Conserving the Magic of Matson

hummingbird nest Eric Pittman resizeEcological value and cultural legacy

An awe-inspiring natural haven of well-being nestled next to the city; a wildlife refuge hugging the coast of the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary; and a living reminder of the camas meadows that once dominated the southern tip of Vancouver Island – this is the Matson Conservation Area.
Located on the shores of Esquimalt, this 2.4 acre, owned by local land trust charity Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) is visited by people from all over the world. They jog or stroll along the West Song Walkway, often pausing to take in the breath-taking scenery.

Year after year, dedicated volunteers, including the Matson Mattocks stewardship group take care of this land with the help of HAT. Pulling, snipping and girdling invasive plants, spreading wildflower seed, and planting native flora. This year volunteers gave over 400 hours of their hard work to nurturing Victoria Inner Harbour’s last intact Garry oak ecosystem.

quote box eric pittmanLocal hummingbird expert Eric Pittman has been visiting for 7 years now, and shares his perspective here,

“Matson represents what used to be there. As a result, it’s become an oasis for animals to come to. Raccoons, otters, deer, and lots of birds come through here. I’ve seen Merlins, Peregrine Falcons, owls, Blue Jays and more.”

Eric estimates that there are 30-40 resident hummingbirds living here annually; a densely populated hummingbird area for our region.

“When I started going to Matson, it was hard to even see where your foot hit the ground because of all the ivy. Now you can see the ground and you can see how things are going to come back.”

hummingbirds matson eric pittman resize2Eric brings his interest in nature to a global audience. “If Matson wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be able to film hummingbirds. In the Matson Lands, they’re always there. This area is responsible for me being able to do my photography. I’ve been on a couple of expeditions with the BBC now and send video to television stations. I’ve had a lot of good things come of it.”

Matson is protected today because of the immense efforts of our community coming together. When the land was slated for development, the Friends of Matson Lands stepped in to protect it. Biologist Dr. Louise Blight, original co-chair of that group lends her voice,

“These woodlands and meadows are unique and beautiful. They are home to many native species, some of them rare and endangered. It’s a place I like to go bird-watching throughout the year as different birds use the Garry oaks throughout the seasons. We’re losing places to appreciate nature in around the city, and the Matson Lands remain a place where people can do that."

hummingbird hug Eric Pittman"I moved in just down the street from the Matson Lands in 1999. This big chunk of relatively unspoiled Garry oak woodland was one of the main things that attracted me to the neighbourhood, and I was dismayed to hear that there was a development proposal for this site. As a biologist I knew that Garry oak ecosystems were increasingly rare in BC and I wanted to do what I could to try to protect this place because it is a part of where I live. I heard a small group of neighbours were meeting to form a group, so I joined them, and things took off from there. We called ourselves The Friends of Matson Lands.

I know that the residents of Swallow's Landing - the development that was ultimately built on the upper half of the Matson Lands, which is the portion where buildings had already sat for decades, and the right place to build - have a stewardship group that goes regularly to the Matson Lands to remove invasive plant species. It's important that these efforts to restore the woodlands continue to expand, and that the people who live nearby continue their relationship with this special piece of land. I'd like to be remembered as a member of the Friends of Matson Lands, a group of friends and neighbours who got together to organise their community against the loss of a cherished piece of nature, and won!”

donations sheet

With community support, Habitat Acquisition Trust protects land and hosts ecological restoration and nature education events across the region.

Special protected places like Matson play an important role in our community and they are in desperate need of our continued care. We believe that caring for the land and working with the community, including local youth, to build skills for stewarding the land is paramount to ensuring ecosystems remain healthy and functional for generations to come.

This year, Habitat Acquisition Trust would like to host two public habitat restoration days to keep the invasive species at bay and engage the greater community in taking ownership of Matson’s protection. HAT also plans to begin a comprehensive baseline to collect information on pollinators living at Matson.

