Shauna Doll talks forests and safeguarding the Coastal Douglas Fir habitat

Shauna Doll and Todd Howard with Pacifi Rim College Radio sit down to discuss forestry, the Gulf Islands, and the challenge of protecting Coastal Douglas Fir habitat.

In early March, Shauna Doll, Gulf Islands Forest Project Coordinator for Raincoast Conservation Foundation, had the opportunity to do an  interview with Todd Howard at Pacific Rim College Radio. 

Their hour long conversation covered many topics, including the then breaking news that Pender Islands Conservancy and Raincoast had secured the funding to purchase the S,DÁYES Flycatcher Forest and the challenges of protecting forests in the Gulf Islands. The conversation also touched on the threats of human caused climate change to habitat and species.

The impacts of human caused climate change on forests are undeniable and intensifying. Decades of research has documented the consequences of a changing climate on forest ecosystems including increased tree mortality, altered rates of growth, and lowered productivity (Case et al., 2021). More recent studies have documented the implications of warming temperatures, shifting moisture regimes, and variable weather patterns on forest regeneration after disturbance events like wildfire and industrial logging (Stevens-Rumann, 2018). Increasingly, forests are failing to naturally regenerate, and drier conditions are expected to increase the frequency and severity of disturbance events like fire. This means more and more disturbance with less and less regeneration. 

Further, the composition of forest ecosystems is shifting. As climatic conditions change, native species are oftentimes pushed from their natural ranges. As early as 1991 the US Environmental Protection Agency projected that anywhere from 26 to 90% of the Pacific Northwest could change from one vegetation community to another and forest area could decrease as much as 25% due to climate change. These gaps in understanding, accompanied by ongoing reports asserting that understanding climate change impacts on Pacific Northwest forests is still an emerging field of study, reveals a profound and pervasive disconnect between the scientific literature and operationalized policy decisions.

In this podcast episode, host Todd Howard, questions the motivations behind climate change responses. While it is important to have critical discussions about climate change, responses to these changes, and  implications on public policy and the human experience, it is essential that these discussions are rooted in the fundamental understanding that 1) climate change is real, 2) its impacts on ecosystems as we know and understand them will be profound, and 3) these impacts are already happening. As scientists, we at Raincoast understand the importance of questioning the world around us; however, anthropogenic climate change is not only real, it is increasingly threatening the viability and resilience of complex, life-giving ecosystems, as well as the wildlife and human societies that depend upon them.Listen to the interview with Todd Howard.

Todd Howard and Shauna Doll interview

This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

Todd Howard: Welcome to Pacific Rim College Radio, a podcast sharing stories and wisdom from experts in the fields of holistic wellness and sustainable living. I am your host, Todd Howard, coming to you from Ravenhill Herb Barn, a permaculture design campus of Pacific rim college in Victoria, British Columbia.

As the show’s guests demonstrate, by doing small acts to embrace more mindful living, we can positively impact our communities. Shauna Doll grew up in the relatively treeless city of Grand Prairie, Alberta, and fell in love with nature through a forested ravine that runs through the city and served as her childhood playground. Today, Shauna has a professional connection to that love of nature through her work with Raincoast Conservation Foundation, as the Project Coordinator for the Gulf Islands Forest Project that focuses on addressing impacts to Coastal Douglas Fir habitats. Shauna’s work is largely devoted to forest conservation, which includes policy work and review, big tree inventory, public education, and land acquisition projects.

If you love trees as much as I do, you will probably agree that there is something wonderful about being paid to seek out, inventory, and protect large trees, all Shauna’s professional roles and more are on the table for discussion during this episode. This includes the ever-changing climate, the importance of forest biodiversity, and Shauna’s favorite forest related books.

Shauna is a passionate advocate for the environment and an enthusiastic speaker. She effortlessly shares her experience and research for the benefit of all who listen. I thank her for her generosity and also Raincoast Conservation Foundation for their tireless research and work to protect the lands, waters, and wildlife of coastal British Columbia.

Shauna Doll: Thanks. Happy to be here. 

