The Fairyslipper Forest Nature Reserve was protected in 2018 in partnership with the Thetis Island Nature Conservancy and the Cowichan Community Land Trust, thanks to the incredibly generous support of donors and granting organizations. The 16-hectare (40 acre) reserve on lower Burchell Hill protects maturing Coastal Douglas-fir forest and is home to several species at risk, including the red-legged frog. Fairyslipper Forest is the first publicly accessible protected area on Thetis Island and is named after the fairyslipper orchid that dots the forest floor with its pink blossoms every spring.
Fairyslipper Forest has significant watershed values and contains sensitive Douglas-fir and arbutus woodland which is considered to be endangered or threatened in British Columbia. By protecting the property as a nature reserve, Fairyslipper Forest will mature into an old growth forest. Community members and visitors will enjoy the property’s hiking trail, local students will benefit from using the land as an outdoor classroom and habitat will be maintained for species at risk.
Fairyslipper Forest Nature Reserve is on Thetis Island, which is within the traditional territory of several Coast Salish First Nations.
In 2014, the Thetis Island Nature Conservancy initiated a community campaign to purchase the 16-hectare property on lower Burchell Hill. Over three years, Thetis Island residents and other individual supporters raised over half the purchase amount. Inspired by the community’s passion for conservation, the campaign received generous contributions from the Sitka Foundation, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Environmental Enhancement Fund, and the Gosling Foundation. The campaign finally reached its goal through a generous bequest from an endowment fund created by Syd Watts and Barbara Dowd, who recognized the Cowichan Community Land Trust in their will.
The Fairyslipper Forest Nature Reserve is the first publically accessible protected area on Thetis Island. A historical trail winds through the forest on lower Burchell Hill, providing visitors the opportunity to hike moderately steep trails. Use of the reserve will be limited to hiking and walking to foster visitor enjoyment while preserving the ecosystems this reserve was created to protect.
Thetis Island Nature Conservancy and Cowichan Community Land Trust have been instrumental partners to protect Fairyslipper Forest Nature Reserve. Thetis Island Nature Conservancy 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 protect the high ecological value of the reserve including two seasonal creeks and four rare Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystems that provide important habitat for five confirmed species of conservation concern and many other native species. Management actions for the reserve include a formalized public access route on a low-impact loop trail from North Cove Road. Other recommended management actions include establishing a volunteer warden program and identifying First Nations co-managers, managing invasive non-native woody plants that are in the early stages of invasion, and ongoing trail maintenance and monitoring. The management plan for the Fairyslipper Forest Nature Reserve can be viewed here.