Would you consider making a donation to the Habitat Acquisition Trust Land Protection program to help care for over 2,100 hectares of important habitat in our region?

Funds are needed today to ensure our natural spaces stay natural forever. Your immediate support helps protect vital spaces like Matson Conservation Area. You can leave a legacy with a gift in your will or direct your gift today to create space for wildlife now and forever. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 250-995-2428 to make a gift. You can also visit online.


Read more: Conserving the Magic of Matson

Green Spots – Children gardening for a healthier world with native plants

hanshelgesen students 2When it comes to creating habitat for wildlife in need, and ensuring the well-being we derive as a community remains undiminished, it takes a village to prevent habitat loss.

Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) knows that it’s important to involve people of all ages in experiencing and understanding nature. To complement the Land Protection and Habitat Steward Programs where HAT works directly with adult landowners (kids could not afford a home in this market anyways), HAT runs the Green Spots Outdoor Education Program, ensuring no child is left inside and everybody benefits.

The Green Spots Program empowers schools to provide an environmental education space to their students. Already, children from 34 schools have been able to plan and create their own gardens for nature, right on their school grounds. HAT gives teachers, parents, and kids the tools and guidance to run with, leaving lasting nature-based learning spaces that enhance habitat for local flora and fauna too.

hanshelgesen studentsAs natural areas decrease, our exposure to unaltered habitats follows suit, research indicates that there are repercussions. Mounting evidence reveals that access to natural spaces benefits children cognitively, emotionally, and physically. For example, exposure to green space can increase concentration, improve academic performance, reduce stress and aggression, strengthen the immune system, and lower the risk of obesity. Stewardship-focused interactions with natural environments at a young age are important for developing a positive outlook and lasting attachment towards the environment, which is needed to ensure the care of natural spaces forevermore.

So, if you enjoy nature, you might want to think about mentorship, find a mentee that can absorb your knowledge. Since schools are not consistently receiving funding for nature-based learning, HAT works with educators, retired biologists, parents, and teachers to be the nature mentors kids need. (Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.if you're keen to get involved).

Green Spots Macaulay 2017In 2017, HAT teamed up with Macaulay, Hans Helgesen, and Cloverdale Elementary Schools for the Green Spots program. Getting over 825 children out in nature to learn the fundamentals about Indigenous plants, pollinators, and creating a habitat garden for learning and for wildlife.

At Cloverdale Traditional School, children created an Indigenous knowledge native plant garden. Before planting, a local First Nations Elder led the children in a blessing ceremony and children swept the garden site with cedar bows to cleanse it. Before that, family members joined in to dig up the soil and to layer soil and cardboard. A fresh start above the grass and weeds for new native plants.

At Ecole Macaulay Elementary School in Esquimalt, students created a spectacular and unique garden for butterflies with a variety of native plant species including beautiful flowering Camas lilies. With the help of students and parent volunteers 371 plants that will return each year went into the ground.

At Hans Helgesen Elementary School, children designed a heart-shaped native plant garden. They also removed invasive blackberry and Scotch broom on their school grounds.

resize macaulay kids diggingOn Earth Day of 2018, the schools will have a school-wide assembly to celebrate the project’s success in creating a wildflower habitat garden for students, teachers, and neighbours to learn about stewardship of our local flora and fauna while providing food and shelter for our pollinators. HAT Stewardship Coordinator Paige Erickson-McGee will present the Hans Helgesen students with a trophy for all of their hard work. The trophy is an extra thick cane of blackberry impressively removed by the kids, spay painted gold.

In the New Year, the Green Spots program will start up again with three new schools, bringing with it the delight of digging in the dirt, imagining what camas bulbs become, and watching something made by tiny hands grow into something bigger than us all.

The Green Spots program is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and people just like you. Individuals and businesses can also sponsor a Green Spots School, a fantastic way to ensure that children can continue to learn about nature for years to come.

