A Conversation with Louise Goulet
Mike Fenger (MF) I am here with Louise Goulet who has a long association with Ecological reserves and we want to hear some of the tales from the historical vault and some of Louise’s impressions of the ER program and maybe some insights into the future. We want to start however with how Louise became interested in conservation and the natural environment. Louise welcome and thank you very much.
Louise Goulet (LG) You are welcome. Conservation for me goes back as far as I can remember, as a kid in streams collecting tadpoles, at the edge of the sea, in the forests, collections of rocks, collections of plants and that for me is really is why I became a biologist. For me the natural environment is really a passion. When I did my PhD it was on animal behaviour. My entire life I have worked on something that I was passionate about and I considered myself fortunate for that. The ER Program was so exciting. I was living in Vancouver at that time when I said to my husband we are moving. I made application for the job and much to my surprise I got it. Entering government was not that easy but I got that job and I was crazy about it.
MF What year was that?
LG That was 1985.
MF And the Ecological Reserves program had been running for some time at that
LG Well the program started in 1971 and had Bristol Foster as the fellow in charge;
but by the time I got there I don’t think there had been anybody in charge for about two
years. Bristol had left and the program was kind of in limbo. At that time, the program
was with BC Lands. A decision was made to fill that position again and I applied and got
it. Very quickly after that, the program was moved from BC Lands to BC Parks.
MF I want to go back a little just a little bit to where you got your schooling. Did
you do your university in BC?
LG My undergraduate degree is from Laval University, where I did my Bachelors in
Biology. Then I went straight into PhD also in Biology at Simon Fraser University; but
all my field work was in Alberta. I wanted to work on the relationship between animal
behaviour and population dynamics. I went through the list of animals and choose
Richardson’s ground squirrels, which hibernate several months of the year. Not only were
the squirrels very visible above ground in the short grass prairie, but they are only active
between March and July.
MF We have you starting in Quebec and coming slowly westward and so how did
you end up from field work in Alberta to living full time in BC.
LG Well I did my PhD at Simon Fraser and I mean if you are a wildlife biologist where
would you want to be if not in BC. I did wildlife surveys for several years mostly in the
North, first on Hudson Bay (Quebec) and then in northern BC, the Mackenzie Delta,
looking for bears, muskrats, waterfowl, ungulates, vegetation, etc.
MF So let’s get back to 1985 and the ER program when you joined the program.
What were the goals of the program at that time?
LG The goals of the program were the ones dictated by legislation, which was to protect
areas for long-term research and as benchmarks areas for genetic diversity. We
were setting aside two types of areas: some that were representative of what we had in
BC and those that were special, with outstanding features. What I thought was interesting
about ERs is that they also included geologic features. When I came on board there were
hundreds of ER proposals that had been part of the International Biological Program;
there was a wealth of biological information already available. Of these, there were
dozens of proposals that were already queued up for establishment if we could get
approval for them.
MF And you were managing that approval process in government?
LG As the coordinator of that program inside of BC Parks I was responsible for the
establishment of new reserves and for ensuring that they were protected – the volunteer
warden program was invaluable for that last objective. I was also responsible for
program outreach both inside and outside government. I made a very conscious effort to
have an active outreach program to make sure that more people knew about the program.
MF There was staff of two.
LG Yes two staff [Dr. Hans Roemer and John Pinder-Moss]. But I managed to add
another staff, Mona Holley who is still with BC Parks. Of the few people that are left at
BC Parks, Mona is probably the one that knows the most about the ER program. She
started as a volunteer to help us create a filing system for the ER program. There was at
least fifteen feet deep of paper and no filing system! So she started going through the
information and as I developed more understanding of the program I articulated a whole
structure for filing information. That system is still there and that means that anybody can
access it as it is in an organized fashion for the program as a whole and for each reserve1.
MF You must have enjoyed some successes while you were with ERs. I see behind us
is an image of the Duke of Edinburgh ER.
LG That ER has some significance for me. To create protected areas you had to be
creative. Well lo and behold, I was asked to be on a committee to select a gift from
Prince Philip who was coming to visit B.C. Everyone was discussing paintings, books
and sculptures. I said what about an Ecological Reserve? He is a well known birder.