Todd Howard: I want to thank your colleague, and one of my previous guests, Chris Darimont, for referring you or recommending you to me as, as did the whole team at Raincoast who said you would be great to have on the show. So no pressure. I’m sure it’s going to go well.

Shauna Doll: Having to follow up Chris Darimont is intimidating to say the least. He’s a powerhouse. 

Todd Howard: Yeah, we had a great interview. Why don’t we start with an easy question, which is what would you tell someone you “do” if they ask. 

Doll: I work for Raincoast as the Gulf Islands Forest Project Coordinator. My work is mainly based on the Gulf Islands, doing forest conservation work. So that ranges from policy work and review to doing tree inventories, to doing public education, and doing podcasts.

And recently it has included a land acquisition project on North Pender Island. So there’s some fundraising and campaigning that goes along with my role. 

Howard: So for the listeners who are not in our geographic region. And I’ll just preface that by saying that you and I are both very closely located here on Vancouver Island, lower Vancouver Island, where are the Gulf Islands?

Doll: The Gulf Islands are in the Salish Sea between Vancouver Island and BC’s mainland. North Pender specifically is quite close, maybe a 45 minute ferry ride from Victoria Swartz Bay. And that’s actually connected by a very small bridge to South Pender Island. So those two islands are technically separate, but connected in a way that other Gulf Islands are not.

Howard: Okay. And so we’re basically North of Seattle, Northern Washington. We’re actually really close to the San Juan islands of Washington, Washington State, which are those basically an extension of the Gulf Island archipelago? 

Doll: Yes, in fact, many of the San Juan islands are also in the territories of the W̱SÁNEĆ people, and North and South Pender Island are both in the territory of the W̱SÁNEĆ people. So those colonial borders don’t always translate well.

Howard: Tell me a bit about the Gulf Islands Forest Project. 

Doll: This project is very new. It just got started in October of 2019. It actually began as a six month internship. I was hired to do some work, looking into the Islands Trust policy around forest protection. And that six months just revealed that there was a lot of work to be done. So, while policy is still a really big part of my work, we realized that part of effective policy is having an engaged community base.

So that started to include education and the establishment of the Pender Islands Big Tree Registry. Then we were noticing that policy really takes a long time to change and, especially around this region and Vancouver Island, there’s a lot of private land ownership. So it makes it hard to have public policy influence the way that trees and forests are managed.

So then we decided that maybe land acquisition was a good way to secure some land protection now, while we work with policymakers to do better in protecting the globally rare forests that occur here.

Howard: Right. And with the forests here, I believe I read on your website, we’re largely talking about endangered Douglas Fir forest – is that correct? 

Doll: It’s part of a larger region called the Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone. So while Douglas Fir itself is not really an endangered tree, it occurs all throughout British Columbia and beyond, there’s actually a distinctive variant of Coastal Douglas-fir that occurs here.

And the Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone, as it’s called, is one of 16 zones that exist in BC. And it only exists in 0.3% of the province. So, it occurs in Victoria. And along that South Eastern coast of Vancouver Island and across the Gulf Islands. So most of the Gulf Islands are representative of this zone.

And then it extends a little bit onto the mainland, including some small municipalities around the Greater Vancouver area, like White Rock and Delta. 

Howard: Okay. You talked about a Big Tree Registry and taking tree inventories. What is that? You go around and you count trees. 

Doll: Yeah. It’s the best part of my job. I get so excited talking about it because it allows me to actually be in the forest and not have to sit at my computer, which is also important work. So, it started a couple of months ago. It’s inspired by the UBC’s Big Tree Registry, which is a province-wide registry. And essentially it’s a participatory science project where we invite community members to use i- Naturalist, which is an app, to take pictures of big trees around the Pender Islands and register some cool data about them, like their diameter at breast height, which is basically you just go and hug the tree and see how big it is and its height and its crown spread.

And we just started identifying where the big trees around the Pender Islands are. 

Howard: And why only Pender Island?

Doll: This project started on the Penders Islands. We have some staff that live there, so it was easy enough for that to be a place where I could kind of jump off from.