Business sponsors or community members can “Double the Habitat” by doubling a school’s plant budget on an existing project, by donating $1000.

Business sponsors or individuals can “Sponsor a Green Spot” to pay for a whole school to do a year-long project by donating $5,000.

If you would like to support Habitat Acquisition Trust and the Green Spots Program please visit or call 250-995-2428 today to make a gift that elevates conservation with hands on action and in the young minds of future caregivers of the Earth.


Read more: Green Spots – Children gardening for a healthier world with native plants

Conservation Calendars - put 'em on your holiday wishlist!

23423748 10155334083683821 593665042 oHabitat Acquisition Trust and Alena E.S. Photography have got your 2018 Conservation Calendars!

50% of calendar profits go straight to conserving wildlife and habitats like those featured in the calendar. 

Calendars are $25 CAD (or 5 calendars for $100)! Order yours from us today!

You can preorder for pick-up with an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or by calling 250-995-2428. You can also pop by the HAT Office at 825 Broughton St. (mezzanine level) anytime Mon-Fri 9 am - 4:30 pm.

22180111 1689229767777106 5196237474924379850 o

While our office doors will be closed Dec 23 - Jan 2 for the holidays, we will gratefully accept donations by mail (PO Box 8552 Victoria, BC V8W 3S2) and online at this time.

- The calendar this year is printed on PAPER! Thick, high quality, and environmentally friendly paper stock. Totally recyclable, printed using oil-free and plastic-free inks, paper is partially Post-Consumer Waste and sourced from North America. Printed locally by a printer that's environmentally certified.

Thank you all for the incredible support!

Big thanks to HAT volunteer and amazing photographer Alena for teaming up with HAT this year.


Read more: Conservation Calendars - put 'em on your holiday wishlist!

Become a Bee-friendly Farmer Workshop

Bee Farmer Workshop Poster Jan 28Calling all farmers:

become a certified bee friendly farmer. Enhance biodiversity, reduce input costs, and increase yields. You will learn about managed and native bees, and other beneficial insects, and how to add habitat to your farm. Site visit and hands on mason and bumble bee home creation. Guides and other take-homes included. Co-hosted by Habitat Acquisition Trust, Pollinator Partnership Canada, and Saanich Native Plants.

SPACE IS LIMITED! Tell us in ~100 words why you would like to enhance native bees or other beneficial insects on your farm and what you plan to do on your farm to create more habitat.

For more information or to send in your application, email Lora: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

What: Become a Bee-friendly Farmer Workshop

Where: Haliburton Farm, Saanich (741 Haliburton Rd)

When: Jan 27th, 10 am - 4 pmJan 28th 10 am - 1 pm


Read more: Become a Bee-friendly Farmer Workshop

Cool season blooms for pollinators

Symphyotrichum subspicatum Douglas Aster Alanah NasadykConcerned about helping the pollinators through the colder months?

For fall blooms consider native species like:

  • Entire-leaved Gumweed (Grindelia stricta)
  • Douglas' Aster (Symphyotrichum subspicatum) - photo top right
  • California Aster (Symphyotrichum californicum)
  • Yampah (Perideridia gairdneri)

Both Douglas' Aster and Gumweed are the latest blooming native plants. You might even see 

tall oregon grape matson resize small Mahonia aquifolium

some still blooming right now!

For February and March consider:

  • Spring Gold (Lomatium utriculatum)
  • Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis)
  • Satin Flower (Olsynium douglasii)
  • Tall Oregon-grape (Mahonia aquifolium) - Photo bottom right
  • Grassland Saxifrage (Saxifraga integrifolia)
  • Broad-leaved Shootingstar (Dodecatheon hendersonii)
  • Western Buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis)
  • Small-flowered Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora)

Look for these at your local native plant nurseries.


Read more: Cool season blooms for pollinators

Donate Now




Subscribe to The Fern, HAT's e-newsletter and stay up to date!


Login Form