President’s message – the year ahead


By Don Eastman


Last year’s message from our then-President, Peggy Frank, began with the words: “This year has been an exciting and interesting one for Friends of Ecological Reserves.” And when I look back over 2003, the same words come to my mind: it has been a challenging and engaging year, and I hope to convey that sense in this report. My message for this year has three parts. Firstly, I want to extend thanks to those who have contributed so much to this past year. Secondly, I want to reflect on our accomplishments over 2003. Thirdly, I want to look ahead to 2004 and set out some objectives for the Friends.


Thanks to all

Similar to most volunteer organizations, it is the dedication of a few people that has enabled us to both maintain momentum and make significant accomplishments. Let me begin by thanking Peggy Frank, our Past-President for her unflagging dedication to the purpose of the Friends. She has worked tirelessly in many ways – writing articles, providing counsel to yours truly, helping to organize “The Gathering” and even offering her home as a place for the Board to meet. Tom Gillespie, as Membership Secretary, has kept our list of members up-to-date, an essential task for keeping in touch and mailing out The Log, as well as collecting mail for our monthly meetings. Evelyn Hamilton has contributed by reviewing applications for research and providing guidance in making those difficult decisions about how best to allocate our research funds. Mary Rannie and Marilyn Lambert continue to organize field trips, a job that requires great attention to detail and planning. Our field trips are an important way of offering service to our members as well as helping to raise awareness about the purposes of ecological reserves. Lynne Milnes, our Vice-president, is our fund-raiser par excellence, and an indefatigable writer of insightful articles and sharp letters to governments when they lose sight of the reasons for Reserves. Alison Nicholson, our webmaster, has played a key role in keeping our wonderful (and very popular) website up-to-date. Nichola Walkden, works to keep our financial picture in focus, so that we

make the best use of our funds to further the aims of the Friends. The Board has been fortunate in having the support of three staff, without whom, the Friends would founder. Saila Hull, a former Director, assumed the role of our Office Manager when Daphne Munroe realized that she needed to move on to other things. Saila has really helped the Board function effectively. Denise de Montreuil is the new Editor of The Log. Her expertise and experience has enabled us to produce Log that is both informative and

easy to read. And last, but certainly not least, Diane Wootton, our bookkeeper continues to keep our bills paid and books balanced.


Just as in 2002, there have been some changes in both the Board and the staff. In September, Syd Cannings, Sue Carr and their two children moved to Yukon. So, while we have lost them to the Friends, at least for the time being, we have not lost them our cause. We know they will make their presence known in the Yukon’s conservation scene. Also, Daphne Munroe, our Office Manager, had to step down due to the increasing demands of family, pursuing a Ph. D. degree and preparing for dragon boat races in South Africa in June of 2004. To all three, we wish the best of success and hope they know that they will always be welcome as Friends.


Of course, our success as an organization depends on many individuals and organizations. Ongoing support from the members of the Friends provides continuity and stability to our organization. Many other individuals make a variety of contributions, such as Vicky Husband who gives both financial help and moral encouragement. Generous supporters and donors significantly help our research program. The Federation of BC Naturalists deserves special mention for its role in making the

“Gathering” such a success, and for its ongoing assistance in heightening public awareness about environmental issues of mutual concern. The time and money provided by the provincial government for the “Gathering” also deserves mention. No doubt I have missed out thanking some people and groups, and I hope you do not take my absentmindedness as an indication of ungratefulness. Quite the contrary!

Without the support from all of you, named and unnamed, we could not exist as an organization. And, of course, we thank the Wardens, those eyes and ears of the ecological reserve system that provide an invaluable service not only to the provincial government, but also to the citizens of the province. To all of you, thank you for your work and support over the past year!!


Accomplishments in 2003

When I look back over the past year, I like to think of our activities as consisting of two sorts:

a) on-going activities in support of ER’s, Wardens and the ER system, and

b) special activities over and above on-going ones.


Let’s look at our on-going activities over the past 12 months:

  1. We produced three issues of The Log that were full of interesting, timely and challenging articles presented in a readable format.
  2. We held two very successful field trips to Trial Island and Race Rocks. On the Trial Island trip, our guides, Adolph and Aluna Ceska, told us about the critical importance of this ecological reserve, and pointed out the wealth of flowering plants, including the tiniest species that participants might have otherwise walked right over…or on. On the Race Rocks trip, we were ably guided by Gary Fletcher and Chris Blondeau from Pearson College, and accompanied by several international students from the College.
  3. We funded five research projects: Tom Reimchen, for his research on he role of salmon in coastal ecosystems; Jane Watson, for her ecological studies on sea otters and their impact on the marine ecosystem; Erica Wheeler, for her work on the rare slim-leafed onion (Allium amplectans); Emily Gonzales, for her investigation into the dynamics of Garry Oak ecosystems; and for Rick Searle and his students, for their projects on protected areas in the southern Okanagan (See the next issue of The Log for more details).
  4. We continued to involve ourselves with the provincial government, in particular the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection. We wrote letters expressing our concern about the working forest and indications about guiding activities in Ecoreserves. In addition to these regular, but important activities, we also completed two other important projects – the Gathering and the Retreat. The Gathering was reported in detail by Peggy in the Winter 2003 Issue of The Log, so I don’t need to go into detail here. It was a great success, and the Friends and the Wardens really got lift from the meeting. The Gathering spawned some continuing activities, including a revision of the Wardens’ Handbook and the EcoReserve brochure. Our second extracurricular project was the Board Retreat held on November 11, 2003 at Abkhazi Gardens in Victoria. Its purpose was to reflect on our past accomplishments and more especially to re-focus our activities, renew our sense of purpose, and consider future directions. We were ably facilitated by Colin Rankin, and the results of our retreat figure prominently in plans for the coming year.


