What's your plan for Make a Will week?

Small Camas Stacks 2017

The province of British Columbia has declared April 8-14, 2018 as Make a Will week to highlight the importance of having a will, and encouraging the public to write their will or bring an existing will up to date.

Perhaps it is a good time to consider updating or creating your will to ensure that the people, charities and organizations you cherish most receive the benefit of their legacy.

To celebrate Make a Will Week, we are reposting a wonderful article written by Alanah Nasadyk in 2017 about the Stacks, a lovely family who has included HAT in their will. 


Taking deep calming breaths, close your eyes and imagine your favourite natural area… Now imagine protecting that place, and all of the features that make it special… What if we told you that people in your community are preserving their important places like yours? What if we told you that you could to?

Mike and Anne Stack own a beautiful property with a natural area in Saanich that was originally owned by Anne’s Father. Growing up on the land, watching as the surrounding farmer’s fields and rural space transformed into an urban space, Anne and Mike decided to do something about the fate of their forest. To do this, the Stacks have willed their property to the Habitat Acquisition Trust, so that a conservation covenant can be placed for the protection of its natural features. A truly thoughtful gift to leave to our community.

Before Anne’s family owned the land, it is recorded in the Saanich Archives as a fox farm built in 1901, called Rock Mount Fox Farm, and owned by the Elder family. Today their corner lot stands out with its display of greenery, including Garry oaks and Oso Berry bushes, with Fawn lilies and Camas below, growing among the exposed and mossy rock. One particular rock stands out among the rest and Mike tells us, “I always think of this as an amazing piece of rock, it’s been there since the ice age.” A glacial erratic! The Garry Oak Corner, as we call the Stacks' natural habitat, is a piece of the important urban forest. Ann explains, “The whole area was very rural, but as time went on, you know, other people’s traditions came, so this seems like a wonderful piece of property today.

As Anne’s family neighbourhood was subdivided and developed around them, Mike tells of an encounter, “a couple of years ago a real-estate chap walked up to me and said, ‘I can make you a rich man,’ and I replied that I am a rich man. He had no idea what I was talking about. Being responsible for this is so much richer than tiny bits of paper money.

Mike and Anne Stack 2017 smallPreserving neighbourhood community and spreading kindness is important to Mike and Anne, it’s plain to see as Anne tells us, When they subdivided around us, our neighbours were blocked a little bit, so we let them come through our yard. I think it keeps a sense of community, and that’s why we decided once we passed that it would be nice to have this path and this natural part protected”.

I always thought the woods were magical, even as a child making forts. But I know once we’re gone we’ll have no control of what happens, but this covenant at least gives us some ability to preserve it. Places like these in the urban areas are getting smaller you know, there are only small pockets of nature left, it’s worth preserving.

In their day-to-day life, the Stacks are wonderful stewards of their land for nature too. When one of their trees died, they asked arborists to top it and leave the rest as a wildlife tree with a native plant garden around the base. Anne has been planting native species like Red Flowering currants to enhance their natural area too. This spring, Anne even signed up for a native plant class at the Horitculture Centre of the Pacific saying, “we thought we could learn more about the native plants for this space.

The Stack’s naturescape has also been a help to nature as the host site of environmental studies. In the late 1970’s, when their trees had a Gall Wasp infestation, the city took notice and entomologist Bob Duncan and his colleagues came from the Pacific Forestry Centre to study the wasps. “It sounded like the oak trees were being rained upon with the sound of all of them chewing.” The Cooper’s Hawks that make the area home were also banded for a study done by Andy Stewart of the Ministry of Environment. While visiting with the Stacks this Spring, a hawk flew by and alighted on a high oak branch bringing excitement and awe to each of us present.

Stack 2017 small native plant garden

Stack 2017 small Red Flowering Currant Ribes sanguineum

The forested area of the Stack’s property is adjacent to Saanich land. In the past, Strawberry Vale School students, the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team, and the municipality teamed up to remove English Ivy there. With growing interest in and understanding of the value of urban forest in the community Ann We hope this article has inspired youhopes that this partnership can be rekindled to fight back the returning English Ivy.

It’s a nice feeling for us, that this is a continuing project that will go on long after we are gone.” Mike tells us. “Right now, we’re just happy that if anything happens to us that it’s set and HAT would protect the land. Some of the most peaceful, calm moments of my life have been to walk through all of this at dawn.” Anne shares.