But also North and South Pender islands are distinct islands, but they are connected. So there’s a larger reach being able to access those two islands, for the price of one, so to speak. But we hope to extend it to a larger area and include other Gulf Islands. There are some researchers on Salt Spring Island, like Dr. Tara Martin, who is doing an inventory of big trees. Gabriola has its own Big Tree Registry. So there are different initiatives that are happening around the islands. 

Howard: So how big are some of these trees? 

Doll: The biggest tree we found so far, height-wise, is a Douglas fir that is over 52 meters tall. The biggest diameter is actually a Western redcedar. That is in my supervisor’s front yard. It is massive, but it’s because it’s two Cedars that up to about maybe three feet above my head it splits. So it has this massive canopy.[00:10:00]

Howard: Yeah. What is the benefit of doing this Big Tree Registry? 

Doll: Big tree registries are very common. There are registries in Australia and all throughout North America.The reason for implementing them is to engage local communities in forest conservation, giving them tangible ways to contribute to collecting data, to understanding the forests in their area. But there’s also a lot of other benefits. Like we can identify priority conservation areas by identifying some of these older trees because big trees are generally a little bit older.

It’s also really great to have some baseline data to point to when you’re making policy recommendations. And there’s also just really great opportunities for collaboration between researchers. I was contacted by a researcher at Washington State University who is studying Western redcedar dieback which is something I’ve been hearing a lot about for the last yearand a half, everybody’s noticing that the redcedars are not doing well. All of the Pacific Northwest, that is a trend and there’s a lot of anecdotal understanding about why that is, but there’s not necessarily a lot of data showing us why that is. So this researcher contacted me to see if perhaps as part of my collections of big tree data, I could also collect data about Western redcedar on the Gulf islands. So I’ve started doing that as of a couple of weeks ago. 

Howard: Like,when you’re talking about these big trees, are we talking about first growth still? Are we looking probably at second, maybe even third growth? 

Doll: I truly, truly wish I could say that it’s old growth, but most of the Gulf islands have very little, if any old growth.I was actually reading a book yesterday that was written by somebody who’s from South Pender and has a long legacy of family on South Pender. He was writing about how his grandfather spent almost his entire life, just removing trees. So it’s mostly second growth that we’re looking at.

The statistic in this particular forest region is that there’s less than 1% old growth left (pre-sentence settlement to old growth). It’s very sad. 

Howard: Yeah. And this is primarily for the forestry industry. 

Doll: Yes, a lot of it’s logging, but a lot of it is just human development in general. Victoria is a beautiful place to live. We live in the rainshadow region. It’s one of the most temperate places in Canada, if not the most temperate place in Canada. So there’s a lot of development pressure around here. People keep moving in and the trees keep being pushed farther and farther back. 

Howard: Where did your interest in all of this begin?

Doll: What a great question. I am volunteering as a blog writer for my master’s supervisor, who lives in Halifax and he runs this project called the Halifax Tree Project.It’s supposed to get people interested in urban forests. And I was writing a blog post yesterday about urban biodiversity and what first came out is that I grew up, grew up in Grand Prairie, Alberta, which is in Northern Alberta. It’s quite an industrial city.  My really good memories growing up there are just from hanging out in this ravine that goes through the city.It’s one of the only real naturalized areas in the city.It’s a largely untreedplace and this ravine connects to the Park where I used to have my birthday parties. It’s the only real treed space in the city. And I spent so much time there and I was thinking that is where this all started: just walking around the city where I never saw trees and then being immersed in this one spot that had trees.

I think that we talk a lot about, or at least me and my work, I talk a lot about the loss of trees in this specific region, but thinking about it on a broader scope, most of the places I’ve lived, those forest ecosystems are not doing well. And they [the trees] are  the things that I notice and love about those places.

And I think that’s true for most people. When they go to a new place, that’s something that they always marvel at: new-to-them tree species. Those are the things that really connect us and ground us in these places.

So, I think it’s just that: noticing those beautiful places and, I guess, realizing that we take them for granted.