There are about ½ million seabirds that nest on the Tree, Pine and Storm Islands off the
NE coast of Vancouver Island. This ER proposal had been approved by all the agencies
but in order to designate an area you need political will. Somebody needs to grab that
rope and pull it in. This was difficult to do for the ER program, but this reserve became
a designated reserve as a gift for Prince Phillip – so I thought why not name it the Duke of Edinburgh ER.
1.FER has been through the Goulet-Holley filing at Parks headquarters and is very appreciative of the work of Mona and Louise. Many of the files had been converted to digital files and are on the Parks web site and publicly available. FER has been able to take many of remaining files and convert these to digital format and make them available on the FER web site. To see what is known about each ER visit the FER website and we hope the ER wardens will contribute their field note, images and reports for their ERs.
Later on we were told in no uncertain terms by the BC House representative in London that no one is allowed to use his name for such a purpose, and especially not without his permission. Still, we had a new reserve. There were quite a few like that where there was an opportunity that presented itself [for example for Trial
Islands, a Times Colonist reporter that was very keen on getting that area protected], but
you had to move very rapidly. Being with BC Parks made things more difficult for the
program. While the program was with BC Lands and with the ER Committee active with
Dr. Krajina involved, it was easier. The program had more public profile and BC Lands
were able to put a land reserve on a proposal right away because they controlled crown
land. Being in BC Parks, we were one more step removed and Parks had their own park
priorities as well. So you really had to use anything that just came up to be able to put
and ER proposal forward and to get it designated.
MF And so you mentioned Trial Island was one of those and were there other fond
memories that you have?
LG You were talking about success when I was with the ER program. I was with the ER
program for about six years as program coordinator, being in charge of systems planning
(adding new reserves) and the management of the reserves [primarily through the ER
volunteer warden program]. When I became Manager of Planning for BC Parks (which I
did for 10 years), I was responsible for overseeing the designation of all protected areas,
including ERs. So in all, I was involved with ER for 15-16 years. But it was in two very
different roles obviously. While Manager of Planning with Mike Harcourt in charge, we
could not go fast enough to designate new protected areas – about 500 areas and over 6
million hectares in five years! When the Liberal government came in, I moved to Parks
Canada to help with the proposed national park in the Gulf Islands.
Looking back on the things that were achieved in terms of ERs, while I was ER
coordinator, we managed to designate among others the Haley Lake ER [with the
Vancouver Island marmots], Nimpkish Island [with the tallest Douglas firs in Canada],
and the Tashish and Khutzamateen Rivers estuaries. But the Khutzamateen, a long
standing ER proposal, was actually established as a provincial park because of First
Another success was several ERs being designated in the Tsitika River valley. I
was provincial co-chair of the Johnstone Straight Killer Whale Committee [Dr. Mike
Bigg from DFO was federal co-chair]. As part of that process, we assembled all main
stakeholders, including commercial fisherman who had a bearing and potential impact
on the whales at Robson Bight. After working about two years we came out with 37
consensus recommendations, which were all approved by both the Federal and Provincial
governments. As a result of this work, at the provincial level the Tsitika Estuary was
closed to the public and five more reserves totalling almost 1200 ha were created in the
Tsitika valley. For me personally, that was quite a coup.
Another success was the consolidation of the ER program. From 1971 till about 1981,
things were very busy with creating new reserves. There was little time to do anything
else, hence the general lack of organized documentation for the program. So we produced
a Guide to ERs in BC, which was for a wide audience such as for libraries and interest
groups and so on; this publication is now available on the Internet. We also developed
policies and formats for ER Management Statements because it is not enough to know
what an ER is all about, you have to protect it appropriately. Hans Roemer produced
management statements for all the ERs. We wanted to make sure [especially when you
have new staff on] that there would be no picnic tables or toilets in ERs. We did a whole
ER Systems Plan to select and prioritize new ERs, working with the ministries of Forests
and Environment to design the system infrastructure. We spelled out what needed to be
in the ER system, what was in it already and what was missing. We also completed list of
Research Projects, list of Research Reports and Publications. All of this showed the
value of the program to whoever chose to look at it.
