As the largest body of freshwater on Galiano Island, Laughlin Lake is an important resource for the residents of this island. It stores and regulates the amount of water that leaves the island, an important service especially during the dry summer months Galiano often experiences. The 11.5 hectare protected area is home to several at-risk species, including Red-legged frog, Blue Dasher, Western Pondhawk and Great Blue Heron. The lake forms the headwaters of Greig Creek, the focus of a coho and chum salmon re-introduction program.
The Laughlin Lake protected area forms the central link in a conservation network that spans across Galiano Island. With Bodega Ridge Provincial Park to the west, and the Cable Bay Covenant nearby to the east, the Mid-Galiano Conservation Network is an important corridor for species to find sanctuary within. The Galiano Conservancy Association leads school trips and interpretative walks through the protected area.
Laughlin Lake holds a storied past of transformation. The lake was drained and the bed likely used for agriculture in the late 1800s. It was not until the 1970s, presumably when beavers re-colonized the area, that standing water began to collect in the Laughlin Lake basin. In the late 1970s, the east end of the lake was heavily disturbed by a gravel pit operation that mined to the waters edge. In the 1990's, the lake ecosystem was further disturbed through nearby construction of a road.
When the lake property was offered for sale through a foreclosure in 2000, the Galiano Conservancy Association knew it had to act fast to protect this important habitat. A conservation-minded individual agreed to provide an interest free loan so the Conservancy could purchase the property immediately. The conservancy, Habitat Acquisition Trust, Environment Canada and the Islands Trust Conservancy then teamed up to raise the funds needed to repay the loan. In 2003, the property was officially protected. The Islands Trust Conservancy holds a conservation covenant on Laughlin Lake, adding a second layer of permanent protection for the property.
In 2013, Ken and Linda Millard, who owned a neighbouring property, subdivided their property under Section 99 of the Land Title Act, donating a portion of their property to add to the protected area. Their donation creates a permanently protected forested buffer for Laughlin Lake, and will one day link a foot path from Bodega Ridge Provincial Park to Cable Bay and Pebble Beach.
The Laughlin Lake protected area is open to the local community for light recreational use, such as walking and nature appreciation. At this time, one trail is open, taking visitors from Vineyard Way to a short peninsula into Laughlin Lake. Please respect the neighbours of this protected area by refraining from using any other trails that might travel onto private property. Please keep pets under control to make sure the wildlife that find sanctuary here are not harassed. To protect sensitive birds and animals using the lake, please refrain from boating (including canoeing) on the lake.
The Galiano Conservancy Association manages the Laughlin Lake protected area. The conservancy removes invasive species from the area, plants native vegetation, and has added coarse woody debris to the site to make the ecosystem more habitable for native plants and animals. The properties are monitored annually by the conservancy and the Islands Trust Conservancy.
The Islands Trust Conservancy plans to develop a management plan and priorities for the new addition to the protected area in 2013.