The year ahead

When needs are so varied and great, it’s often hard to choose what to do, and how much energy to put into each thing we choose to do. Fortunately, we have clear directions and guidance from our Gathering and our Retreat pointing to the need to dedicate our energies in four general categories: wardens, research, outreach and organizational renewal. I propose four major targets in each of these areas – a sixteen-point plant for 2004.


Warden Program

Wardens are critical to the continuation of ecological reserves: they are the eyes

and ears on the ground and they build a strong commitment to the purpose of reserves. Strictly speaking, Wardens provide volunteer services to the provincial government and it is the government that should support Wardens in their efforts to safeguard the public interest in ecological reserves. That said, the Friends have a role to play in supporting wardens in the coming year as follows: Promote recruitment of individuals as wardens by posting the application process on the FER website, and by working with the wardens to update the Wardens’ Handbook and orientation package. Promote better communications among wardens and government by creating a Warden contact system, and by supporting annual regional and biannual provincial meetings.

Work with the provincial government to clarify key issues, such as liability insurance for wardens, acceptable levels of use, and the need for permits. Continue to keep a watchful eye on governmental policies, plans and programs that may adversely affect ecological reserves, and communicate our concerns by effective means.



Historically, the Friends have dedicated a lot of effort in raising funds to support research in ecological reserves, in other words, to support one of the primary reasons for having reserves. The need for research has never been greater, with growing questions about the impact of climate change, the viability of an ecological reserve system, the impact of land use activities on lands neighbouring reserves. In the coming year, we need to dedicate our efforts in four main areas: An assessment of the state of ecological reserves: A “State of ER Report” will provide a long overdue review of ecological reserves, and help both the Friends and government focus efforts and energies. Themes for the report include: threats facing reserves, current condition of reserves, and adequacy of the current systems. Work is already underway through the efforts of Katie Christie, a master’s degree student in Biology at the University of Victoria who has received funding from the Friends. Expand our way of selecting research, by being more pro-active. In other words, we need to ask for research proposals on topics we feel need attention, as well as evaluate topics submitted by researchers. To develop a more complete awareness of researchers who are interested in working in ecological reserves, so that we can approach appropriate researchers directly about topics of concern to the Friends. To explore additional funding to advance our research program.


Outreach/Member Services

The organization known as the Friends Ecological Reserves consists of individuals across the province who know that ecological reserves are important. They demonstrate their commitment ER’s by joining the Friends, by making donations, and supporting the work of the Board in other ways. In 2004, I suggest that the Board support membership in the following ways: Develop a communications strategy to increase public awareness and appreciation of ecological reserves; this includes cooperation with the Cowichan Valley Wardens to produce educational material. Continue to organize field trips, with at least two in the Greater Victoria area (Trial Island and Race Rocks), and at least two elsewhere in the province. Produce three issues of The Log, and explore the value of distributing it electronically. Explore opportunities for joint membership in like-minded organi-zations such as the Federation of BC Naturalists, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and various land trusts.


Organizational Renewal

At the Retreat last November, the Board spent a lot of time exploring why we belong to the Friends, what we enjoy the most about the Friends, and what bothers us most. Out of this introspection we realized that we need to make some changes, and the main challenges in the year ahead are as follows: Recruit new Board members. Presently, the Board is short three members of its 12-member complement. We need to recruit new Board members, considering skill sets, time available and regional representation (Note: at this Annual General Meeting, we recruited two new members for the Board, Mike Fenger and Stephen Ruttan. Welcome!). Consider having another Warden on the Board to improve liaison with the Friends (Board member Marilyn Lambert is a warden for the Trial Island Ecological Reserve). Use a committee structure to more effectively draw upon the interest and expertise of Board members and share the workload of the

Board. We propose to establish the following subcommittees: Outreach/Communications, Research, Fundraising, Warden Liaison, and the Executive. Explore additional sources of funding, especially for the State of ER report, and ways of building effective relationships with donors. The above list of tasks is challenging for the Friends, but I feel it is possible and necessary to safeguard ecological reserves. In closing my report, I want to once again thank all of those individuals who contributed to making 2003 year a year to remember.