Situated between the Great Beaver Swamp and the Galiano Conservancy Association's Learning Centre, this 40 hectare (100 acre) nature reserve bridges the gap between these two protected areas, creating a continuous protected area of more than 500 hectares known as the Mid-Galiano Conservation Network.
Vanilla Leaf Land Nature Reserve protects the remaining portion of the Great Beaver Swamp and much of its upland forest. Pockets of old-growth Douglas-fir and Garry oak stand on an inland bluff stretching across the property. Below, a lush forest of red alder, Western redcedar and bigleaf maple drapes over the new protected area. The 40 hectare reserve provides vital habitat for a variety of at-risk species, including Olive-sided Flycatcher, blue dasher, and Great Blue Heron.
With its close proximity to Vancouver, Galiano has a long history of resource extraction. In the 1900s, Vanilla Leaf Land Nature Reserve remained part of the forestry industry's holdings, likely logged in the 1940s and 1980s. With the departure of MacMillan Bloedel, the property was purchased by a private owner and used primarily for recreation.
The Galiano Conservancy Association had a dream to create a network of protected areas stretching across the middle of the island. The corridor of natural land would give native species permanently protected habitat free from human pressure. That wild space would also give residents and visitors a chance to immerse themselves in nature, with hiking and educational opportunities.
After a long, coordinated, and awe-inspiring effort, the Conservancy achieved its dream with the protection of Vanilla Leaf Land Nature Reserve in 2013. The nature reserve was the last piece of the puzzle, creating a swath of protected land stretching from Bodega Ridge Provincial Park in the north, to Trincomali Nature Sanctuary in the south. The Islands Trust Conservancy acquired the property in partnership with the Galiano Conservancy Association (GCA) who raised a significant portion of the purchase price with the generous support of many individual donors. The Nature Conservancy of Canada matched the funds raised by GCA with the support of the Government of Canada through the Natural Areas Conservation Program, completing the purchase of 40 hectares of Vanilla Leaf Land Nature Reserve.
The Galiano Conservancy Association and Nature Conservancy of Canada hold a conservation covenant on Vanilla Leaf Land Nature Reserve and the Galiano Conservancy Association acts as the on-island management group on behalf of the Islands Trust Conservancy.
The Islands Trust Conservancy's primary management priority for this protected area is to allow the Galiano community to enjoy the natural area through the development of a main trail, while watching closely over the Great Beaver Swamp as it matures as a wetland. The management plan for the Vanilla Leaf Land Nature Reserve can be viewed here.