Mike is pleased to see the direction that people in the Habitat Acquisition Trust community are going, “It’s amazing, I started teaching in the very early 70’s, and during the 80’s it was most disheartening. Everyone wanted to be rich, everyone wanted to be a player in the dot com era. I’ve been looking at new letters from HAT and seeing that young people are more interested in going green now than anyone! Certainly it’s the educational aspect of HAT, getting young people involved which really hits me.

Before we parted from a lovely visit with Mike and Anne, Anne told us, “HAT has a good perspective of what they are able to accomplish which allows them to accomplish more than when organizations try to do everything.

If Habitat Acquisition Trust can inspire and educate the future generations of Habitat Stewards, while helping people protect their precious natural areas for the benefit of our entire community, then we are all thrilled with everything we are accomplishing for you. We thank you, and both Anne and Mike, for the opportunity to protect nature together.

Thank you for reading. We hope this article has inspired you to consider creating a legacy for nature in your will, like Mike and Anne. If so, we would be happy to sit down and chat at your convenience. Habitat Acquisition Trust can be reached at 250-995-2428 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can access online information about planning the positive impact you will leave for the Earth here. There are many ways to look after yourself, your family, and nature with a thoughtful gift. Speaking to your lawyer or financial advisor soon to create a plan can give you peace of mind.


Read more: What's your plan for Make a Will week?

Volunteer Spotlight: Catriona Dempsey

This month the HAT office team would like to shine the volunteer spotlight on:

Catriona Dempsey



for taking the time to help us with our Western Screech-Owl Monitoring Project! Catriona has been a driving force in our Western Screech-Owl monitoring project this year, leading night monitoring surveys, and both co-ordinating and the installion of Audio Recording Units and nest boxes in the Highlands, Sooke and Metchosin and Greater Victoria Area.   Thank you Catriona for volunteering your time as a Western Screech-Owl action hero for local conservation, we are amazed by your generosity, organization, and determination.

Paige Erickson-McGee, shares her gratitude for Catriona, “Catriona Dempsey has been a valuable addition to the Western Screech-Owl Team Leaders. After training under HAT’s owl biologist Tania Tripp at Madrone Environmental,Catriona has contributed over 75 volunteer hours of nest box installation and monitoring, owl surveying, habitat assessments, and analyzing audio recording data. She keeps the owl project running, and her enthusiasm for wildlife conservation is inspirational. We wish her all the best studying human-wildlife interactions with grizzly bears in Banff National Park this summer!"

Catriona shares a little bit of her Habitat Acquisition Trust volunteering experience with you:

When Catriona first got introduced to HAT she says, "I first started working with HAT last spring. I was fortunate to be hired for a co-op work term with a Duncan-based consulting company (Madrone Environmental Services) monitoring Western Screech-Owls under the supervision of an extremely knowledgeable and dedicated owl biologist, Tania Tripp, who has been working with HAT extensively on the owl monitoring program. Over the course of the term we helped HAT to put up nest boxes and conducted night time owl surveys. I was also responsible for installing Audio Recording Units on properties to record owl calls every night. It was very exciting to be a part of the first year that HAT has monitored using these devices and I have learned so much! After my work term ended I missed being a part of the owl monitoring project very much. So, this spring I decided to return to owl work with HAT and contribute as much as I could while finishing off the last semester of my degree. I am always looking for ways to blend my science background with my love of working with people and HAT is an excellent fit."

Recalling her experience volunteering with HAT Catriona tells us that "[her] favourite moment so far has been finding a female Western Screech-Owl using a nest box put up by HAT. We were checking all the boxes on a property with our specialized camera attached to a pole. I completely didn’t expect to see an owl in the box. By that point I had checked dozens of boxes and I was very much expecting to see the inside of an empty box on the screen. When a female owl appeared on the screen I was shocked. It was an indescribably amazing feeling to see an owl looking back at me and the surprise made the moment even better. I am happy that it looks like that owl and her mate are back in the area this spring and will likely be nesting in a box again. Giving even one owl a place to nest has made the entire project so very worthwhile. "


If she could share something to others about being part of the HAT community Catriona would want other to know: "As a student, volunteering has given me hands-on experience that I could never gain in a classroom. But, more importantly, it gives me renewed passion for conservation and reminds me why I am studying in the field that I have chosen. There are so many people working with HAT (landowners, volunteers, and HAT staff) who are passionate about conservation and extremely generous with their time and I find working with them all so inspiring. It is also very rewarding to be helping with a project that directly benefits a threatened species. I have grown to love Western Screech-Owls and I want to see them thrive here in Victoria. "

Executive Director, Jill Robinson shares her gratitude as well giving, "A huge thanks to Catriona for her amazing contribution to HAT’s owl project. We are so thankful for her time, energy and expertise, making a powerful impact on the conservation of Western Screech Owls and local landowner stewardship."

