Couch of Saskatoon in the dedication of the Salt Spring Island – Ford Lake Project.
The Ford Lake Project was being dedicated to Robert Bateman, our much-loved, internationally known and respected wildlife artist who has done so much in support of nature. The photograph with the column is of Bateman standing beside the rock cairn that was central to the dedication ceremony. The background of the photograph shows the hay meadows, Ford Lake and the forested hills on the sky line.
The ceremony was simplistic and profound. There was a small group of Bateman’s neighbours and representatives from several conservation groups and some press coverage. Essentially the northern portion of the project was acquired by DUC with private conservation interests through the Pacific Estuary Conservation Program. Bateman and his wife Birgit have owned property at Ford Lake since 1980 and they have lived there since 2005. The donation of their property to the Ford Lake Project has made the project complete.
“Beyond the fact that Ford Lake is our home, it is a special place of precious aspects which are of great value,” says Bateman. “These include forests, wetlands and meadows. Of course this rich variety of habitat is the home of much wildlife. DUC’s work is of great value. The habitat their work has protected is home to wildlife, large and small.”
The above quote was from the media release by DUC. The comment Bateman made in his talk at the cairn really piqued my interest when he said, “We need hunters and fishers because they get out into nature – especially hunters.” I asked him if I could use the quote and he said yes, he supported ethical hunting and fishing.
The Ford Lake Project is DUC’s way of saying thank you to Bateman who has done so much for nature throughout Canada and indeed the planet. For DUC in particular he has been supporting them for years. Since 2006 Bateman has had a yearly print program with DUC. Over the years Bateman has supplied over 31,000 copies of prints to DUC and the sale of these prints have raised millions of dollars for DUC wildlife habitat programs.
From this scribe’s point of view, the Ford Lake Project represents something very profound. Ford Lake is the largest watershed on Salt Spring Island which is the largest of the 200 Gulf Islands. It is home to about 10,000 people and a wide variety of wildlife. The project now provides a safe home for many species of forest, wetland, and aquatic species of birds, animals and fish.
Ford Lake has a resident population of cutthroat trout, and Fulford Creek which drains the lake into Fulford Harbour has stocks of trout, coho and chum salmon. It raises the intriguing question – How can a small island in the Gulf of Georgia crowded with people find space and funds to protect its largest watershed from further wildlife degrading development? Maybe they realize our planet is going through some major convulsions due to climate change.
We live on Vancouver Island which is home to over 500,000 people. We are actively cutting down its forests and shipping the logs overseas to help somebody else’s bottom line. We are developing mines, and rapidly expanding our urban centres that are not friendly to other life forms (except crows, rats, urban deer and a few others) all in the name of increasing the bottom line.
Surely in the name of progress we could find a way to copy the Salt Spring Island example with even one small watershed like Rosewall Creek or the Oyster River.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.