There were also a lot of other outreach activities. I traveled for over two years with an
ER slide show we had created; we made copies of this slide show for all of the regional
and districts offices, and ER Volunteer Warden could borrow this slide show (this was
an incredible program), again to make the circle much bigger and to have more people
understand and support the ER program. I also made it my job inside the system to
get people and BC Parks staff on board. I gave an ER presentation to three different
ministers and even made a presentation to Cabinet to raise the profile of the Program
in a very positive manner. I will never forget talking to Minister Tony Brummet who
was the Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks. I met him in a social function and I
introduced myself. I asked him if he knew that BC has the best ER Program in Canada.
He said no I didn’t know that; you had better come to see me to tell me more. So I really
made it my job to tell people the positive aspects of ERs program. It was really my job to
speak for that program.
However, all of this outreach, consolidation of the Program and documentation of the
ERs also made it possible for BC Parks to decentralize the Program in 1990. Because
we now had all of the ER information and policy direction readily available, it was
possible to delegate most ER functions (except designation) to the Parks Regions and
Districts. It was very hard for me to let go as it was for Hans and John. It was a most
But I also realized that if I did my new job right, we could have so many more people
now supporting the ER program. So as Manager of Park/ER Planning, I made sure I
still “carried” the ER program forward. I was involved from the very start with helping
to develop both the marine and protected areas strategies. I made it my job to
make sure that ERs were in there. ERs were also included in the Land and Resource
Management Planning process, which after the ER program was decentralized, became
the process to identify and recommend new potential ERs. Hundreds of new protected
areas, including ERs, came out of that process. It was still my job and that of my staff to
prepare all the cabinet documents necessary to get final approval to designate new ERs
(as well as parks).
MF Were there a number of ERs established during the LRMP process?
LG Yes, nineteen. There were about 8300 ha included in these 19 stand alone reserves.
But many more ER proposals were also included in new provincial parks. They were
not designated as ERs because of First Nations concerns. I did some asking before this
interview to get the final tally. But it was a bit of short notice. I will however make it my
job to retrieve the full information and pass it on: How many ER proposals were included
in other types of protected areas, in particular parks?
MF I think we will take you up on that offer.
MF Do you have insight into the concerns of the First Nations and why a Park
would be an acceptable designation but an ER designation would not be?
LG It has a lot to do with Land Claims. If an ER is to be located within an active land
claim area, within First Nations traditional territory, it cannot be used by them in any
way as it precludes any resource use, even for traditional uses. Creating an ER would
de facto remove an area from their land claim, before it has even been settled. ERs are
also often the most diverse and productive areas in terms of flora and fauna, so obviously
they were concerned that such areas not be removed from their land claim areas. ERs
are in quotes “for the birds”; you cannot go to hunt there or do resource extraction for
profit. So right away it meant that those areas were closed to them. [This is not the case
in Provincial Park where First Nations traditional uses can be allowed] This is why First
Nations could not support ecological reserves. I do not think there is a lack of concern
about conservation values; there is a concern about their own rights and getting those
rights to be recognized.
MF That is a good insight for Friends as things have definitely changed with regard
to First Nations consultation in the last 15 to 20 years. I wonder are there some
things that you found particularly challenging in the process of establishing ERs or
in running this program. How was it working for BC Parks?
LG. As a biologist, I always worked with men and that was a challenge. But working for
BC Parks as a woman was quite a challenge. I found that even the Ministry of Forests
was more progressive than BC Parks! I was the only woman manager involved in a park
core program; all other woman managers were involved in administration or human
There were also challenges particular to the ER Program. It became even more
difficult once the ER program was decentralized to the park regions and districts without
any money; that did not go over very well. I remember going to a reception before a
regional meeting to which I was giving a presentation. I made it through the door to
the reception and within seconds my hair was streaming backward [because someone
was yelling at me]. I was the lightning rod for field staff frustration on this issue. But
this being said, it turned out to be an advantage because I developed a very personal
relationship with a lot of people in BC Parks and was able to change their mind about the
ER Program. But that certainly was a challenge. The access to Cabinet for approval of ER
proposals was also very difficult. We were a small program within BC Parks itself; we
had to learn to hitch our “ER wagon” to a lot of things to make it through. But the most
serious thing was the lack of money for the program, which is still there to this day. The
ER program came with very little funding and it stayed that way. Eventually that funding
disappeared when the program was decentralized.
