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Friends of Shoal Harbour: History and Ambitions

When we launched Friends of Shoal Harbour in fall of 2011, our main objective was to encourage the municipalities of North Saanich and the Town of Sidney to develop a joint management plan for Tsehum Harbour and the 1931 Migratory Bird Sanctuary that encompasses Tsehum Harbour and Roberts Bay. Such a management plan had been first proposed in 1981 (see link below) and was recommended again in the 2009 report of the North Saanich marine Task Force. The plan would synchronize the response of the two municipalities to issues such as moored and derelict boats in Tsehum Habour, water quality concerns and especially protection of the foreshore of the Migratory Bird Sanctuary as viable habitat for the birds themselves that continue to frequent the Sanctuary despite considerable human development.  In October 2013 we hosted a public meeting “Sharing our Shores” where initial conversations were held about developing a community-based vision for the upper part of the Sannich Peninsula. This meeting was well received.

In 2013 FOSH approached the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Victoria outlining the various authorities (Federal, Provincial, Municipal) having jurisdiction over foreshore development. We received a very thorough report of which a principal conclusion was that the two senior levels of government tended to defer to the local municipal governments regarding foreshore development. FOSH therefore continues to encourage the creation of a joint Sidney/North Saanich management plan for Tsehum Harbour and Roberts Bay, notwithstanding the failure of an earlier attempt launched by the District of North Saanich on the recommendation of the Marine Task Force Report. We’re not there yet but we have made our presence felt in both municipalities as informed advocates for effective foreshore management.

In October 2015 FOSH was invited to partner with the national organization Nature Canada to promote the Nature Canada initiative “NatureHood”, a program intended to encourage urban dwellers to enjoy the wildlife in their local neighbourhoods. The enjoyment of our NatureHoods also calls for an effort to protect and maintain them. The All Bufflehead Day ceremonies were extended for this occasion to include an introduction to the NatureHood program at Parkland Secondary School attended by the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia and an evening lecture on the Dominion Naturalist, John Macoun, who spent his retirement years in Sidney BC.  The Lieutenant Governor subsequently declared the grounds of Government House to be a NatureHood.

Nature Canada not only enlisted FOSH as an emissary of the NatureHood concept but also provided funding to support public events promoting NatureHood in the Greater Victoria area. With this financial support we expanded the activities associated with the annual All Buffleheads Celebration and created opportunities to engage children and youth in NatureHood activities, some of the funding being used to hire a contract events organizer.

Through Nature Canada our interests have expanded from municipal affairs to include promotion of the health-giving concept of NatureHood, which encourages the development of  a respectful and mutually sustaining relationship between our rich wild communities and our human community. In reality there is no sharp division between these two activities.

In 2018, through the efforts of Roberts Bay Residents (an environmental advocacy group with interests very similar to those of Friends of Shoal Harbour) we became aware of a foreshore development on Roberts Bay with a potential to damage three “heron trees”. Enlisting a professional arborist, we challenged the landscaping plans in the approved development permit because they threatened those valuable trees with rapid decline. Unfortunately, we were unable to prevail against the legalistic rigidity of the development permit process. We were joined in this effort by the Roberts Bay Residents and these two groups of “friends” now work closely together.  The 2019 review of Sidney’s Official Community Plan may provide an opportunity to propose strengthening the environmental protection components of Development Permits. We urge our supporters to take an interest in the 2019 OCP review.

In recent years, both organizations have advocated for strengthened environmental protection, especially in the bird sanctuary, as both Sidney and North Saanich have reviewed their Official Community Plans. The new Sidney OCP expands recognition and protection of Environmentally Sensitive Areas. The North Saanich review is ongoing.

We realized too that we needed to “grow” our roster of supporters, to extoll the delights and responsibilities pertaining to our rich natural environment, to keep our supporters informed about the concerns we have identified and to enlist their help via simple measures such as making their views known at municipal council meetings, public consultations, and chance encounters.

Here are some ways you can help FOSH:

Attend an Event

Attend our public events such as the October All Buffleheads Celebration and the March Birdwalk and Tea. A good crowd (and a good time) boost our public profile. 

Watch our website 

Our posts are also mirrored on Facebook   (search on Friends of Shoal Harbour Society).

Stay Informed

Keep track of developments in your community/neighbourhood. 

Participate in municipal open houses that relate to environmental issues. 

The Town of Sidney will be revising its official Community Plan in 2019; there will be opportunities for public input.

Volunteer with FOSH

FOSH needs more active members. You don’t require a background in environmental science to be helpful. For example, we could use contributors to our website and help with our public events and educational activities. You could be involved a lot or a little. It would be good to know who, among our identified supporters, we could call for occasional help. Please let us know if we could add you to our “ready to help” list.

Thank you for your interest!

We remind you that FOSH is a provincial society &registered as federal charity. We can issue income tax receipts for your donations – so please give generously.