The Nature Trust of British Columbia was established in 1971 with a $4.5 million grant from the Federal Government in honour of BC’s centennial.
The idea for the organization came from a meeting of four people: Jack Davis (the first Minister of the newly formed Federal Ministry of Environment), Len Marchand (Member of Parliament for Kamloops), Dr. Alastair McLean (research scientist) and Ralph Shaw (elementary school principal and avid outdoorsman). They met for breakfast in Kamloops and discussed the merits of setting aside natural wild places where people could get to know nature. One key factor in selecting sites was that they should be based on solid scientific information and need. There was also a sense of urgency in getting the projects underway because BC was experiencing a period of rapid growth and industrial development. That is how The National Second Century Fund of British Columbia, later to be called The Nature Trust of British Columbia, was born. It was founded to help set aside ecologically suitable natural places for future generations of British Columbians to enjoy, study and contemplate the complex world of nature.
The first chairman was Bert Hoffmeister, the most decorated Canadian soldier of the Second World War, a retired forestry executive, and conservationist. In the spring of 1971, retired Major General Hoffmeister was riding near Pavilion, BC, when he was told Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was calling him. Trudeau said he had a grant to finance a unique conservation project in BC. Bert Hoffmeister was the Chair of the organization for 20 years and worked with a dedicated volunteer Board including business people and scientists such as Dr. Alastair McLean, Dr. Bert Brink, Dr. Ian McTaggart-Cowan and Roderick Haig-Brown.
“Bert Hoffmeister, my father, was able to transition during his life from soldier to forestry executive to environmentalist. It was this last role that I know he would like to be most remembered. I cannot think of a better legacy to my father than the land, flora and fauna that The Nature Trust has helped to conserve.” -Rod Hoffmeister
During the 1970s The Nature Trust acquired lands that could be grouped in three types of projects:
- Urban fringe properties, including marshes or nature sanctuaries, acquired in part for their educational values, such as Scout Island Nature Centre at Williams Lake, Cranberry Lake in Powell River and Swan Lake in Victoria.
- Estuarine, riparian and wetland properties in support of waterfowl and fish conservation; Widgeon Slough in the Lower Mainland, first Englishman River acquisition on Vancouver Island, initial property on the lower Adams River in the BC interior, first property in Columbia wetlands of the East Kootenay
- Big game properties in support of critical winter range, such as The Nature Trust’s first acquisition of 122 hectares of deer winter range near Grand Forks in 1972.
During the 1980s The Nature Trust’s acquisition pattern followed the 1970s path, with reduced focus on local nature sanctuaries and education, but including significant acquisition of natural habitats including:
- Estuarine lands along the coast, facilitated in part by Pacific Estuary Conservation Partnerships, including Kingcome Inlet, Cowichan estuary, Nanaimo estuary and additional acquisitions building on the Englishman River estuary and south arm marshes of the Fraser River delta.
- Critical waterfowl habitat in the Peace River area in partnership with Ducks Unlimited Canada.
- The first acquisitions in the South Okanagan
- Wetlands at Bummers Flats and along the Columbia River and large parcels like the west side Columbia Lake to conserve critical ungulate habitat in the East Kootenay.
Acquisitions by The Nature Trust in the 1990s were by design more focused in the South Okanagan:
- White Lake and Okanagan Falls Biodiversity Ranch properties
- Vaseux Lake properties including McIntyre Bluff
Acquisitions of wetlands and estuarine properties continued along the coast, and there were also additional purchases in the Peace River area and the Kootenays.
Acquisitions in the last 10 years included:
- Critical forested sites in the Coastal Douglas-fir BEC (biogeoclimatic ecosystem classification) zone in the Georgia Basin (Burgoyne Bay on Salt Spring Island, Francis Point on the Sunshine Coast, Savary Island)
- Additions to the Englishman River complex
- The largest single parcel in the Nature Trust asset base—the Hoodoos in the East Kootenay
- Critical Antelope brush property near McIntyre Bluff in the South Okanagan
- A number of properties and conservation covenants donated under the federal Ecological Gifts program.