MF And when was this decentralization to region?
LG. At the end of 1990. In 1991 [as Manager of Park/ER Planning], I was responsible for
producing documents for Parks Plan for the 90”s, then participated in the development
and implementation of the provincial Protected Areas Strategy and Land Use Planning
Process. So I was involved with all of that and made sure the ER Program was part of
these initiatives. But there was no specific money left at that time for ERs.
MF So when ER management was decentralized you went to a strategic Parks
LG Yes at BC Parks, and working with other agencies as well. The Protected Areas
Strategy was initiated at BC Parks. Most of the materials produced by BC Parks on parks
and ER ecosystems planning became part of the overall Protected Areas Strategy and
were used as part of the Land Use Planning Process in terms of selecting new protected
areas. BC Parks is the one agency that [initiated and] carried this protected areas planning
MF I would like get some insight on management of natural process in ERs. There
are 148 of them and some of them are quite small and insects, fire and natural
succession influence them. Can you remember the management approach to them?
LG I will share one of my basic frustrations. We consolidated the ER program, we
developed a System Plan. But the one thing we still had to do when the ER Program was
decentralized was to develop some ER management policy. The ER regulations say what
you can and cannot do under an ER permit for research activities, but not for agency
After six years with the program I realized that not all ERs are created equal. For my
point of view, they require a different management approach. (1) In the representative
reserves, yes let natural processes run their course; this is part of what nature is all about
and you will be able to see what is happening in an ER. Another objective of the ER
legislation is also to monitor the recovery of areas that had been modified.
(2) But there are also some reserves that are very special. When you spend a million
dollars to acquire the tallest Douglas fir on Nimpkish Island, you don’t want these trees to
burn; you want to keep them. Or when you have very special features like basalt columns,
Vancouver Island marmots or Garry Oak wildflower meadows, you take action to protect
these features if you have to. There are also 13 very special ERs that are closed to the
public because they have really fragile values. All other ERs are open to the public.
(3) Finally, there are reserves where the public is very aware of the values in those
reserves and where they will go there whether you like it or not – for example Robson
Bight with the killer whales, the previous UBC ER (now part of regional park) or Mt.
Tzuhalem with wild flower meadows. I feel those reserves have the potential to become
flagship reserves for the whole ER program. How do you keep the public on side with a
Program where you want to keep things just the way they are, where recreation is to be
kept at a minimal level and where activities should only be education and research? [Or
where you may not even be able to go]. I feel we have 2 or 3 reserves which could be
used for this role, where you use them to educate the public about the ER system at large.
But these reserves should be designated at a different level so you can get the funding to
manage them properly.
For example, for Robson Bight with its killer whales, one of our recommendations was to
have a visitor program there in the summer months. And the money ($100,000 per year)
was allocated just to do that. So you allocate money to manage intensely. But what you
manage is not the resource itself (in this case, killer whales) but rather the people who
want to use the ER. In the marine environment in particular, you don’t manage fish; you
At the time the ER Program was decentralized. I was poised to start having open
discussions and debate about those ideas I had [on how to manage different types of
ERs]. I know that recently there was some controversy about Mount Tzuhalem and the
removal of Douglas firs from that reserve. I thought what an opportunity to really open
that door, bring all the points of view forward and put them around the table to rehash
this very thing. There is a real need for answers [in terms of how we manage ERs].
MF We are hosting a panel discussion at the Parks and Protected Areas research
Forum shortly and we want to probe that question a little bit deeper and hope to
come up with some recommendations
LG Make sure that you involve all the people that need to be involved. Developing a
consensus among a narrow group of people and then trying to sell it to everybody else is
not always the best way to go.
