Habitat Acquisition Trust protects two stunning private natural areas in East Sooke with conservation covenants. These properties are maintained by caring landowners, HAT, two co-covenant holders, the Capital Regional District and The Land Conservancy, and a number of volunteers and supporters that contribute to the covenants’ long-term management. These covenants total 17.3 hectares (42.7 acres) of precious habitat.
The first of these two covenants places protection over a beautiful Douglas fir forest. The hillsides are lush with an abundance and variety of pillowing green moss. Tiny, delicate orchids that defy human cultivation grow here by the plenty in tandem with the symbiotic fungi they depend on, hidden away beneath the soil. During spring, white fawn lilies and shooting star flowers pop up, decorating the landscape with fleeting, fragile beauty. As the summer dries out much of the region, this covenant remains much wetter, being close to the ocean, often blanketed by dense fog that seems to wrap itself snuggly around the hill tops, until a swift wind disperses it. Marking the landscape are a number of standing dead trees or snags, with old peeling bark and hollows excavated by woodpeckers, which are teaming with life, big and small.
Living among the trees and hills are many different animals, some seen, some heard. A cougar takes its meal watching from a waterside ledge, brown squirrels twitch and skitter along tree branches, and a bear lumbers by contently filled with today’s forage. A chorus of bird life fills the air with chirps and tweets; a Belted Kingfisher’s persistent patience pays off as she dives and perches, dives and perches, finally scooping up her just deserts, the Stellar’s Jays dip and swoop, woodpeckers, both downy and pileated peck away, and raven’s call is heard from beyond the fog. Even birds like sooty grouse and, a species considered of special concern provincially, the olive-sided flycatcher are spotted in this natural refuge. Dragonflies also zip by and the Golden skipper butterflies pass through, never staying still for long.
The second covenant in East Sooke is a nursery for amphibians, a place where animals like newts can breed safely and migrate within a protected forest and wetland. Here, years of teamwork tackling the invasive Scotch Broom by the landowners and Habitat Acquisition Trust staff and volunteers have left the land virtually cleared of the most invasive plants, including the persistent yellow-flowered shrub, a success story in many ways.
“Do we love this land? Yes. Do we want to walk this land as its guardians? Yes. We want to ensure that some land in BC stays in its natural state for generations to come.” – Covenant Landowner.
The landowners that protect this natural area are passionate. They know the land very well and care deeply about the incredible virtues it holds, explaining,
“Winter here is magic. When the fog is in the Sooke Basin, you can look down and watch it slowly rise. Then come whipping past in the wind. It’s almost like you’re living in a cloud.”
From the wetlands and older forests to the open meadows, these 17 hectares are home to many plants, animals and ecosystems that are becoming increasingly rare within the CRD. For example: Olive-sided flycatchers, Band-tailed pigeons, and Red-legged frogs, which are all considered species of special concern both provincially and federally live in these covenants. Forested ecosystems represented in these covenants such as the Douglas-fir/Arbutus, Arbutus/Hairy manzanita, and Western red cedar/Douglas-fir /Oregon beaked moss are considered provincially red-listed, meaning they are threatened or endangered.