Howard: something about that. Yeah. What do the trees provide for us beyond the obvious, but why, why are they so important to our ecosystem?

Doll: It’s endless. I want to be clear that there’s significant benefit from just allowing them to be and not always trying to look at forests for what they can do for us. You know what I mean? I think that in our system, we often have to prove that these places can provide some kind of service to humans as a way to protect them. But I just want to make clear that they should be allowed to be there and be protected just for the sake that they are there and they deserve to be there.

Beyond that, they provide habitat for so many species. This area, the CDF in particular, has extreme amounts of biodiversity as coastal ecosystems tend to have. And there’s a significant amount of ecosystem services that are provided by these ecosystems, like, storm water attenuation, reduction of the heat Island effect, filtration of particulate matter from the air that we breathe.

They provide cooling and micro-climates, and especially in the climate change era, that’s going to become increasingly important. They stabilize soils and stop erosion. I could talk for hours about all of the things and all of the benefits we reap. And there’s so many studies about how we’re so much healthier when we spend time under trees, folks who live in treed neighborhoods tend to have lower rates of mental illness, like depression and anxiety.

They tend to be more physically fit because they are more compelled to go outside. They tend to be more focused at work because they’re less stressed. It just goes on and on. [00:20:00]

Human caused climate change is serious and going to be devastating for some species and habitats. I’m not saying that climate change is not impacting ecosystems because it is and that’s what is happening to Western redcedar it’s because of changing weather patterns.

 Whether or not this is happening at a rate that these ecosystems can handle is, I think, still something that we’re studying and trying to understand in our prehistoric human brains. I don’t know if that answers your question or if that’s just me musing on it.

Doll: We’re seeing the species starting to suffer because a lot of these species are at their limit of their range here.

Howard: Tell me about the land acquisition on Pender Island. What is going on there? What are you trying to do? 

Doll: I have some breaking news for you. You’re the first person I get to tell, because I think that [the podcast episode] will  probably come out after we publicly release this, but we bought it! We got it. We raised enough money as of yesterday. 

Howard: Wow. That’s great. So what did you buy? 

Doll: We bought 13 acres of Coastal Douglas-fir forest and associated habitat. Which basically means that we’ve got some beautiful redcedar. We’ve got this beautiful Sitka-sedge, hard-hack swamp. I’m not supposed to say swamp because swamp is not a sexy word, but swamps are the coolest; swamps are so sexy.

And we’ve got some stands of Alder. This is of course, is mostly second growth forest, but we do have maturing stands of beautiful trees and we hope that we can, well, no, we know now because we have it, that it’s going to become an old growth forest of the future.

Howard: Yeah. Yes. Congratulations. And why this particular 13 acre parcel of land. Was [00:30:00] there something specific about it or it was just available and beautiful and worth saving

Doll: A little bit of column A and a little bit of column B. So Raincoast partnered up with the Pender islands Conservancy Association on this acquisition.

We’re 50/50 partners and the Pender Islands Conservancy has had their eye on this property for quite a long time. Their previous president. His name is Graham Belfry. He first noticed it and he lives next door. So he was checking on it all the time. And it’s gone on and off the market a couple of times, because though there is a lot of potential for development, it is a challenging place to develop because there’s quite a few ridges and steep slopes . I don’t know if you know what a Development Permit Area is, but it is, it’s basically a piece of land use policy that protects certain types of ecosystems from development.So it doesn’t mean that these places can’t be developed, it just means you have to apply for a permit before you develop in them. So there’s a few of those around the property. So it was, the owners were having trouble selling it for a little while. So it went off the market and Graham brought it up to the rest of the board of the Conservancy.

And I’ve been working a lot with the Conservancy over the last year and it kept coming up in conversation and we were getting frustrated with the amount of time it was taking for policy to kick in and we just decided let’s partner up and let’s just get this piece protected. 

Howard: Nice. Well done. Thank you for that. What big trees provide us. Why, why is there so much focus on the big trees versus all the other trees? 