MF What about invasive species like broom?
LG Absolutely, remove invasive species like broom. They do not belong here in any
way, shape or manner. But it can be a hard one because it takes so much money and so
much effort; but again you can look at a problem as an opportunity. At Mount Tzuhalem,
the Cowitchan Valley Naturalists removed broom for fifteen years. This reserve is now
outstanding; I cannot think of a more beautiful wildflower meadow in Canada. And
this is a way to validate the reserve with the public and to involve them. And yes, let’s
remove these things. But it needs to be controlled. A lot of damage can be done by people
of good will but with little knowledge. You need a balance.
MF We are getting to a point where we trying to think ahead. It been 20 years since
the ER program was decentralized and it sounds like you have kept up. Do you have
any advice to Parks staff that now manage ERs and what would that be?
LG Right now is a very difficult time to be dealing with ERs because you have to look
at the political process. None of our two political parties have any interest right now in
taking on the environment. ERs are a non-issue for them; they are looking at the short
term. There is very little chance to put this on the agenda at this time. After the next
election, there may be an opportunity once the new government gets its footing. We can
try again. But BC Parks has never had so little staff or money. Just to tell you, when I
was at BC Parks there were 65 people at HQ; now there is something like 28 if that and
I don’t think there are actually that many. They have not only cut staff, but they have cut
functions and roles as well.
Before, we [BC Parks] were more or less the masters of our own fate. We could decide
to put a new Park or ER forward; you could take that to the Minister and make a case.
Or if it involved more than one ministry, you could go to Cabinet. Now the Ministry
of Environment is much more involved. There is a lot of positive coming out of that
because of the knowledge these people have, but on the other hand Parks are now in an
even a bigger pool and with bigger agendas to try and drive protected areas through.
What is so sad is that we had invited the Wildlife Branch to be part of Parks Plan for the
90’s for their Wildlife Management Areas, but they did not think it would benefit them
[They did not participate]. I don’t know if they have benefited in any big way of all the
Protected Areas discussions [that took place over the last 10 to 20 years]. To try and
push the Parks and Protected Areas through a much bigger staff and agenda is just about
But there is a positive, ERs are now legislated rather than designated by order-in-council
(OIC). This is something that happened as part of the land use planning process and
the Protected Areas Strategy. We wrote protected area legislation rather than just Parks
legislation. ERs are embedded in that and when they are designated they are designated in
law not as an OIC that can be rescinded at the stroke of a pen.
MF So to establish an ER or decommission and ER it has to go to the legislature?
LG When I took the ER program over, ERs were designated by OIC. There was pressure
in some areas to cancel some ERs and it could be done at Cabinet. But as far as I know,
there has never been a single ER that has been cancelled. Three of them were included
in Gwaii Haanas National Park; two in the new Gulf Islands National Park, [and one in
the new GVRD regional park at UBC]. But there has never been an ER that has been
MF I am not sure about that
LG You find me the specifics.
MF We will save that discussion for later on. Your advice to government is what?
LG They have a treasure trove in the Protected Areas system in BC and they will come
to recognize that. It means so much in term of tourism to the parks, in terms of valuable
genetic material. As the world is destroyed more and more, unfortunately, these areas will
become more and more precious.
We don’t have the money to manage all PAs now but they cannot be touched easily
because of the legislative aspect of this. Permissible uses in PA are regulated, and non-
permissible uses are excluded. Why would government want a fight now? It has been
relatively quiet in terms of the environmental agenda these past few years. Why would
they want to stir up a hornets nest? But it is not a happy situation. We will have another
day to fight.
We can do something while we wait. I was looking at the strategic objectives pursued by
the Friends and I would like to turn these on their head. I do not know if they are in order
of priority. The first objective is to support the protection and management of the ER
system; it is BC Parks’ job to do this. The Friends of ER can help maintain a volunteer
ER wardens’ program, but you still need money for that. The second objective is to
promote the study and use of ERs for research. A third objective is to develop a resilient
network of ERs that are scientifically supported. I am all for these objectives but again it
The Friends’ fourth objective is to raise awareness of the value of ERs with targeted
groups. If it is again a matter of the converted talking to the converted, you will not
achieve anything. You need to step outside that box to involve the public at large. (This
is why I was thinking of educational reserves to help achieve this objective, involving the
public without getting the ERs destroyed).
