For the past five years, I’ve been assisting the Friends of Shoal Harbour with their communication and engagement activities. The Friends are a registered charity dedicated to the protection of the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary. Established in 1931, the sanctuary encompasses 144 hectares of prime migratory bird habitat located in Sidney and North Saanich almost at the tip of Saanich Peninsula. It consists of tidal mudflats and sheltered bays.
To achieve their goal of seeing the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary adequately protected and where possible restored, the Friends engage in a number of activities. They actively encourage the establishment of a community-based vision and plan that respects the birds, their habitat and the interests of the people who live, work, and recreate next to and on the waters and foreshore of the sanctuary. To this end, the Friends engage with the adjacent municipalities of the Town of Sidney and the District of North Saanich as well as the general public.
Over the past five years, the Friends have partnered with Nature Canada to create a “Naturehood” encompassing not just the Shoal Harbour sanctuary but also the whole of Saanich Peninsula. The goal of this initiative is to connect residents of the region with the nature that can be found in their neighbourhood. In 2017, Her Honour, Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of BC dedicated the grounds of Government House as a naturehood. The grounds by the way encompass a significant stand of Garry oaks. Today, the Friends are working with a coalition of organizations to have Greater Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula declared a naturehood.
Each year, they host “All Buffleheads Day” in October and a bird walk and tea in the spring. Each event is a welcoming celebration for the migratory birds that return to the sanctuary during their migrations. The Bufflehead merits having a day dedicated to it as it is emblematic of the sanctuary and is featured on the Town of Sidney’s crest. This remarkable little diving duck returns to the sanctuary and local waters with amazing punctuality, usually on or very near the 15th of October year after year.
So what exactly is a naturehood anyway?
A NatureHood is your neighbourhood, but it can also be as large as the community you live or even larger, the region your community sits in. No matter how small or large the “hood”, nature can be found in all of them. It’s any place where you connect with nature’s wonder whether in your backyard, a tree-lined street or local park.
There’s a growing disconnect between modern urban societies and nature, coupled with the reality that there are many barriers (real and perceived) limiting people’s access to nature, such as distance, lack of knowledge, perceived cost, lack of equipment and cultural perceptions, just to mention a few. With the NatureHood program, Nature Canada seeks to address these and other barriers by helping people discover nature all around them right where they are.