Thank you Catriona for sharing your insights as well as volunteering to support local conservation with us at HAT, it's always a joy to work together.


Office Closed on Monday March 26, 2018

Please note that the HAT Office will be closed on Monday March 26, 2018. If you require assistance, please leave us a message at (250) 995-2428 or an e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We will return your message upon our return to the office on Tuesday. 

Thank you and have a lovely weekend! 


Spring Break Fun at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary

trumpeter swan and cygnets swan lake

It's Spring Break! Looking to spend some time outdoors with your kids this week? Victoria Natural History Society and Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary are hosting fun nature events that are sure to keep your kids happy and engaged! 

Discover a host of Spring Break Drop-in activities from 12 noon to 3 pm at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. Enjoy family friendly crafts & activities, a Wildflower Walk, and an exciting Snake Break showcasing the wonderful array of snakes who call the Nature House their home. The Nature House will also be open regular hours throughout Spring Break.
*this is a hike to the summit of Christmas Hill. Participant will leave from the Nature House at 12:15 pm. Sturdy shoes, water and a snack are recommended. Hike recommended for ages 7 and up!
Unplug and get outside this spring break with VNHS and Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary!
See Swan Lake's website calendar for details. 


New to the HAT team: Meet Ashlea!



New to the HAT team: Meet Ashlea!

Greetings one and all, my name is Ashlea Veldhoen (sounds like "Veltoon") and I am very happy to say that I have recently come into the position of Community and Development Coordinator with HAT.  

Who I am, and how I got here...

If people were to describe me, they'd probably say I was crazy about dogs, birds and the protecting the environment.

Originally from the suburbs of Burlington, Ontario, I had always longed for adventure, connecting with nature and having a better understanding of the world around me. Throughout my life I was continually inspired by my family to love and cherish the natural world and the plants and animals found within them. My mother, father and grandmother were the biggest influences in my life when it came to developing my passion for animals. Starting with pets, my passion expanded to encompass birds and wildlife, so much so that by the time I had reached high school, I was pretty certain I wanted to work to protect the animals I so loved. This led to my two diplomas in Ecosystem Management at Fleming College, my Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science at Trent University, and eventually to HAT! And as you can likely guess, I still hold a very special place in my heart for dogs. 

This past fall, my partner and I decided to move to BC for a change of pace. We had both visited Victoria the year prior and had fallen in love with the atmosphere. I mean, how great is a city where you can see more than 7 stars at night and experience beautiful wild trails on a short distance outside of it? I love it here. 

So, after I had finished my summer contract as the Beach Stewardship Co-ordinator with Wasaga Beach Provincial Park in Ontario, we packed up our car, roof pod, and mini-trailer with the contents of our tiny cottage, threw in some camping gear and helped the dog up onto the pile of blankets that would be his seat, and we were off and running. Through the rugged North of Ontario, we saw the fall colours begin to appear. We drove north of Lake Superior, which was absolutely stunning. The inland lakes and forests surrounding the area were crystal clear and lush. We then travelled through the prairies, where a small farm seemed like hundreds and hundreds of acres and witnessed thousands of Snow Geese congregating on the ephemeral lakes along the highway. Our little car trekked through the Rockies to Jasper and the Icefields Parkway, where we were able to see herds of Bighorn Sheep, elk (wapiti), and the clear blue-white ice of giant mountain glaciers for the first time. We travelled through the Okanagan Valley - which was another first for me - and then hopped onto the ferry at Tsawwassen. After 10 days of driving and a ferry ride, we had made it to Victoria. It wasn't long after we moved that that we began volunteering within the community and joined several organizations to meet new friends - through whom I learned of the Community and Development Coordinator position! Now that it's almost Spring and the plum and cherry blossoms are in bloom, it feels like the perfect time for new beginnings. 

With that, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to HAT for the opportunity to work in furthering the conservation of nature on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands. It is an honour and a privilege to have this position and look forward to working together with the HAT and everyone interested in conserving the natural world for now and for generations to come.   

Sincerely yours in conservation, 

Ashlea Veldhoen 
Community and Development Coordinator
Habitat Acquisition Trust


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