The Friends’ last objective is to sustain and nurture an effective organization to manage
ERs – again, isn`t this BC Parks` job? If you have public awareness, you can have
political will. If you have political will, then there is a chance to get more money to BC
Park. So that way, they can protect and manage the ER system and you can study to your
It is almost like starting from zero, when the parks system was created. We need to create
a raison d’être for the PA system. We need to involve the kids in terms of constituency
and stakeholders. A lot of people that are 40+, they are either old environmentalists
or they are not. Right behind us however are very few people who care to protect the
environment (their first priority is the economy). You also look at the influx of Asian
people, with different values. The Chinese population for example has a lot of sway. But
try to explain to a Korean why can they not collect barnacles in some of the ERs? It is
beyond them that there is a good food source that we are not using. So there is a need to
extend outreach to those groups that will matter the most, not only to those that mattered
the most in the past. A lot of work has been done by environmental groups but now we
need to talk to kids, to talk to new immigrants, in fact we need to talk to everybody.
MF That is very good advice. We are nearing the end of what I have wanted to ask.
This has been very informative and for sharing some of the wealth of experience
that you have had with the ER reserves program and thank you for sharing even a
little snippet of it.
LG I care deeply for this program; it is a beautiful program. We have at least 60%,
probably 70% of the entire seabird nesting habitat along the BC coast protected in ERs.
We have things that are so beautiful and so unique. We need passionate spokespersons to
speak for the program. I am sure pleased that you are doing this process now and maybe
the day will come for (a broad public, and politicians, to support the ER system).
MF Louise thank you so much and we hope we can capture a few picture from these
publications that you have laid out.
LG This is what I am involved with now; the Garry Oak Recovery Team. I was the
Executive Director for the Garry Oak Team.
One of the conclusions I reached as a conservationist is you can either beat your head
against the wall and it will eventually go square; or you can do something positive. I
always have lots of passion and energy. I thought there is not much to be achieved in
yelling the wilderness right now and I redirected that energy to something else that I can
MF So you transitioned to restoring Garry Oak.
LG I was Executive Director for GOERT [for almost 3 years]. I managed to get the
Garry Oak Gardeners’ Handbook published to provide the opportunity to reach a broader
public. Since I left GOERT, I have been developing a native plant garden; now I have
over 200 species there. My garden is open to people who want to learn. I am also working
with some horticulturists and landscape contractors on how to protect Garry Oak. Once I
am too old to manage my garden, I want some young people who can manage it for me.
We have to think in terms of recruitment and succession planning and that goes for both
Ecological Reserves and Garry Oak because people like you and I are no longer in the
system and it is a bit frightening.
MF Thank you so much Louise.
LG You are welcome.
A Framed Imaged of Duke of Edinburgh Ecological Reserves
Hangs in Louise’s house it is from BC Parks
Duke of Edinburgh Ecological Reserves
Pine, Storm and Tree Islands.
The Duke of Edinburgh Ecological Reserves was established in June 1988 to protect the
second largest concentration of sea birds on Canada’s Pacific Coast. Its name recognizes
the contribution of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh to the
protection of world wildlife.
