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Public access to the island will be by invitation only to ensure that sensitive ecosystems continue to be protected. (Jill Patterson/Nature Conservancy of Canada)
Public access to the island will be by invitation only to ensure that sensitive ecosystems continue to be protected. (Jill Patterson/Nature Conservancy of Canada)

Clayoquot Island owner donates ‘jewel in the crown’ to Nature Conservancy Add to ...

An island described as “a jewel in the crown of Clayoquot Sound” has largely been donated to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Linda Hannah, regional vice-president of the Nature Conservancy, said the gift from owner Susan Bloom will save Clayoquot Island and its lush, temperate rain forest from future development.

“She had this vision to protect it in perpetuity, and took the steps to do that,” said Ms. Hannah of the gift from Ms. Bloom, who bought the island, near Tofino at the entrance to Clayoquot Sound, in 1990.

“This is a really incredible choice she has made, because the island is zoned for residential development,” Ms. Hannah said.

She said the island, which is also known as Stubbs Island, underwent some development 125 years ago, when a hotel, beer parlour, jail, post office and some housing were built, creating an early settlement on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

Much of Clayoquot Island’s largest timber was also logged at that time.

When Ms. Bloom purchased the island, the old village had fallen into ruin, and there was a heated debate under way in B.C. about the future of Clayoquot Sound, which was then slated for clear-cut logging. In 1993 the “war in the woods” erupted into a huge anti-logging demonstration just outside Tofino, where mass arrests were made.

While much of Clayoquot Sound was protected from logging because of those protests, Ms. Bloom, an environmentalist who donates to many causes but likes to keep a low profile, was working on her own to restore Clayoquot Island.

“When [Ms. Bloom] took ownership in 1990 she did a tremendous amount of restoration, took off barges and barges of rotting timber and garbage and waste. She worked extremely hard, and quietly, just chipping at it and restored this island to its wild state,” said Ms. Hannah.

She said the island is now covered with mixed old-growth and mature second-growth Western hemlock, and a boardwalk and trails wind through the forest to white sand beaches. There are extensive eelgrass beds around the island that are rich in sea life. There are a few small cottages and extensive gardens. A couple live on the island as resident caretakers.

Ms. Hannah said Ms. Bloom has donated “the wild part” of the island, an area of about 38 hectares, to the Nature Conservancy, while retaining private ownership of the remaining one-third of the island.

Public access to the island will be by invitation only, Ms. Hannah said, to ensure that sensitive ecosystems continue to be protected. Once a year, on the May 24 weekend, the island and the gardens developed under Ms. Bloom’s tenure are open to the general public.

Ms. Bloom was not available for an interview, but in a statement she said she gave the land to the Nature Conservancy to ensure it is protected in perpetuity, which was her plan all along.

“From the very first time I visited and then became the owner of Clayoquot Island, my goal has been to protect the island from any more development, to preserve it in its natural wild state and to remove years and years of accumulated human garbage and refuse,” she said.

“The Nature Conservancy of Canada has a sterling reputation in the field of land protection and I am delighted that they have accepted this responsibility and are now the owners of the largest wild portion of the island.”

Vicky Husband, a leading B.C. environmentalist who has long been involved in campaigns to save Clayoquot Sound, said the island is stunningly beautiful.

“This is absolutely wonderful news for all who care about the future protection of Clayoquot Sound,” she said. “It is an exquisite island. Absolute perfection … a jewel in the crown of Clayoquot Sound.”

She said Ms. Bloom has done a remarkable job of restoring the damaged parts of the island and now it is hard to believe large sections of the forest were once logged.

“It is a fabulous place … and this is an incredibly generous donation,” she said.

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