Doll: So, like I said earlier big trees tend to be older trees sometimes depending on site conditions trees can be big, bigger than you might expect based on their age, but generally bigger trees are older and older trees have more carbon storage capacity both in the soil, actually mostly in the soil, but also in the body of the tree. There was a misunderstanding for a long time,and I think that some of this came from provincial forestry rhetoric that looked at big trees as “decadent and diseased” and they started this liquidation process where they wanted to replace these old growth forests with thrifty plantations, because those were more productive for the timber industry.

So there has long been this idea that smaller trees are better carbon storage vessels because they’re quickly growing and they’re sucking up all this carbon as they grow. They do suck up carbon as they grow, but it’s not until they are quite a bit older that they really start to store all that carbon.

Howard: Yeah. And Chris and I talked a lot about the role of the grandmother, grandfather trees in the ecosystem, and how, when we’re replanting, these forests that at one point were second or third growth, beautiful forest. So I guess at one point they were first growth. We’re replanting typically with monospecies and they’re all the same age and they don’t have any grandmother trees around.

Can you talk a bit about that? Because it’s so fascinating to me. I don’t understand that even enough to talk about it, but maybe you can shed some light on that. 

Doll: That’s so interesting because I find that a lot of times I’ll go hiking in the Juan de Fuca area and I’ll be with friends and they’ll all be like, “This forest is so beautiful .I love it!” And I’ll be walking through and I’m like: “This forest is just a plantation. They’re all the same age! It’s a sad thing for me. But yeah, grandmother, trees are sometimes they are not even living trees. Sometimes they have fallen, but they provide nutrients to the forest around them.

There’s a lot of research coming out of UBC. Suzanne Simardis the mother of this “mother tree” idea and this communication network theory. And basically these mother trees are just the source, I guess you could say. They provide information, they provide nutrients. They are the genetic impetus for a lot of baby trees that are around them.

I think that we forget sometimes that these standing snags or dead trees that provide wildlife habitat and these fallen trees that are going to take a hundred years to rot out are actually providing just as much service to the forest as some of these standing living trees.

Howard: What are you most passionate about? Like, if you really drill it down, it doesn’t even have to be the work that you’re doing.

Doll: I feel like I’ve just landed in the most unbelievable situation being in my position because Raincoast has allowed me the freedom to be able to explore my love for being in the forest and actually doing fieldwork with the Big Tree Registry, but also being able to use what I’m seeing in the forest towards trying to influence better governance.

I get really, really fired up talking about local governance and how important local policy can be. And there’s so much power in local policy to actually make tangible on the ground difference. So. I feel like that’s really dorky, but I think that local government is really exciting. 

Howard: How well here on Southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, are we doing, where are we? Where’s the local governance doing well and where do we have room to improve when it comes to the forest and the ecosystems? 

Doll: My expertise lies mostly in the Gulf islands, which is probably bad. I think I probably need to understand better what was happening here in Victoria, because this is actually where I live. But so much of my work is focused on the Gulf Islands. The Gulf Islands are governed by a very different structure than anywhere else in BC or even in Canada. The Islands Trust is actually a Federation. They’re not technically a local government. It was created in the seventies because the government of BC recognized that the Gulf Islands were this place of tremendous ecological importance. So they created the Islands Trust Act, which created the Islands Trust. And the Islands Trust Act basically lays out that the Islands Trust is responsible for the “preservation and protection” of the Gulf Islands. 

There’s two trustees per Gulf Island that do local land use planning. All the theory there is good. And there are some incredible Trustees who are doing incredible, incredible work. And right now the individuals that make up the Islands Trust are just a wonderful community of people who are all really receptive to these ideas about doing better conservation.

In the last two years they’ve introduced the Climate Change Emergency Declaration. I think that was probably late 2019, so a little less than two years ago. They’re trying to recognize that these things are happening and they’re seeming very open to the idea of really integrating that into their day-to-day policy.