Roughly 550 hectares of marine waters to a depth of 20 fathoms and 120 hectares of land
broken into 20 small islands make up this ER, Include are the Storm Islands, Naiad Islets,
Pine Island and two separate clusters which for the Buckle Group. Coastal Indians have
used the islands as a refuge during storms for many centuries. Seen from the air the
fragments of the land in this ER form a scattered archipelago of reefs, rocks, islets and
island standing darky against the foamy white sea. From the water the island look
forbidding, in the bet of weather, breakers rise against rocks and reefs in almost every
direction, making it difficult to land from a boat. During storms the fury of the sea drives
wind thick with spray against these remote islands. These islands seem too ravaged by
the sea to support life by day small nesting colonies of gulls, cormorants and pigeon
guillemots dot the exposed rocks that rise above the waves. Bald eagles which soar over
the island and perch on scattered trees offer the only other hint of life in this desolate
area. Yet a closer look at night reveals that the island bustle with activity. The night sky
fills with birds, unseen but heard as a confusion of calls, whirring wings and breaking
twigs as bodes crash against trees and then the ground. A million birds, mostly nocturnal
burrowing nesters, call these islands home. More than a quarter million pairs of Leach’s
storm-petrel breed on these islands. The rhinoceros auklet (140,000 pairs), the fork-tailed
storm-petrel (60,000) pairs) and the Cassin’s auklet (8,000 pairs) are also abundant in the
Duke of Edinburgh ERs. Thousands of birds arrive at the same time as thousands leave
to take their turns at sea. In the blackness all seems chaos, but it is not. Somehow in the
crowded flyways, each bird finds its way to the small darkened entrance of its burrow
which contains its mate, a youngster or both. Nests are usually located in place so honey
combed by other occupied burrows that they must connect underground. Waves, gales
and salty spray limit the vegetation to bits of herbs or grass in sheltered crevice or to
rough paint-thin lichens on rocks. The heavy rain, about 100 inches at year washes away
some of the poisonous slat, Offshore, rich stands of seaweed grow below the high tide
line, but above it most rocks are bare. Some larger islands have dry upland meadows of
Pacific reedgrass (Calamgrostis nutkaensis) well back from the sea. Even larger islands
may have salmon berry (Rubus spectabillis) tangles carpeting their centres. The largest
islands have stunted coniferous forest ringed by salmon berry thickets. Sitka spruce
(Picea sitchensis) dominate the tree canopy in these the centre of the largest islands.
Sitka spruce thrives closer to the sea than any other tree, apparently having a high
tolerance to slat. Deep, almost completely organic soils have developed under these
spruce near the sea. It is these islands’ battered forests, tangles of salmonberry and small
reedgrass patches that attract millions of seabirds. The soft soils developed in these
habitats are essential to breeding seabirds wanting to dig nesting burrow among the roots.
These millions of birds, the sparse forest as well as intertidal communities are all given
permanent protect in the Duke of Edinburgh ER.
ERs are established to preserve examples of our natural environment for posterity and
to provide areas suitable for long term scientific research and education. Many of BC
(120 in 1988, now 148 in 2012) maintain living data banks of common species of their
communities for future discovery and learning. Reserves with bird colonies are not open
to the general public and scientists may visit only after obtaining a permit from BC Parks.
The ERs was passed in in the BC legislature, 1971. BC was the first Canadian province
to give permanent status to ER and has the most extensive system in the country. BC
Parks administers ER with the help of volunteer wardens. The Duke of Edinburgh ER
contributes significant to mankind’s efforts to protect and conserve life forms. Its nesting
grounds hold a globally-significant population of rhinoceros auklet. It pays fitting tribute
to its name sake, Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, for his well-known dedication to
preserving world wildlife.
Leach’s Storm Petrel. With a population of more than half a million Leach’s storm-
petrels are the most abundant bird in this reserve. These black starling sized birds lay one
egg per season at the end of a 2 to 4 foot tunnel. Parents alternate between hunting food
at sea and incubating the eggs then alter tending to their you in the same burrow. One
adult bird is always in the nest and the male and female change shifts at the nest at night.
These birds may stay out for a couple of days before coming back. Leach’s storm petrels,
found most temperate waters of the world are tube-nose swimmers, which also include
the albatross, shearwaters, and fulmars.
Pigeon Guillemots are more common on BC’s coast. These alcids nest in cervices and
crannies of talus slopes and rock rubble near the sea shore. The female usually lays two
eggs. Like the storm petrels and rhinoceros auklet, both parents incubate the eggs. Pigeon
guillemots typically 32 to 27 centimeters often suit on rocks sunning themselves. Their
bright orange webbed feet and orange beaks make these birds easy to spot.