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.
The Fairyslipper Forest Nature Reserve will be further protected by a conservation covenant held by the Thetis Island Nature Conservancy and Cowichan Community Land Trust. The Islands Trust Fund will work with the Thetis Island community and our partners to develop a comprehensive management and trail plan to guide the care of this special place. Fairyslipper Forest will be managed to ensure the ecological features are monitored and maintained while allowing for the enjoyment of people visiting the nature reserve.