They’re in the midst of a review process for their Trust Policy Statement, which is basically the filter through which all of their governance occurs and they were collecting public feedback. And the feedback was filtered between two lenses, which were affordable housing and climate change. So, [answering the question]: how can they make the Trust Policy Statement, structured in such a way that those two priorities are better honored in their governance. 

That was a long convoluted explanation. So, the Islands Trust have done some things very right and I think that there is still a lot of room to grow. But, if the kind of environmental policy that I want to see in place is likely anywhere, the Islands Trust is the place. The legislation is already there [saying]: “you are here to protect this ecosystem”. With that legislation already in place, I think that there’s a lot of room to improve and demonstrate how good environmental governance can be [00:40:00]. 

Howard: What is our solution to filling our lumber needs as people and still protecting our forest. 

Doll: I’m still exploring that myself. I actually applied to start training as a Professional Forester yesterday, which is interesting because I don’t think that there’s a lot of folks who work with not-for-profits in conservation that go in to be a professional Forester.

I think that there’s still a trend that forestry is more about removing lumber than it is about protecting the forest. It’s more about the economic imperative. It is possible to shift towards a second growth system. We should not be logging old growth forests anymore. That’s just not sustainable and it’s not acceptable anymore. There can be an economy based on second growth forest logging.

It can be done in a selective manner instead of using clear cutting. And there’s also a lot of different value added jobs that could be done within the timber industry to keep that economy rolling. I know you were talking earlier about carbon credits and there are possibilities for doing improved ecosystem management that would potentially allow for the sale of carbon credits.

I know that that’s not an end of the road solution, but it is a great way to move towards a more carbon neutral economy. So I think that there are a lot of really creative and innovative ways to still satisfy some of our lumber needs and our needs for long term stable jobs within forests without having to be so destructive.

Howard: I want to ask what is a carbon neutral economy, but I don’t want to go back down that rabbit hole. Is there an easy answer to what, what is a carbon neutral economy? 

Doll: I guess it’s just what it sounds like it’s an economy that’s working towards far less emissions that is a lot more conscious of environmental priorities and balancing environmental priorities with economic imperatives. Right now it’s quite out of balance, the economy is honored above the environment. And I think that needs to be put into balance. 

Howard: Are there any active deforestation projects on the Gulf Islands right now? 

Doll: There has been some clear cutting that has happened on Salt Spring Island. There’s one property called Beddis Road that has been quite controversial. Industrial forestry isn’t as much of a concern on the Gulf Islands as it used to be. On North and South Pender Island, for example, there’s a couple of privately managed forest lands, and most of those are selectively logged as opposed to clear cut.

So really one of the bigger threats on the Gulf islands is, I think, among private landowners who are clearing properties for residential use more so than on the industrial scale. 

Howard: Okay. So just some widespread residential clearing?

Doll: Yeah. For example, there’s a one subdivision on North Pender called Magic Lake that quite closely resembles a suburban subdivision, as much as that can happen on the Gulf Islands. There’s just lot after lot has been clear cut to make way for new houses. And a lot of these houses are seasonal houses, which is a big problem because affordable housing for permanent residents of the Gulf Islands is really scarce. So in essence, what’s happening is properties are being clear-cut, houses are being put in, and then people aren’t living in them for six months out of the year. Meanwhile there’s folks who live there and run businesses there long-term and don’t have places to live. 

Howard: And are there any old growth forest on any of the Gulf islands? 

Doll: I think that there are. To be honest with you, I’ve never seen one, so I don’t know where they are. I think that I, my suspicion would be that Galleano has some, if there are anywhere they’re on Galiano. 

Howard: Well, just the fact that you’ve never seen him and don’t know for sure where they are indicates there’s certainly not enough. If any at all… Where are you going with things now? 

Doll: Right now focus is really going to shift towards this property that we’ve acquired. We first want to put a conservation covenant on it so that we know that it’s protected regardless who might own it in the future.

Then we want to do some restoration and some community education on that property. And we hope that there might be the possibility of extending that property to a bigger network of protected areas. There are some really beautiful, intact forests surrounding it that we hope that maybe we can add in the future as we move forward.

There is also a plan to hopefully extend the Pender Islands Big Tree Registry to Saturna Island. There is a really cool ecological school there, it’s called SEEC and they’ve contacted me to do some education programming with them and they are really interested in the Big Tree Registry. So we’re hoping that we can add another Island to that. 

Then the ongoing task is just to shift the Islands Trust toward more tree friendly policies. I’m really keen to get a tree cutting bylaw in place, which seems to be a very controversial thought for a lot of folks. I think people think that if there is a tree cutting bylaw, that means that no tree ever can be cut, regardless of whether it might be a dangerous tree or not, but that is not the case. If there’s a tree bylaw in place, it does not mean that no tree can ever be cut and it’s not a money grab. That’s another big concern with tree bylaws, but usually tree bylaws barely pay for themselves in the enforcement that they take. So it’s not that either. Almost every municipality in the Capital Regional District has a tree cutting bylaw. That’s part of the reason why Victoria has a fairly intact urban forest.

One other project I’m working on is with Transition Salt Spring. We are organizing a workshop right now for exploring carbon projects in the Salish Sea. I’m focused a little bit more on the forest carbon project. Whereas some of the people I’m working with are a little bit more interested in the Blue Carbon possibility. Do you know about Blue Carbon?

Howard: I don’t know, enlightened me. 

Doll: Basically blue carbon is very much like forest carbon projects where in forest carbon projects. You do improved forest management to help forests retain their carbon. So basically you don’t cut the trees down, you maybe plant new trees, and you do forest maintenance to make sure that forest is absorbing as much carbon as possible. So the same thing applies for blue carbon. Usually it’s doing kelp bed restoration and working with seagrass to encourage those ecosystems to absorb as much carbon as possible. That will allow for the sale of carbon credits which then can finance the community. And hopefully some portion of those profits would go into the First Nation communities on whose Traditional Territories these projects take place. So I’ve been working with Transition Salt Spring, and a few other folks on putting on a workshop to explore the possibility of that happening in the Salish Sea [00:50:00].

Howard: Okay. And how does the carbon credit system work? 

Doll: It can be complicated. Right now in Canada it’s not as feasible as we’d like it to be because the price of carbon is fairly low. But one really great example is a community forest called the Cheakamus Community Forest. I’m probably pronouncing that wrong–I usually only see it written–but they practice improved forest management and they sell those carbon credits to the town of Whistler, which offsets any kind of emissions that their local government might output. So the town of Whistler has made efforts to try to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible, but for whatever they can’t reduce they offset by buying these carbon credits.  Then that finances the maintenance of that forest, and also creates jobs for those who manage it. 

Howard: What can people do to help with any of the projects that you or Raincoast are doing, or in general? Like what are some of the most important things that people can do? 

Doll: If they want to support the Gulf Islands Forest Project specifically, just going to our webpage at and looking at some of the projects that we’re doing. Getting acquainted with the Big Tree Registry. If you don’t live on the Gulf islands or on Pender Island, there are big tree registries around BC that you can join. You can add data to those, which is super helpful for understanding where those big trees are and some areas of focus for conservation.

There’s also just a lot of really great opportunities to get involved with restoration projects like the Greater Victoria Green Teams. They do restoration projects and collaborations with municipalities all the time. So doing volunteer work like that can help you to understand where and what the invasive species are in this area and how to remove them. So, when you see them in your own neighborhood you can remove them. For example, Scotch broom is super pervasive throughout this part of the province and spurge laurel, or Daphne. 

I live in Oak Bay and there are so many gardens that have Daphne in them. It just burns me up because Daphne is just taking over a lot of areas where Alder and other forests are trying to regenerate. So doing things like that. Educate yourself on those kinds of species and get educated on your local policy and understanding, like what tree bylaws mean and what you can do and who you can talk to about what you’d like to see in your community.

Actually talking to your local MLA or your local trustee if you’re in the Gulf Islands can have a really big impact. The trustees really listen, I’ve talked to them. They really do want to help. And they want to hear from their constituents and know what they want.

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