What is the Islands Trust and why does it matter to Bowen?

Sue Ellen Fast, now in her second term as one of two Bowen trustees on the Islands Trust council, explains the benefits she sees from the island federation.

Imagine a greenbelt between Metro Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island where nature, beauty, unique island communities and fresh water are protected. Where over 100 nature reserves are sprinkled across 13 major and 450 small islands. And where islanders elect other islanders to serve in a singular federation of islands in the Salish Sea. 

As one of those elected on Bowen, I’d like to bring Undercurrent readers up to date, and to invite their input into the upcoming budget.

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What is the Islands Trust?

Established by the province in 1974, at around the same time as the Agricultural Land Reserve, the Trust manages development, sustains communities and protects ecosystems. It’s part of our local government system, legislated through the Islands Trust Act.

To me, it’s like the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa greenbelt, the Grand River Conservation Authority, Gatineau Park in Quebec and European national parks; which all have people living and working in them. The Trust Area is roughly the size of Prince Edward Island but saltier.

In November, the work of Islands Trust and Islands Trust Conservancy staff and elected officials was recognized and celebrated in the B.C. legislature by the Honourable Selina Robinson, Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Duties of Bowen Trustees

Michael Kaile and I serve on Bowen Island Municipal council, of course, where Bowen’s local land use planning direction comes from. We also serve on Trust Council with 24 trustees from other islands, voting on Trust-wide issues including budget and generally steering the ship.

Because I have been elected by Trust Council to the executive committee, I also chair the Gambier-Keats, Denman and Hornby local planning committees and serve on the Islands Trust Conservancy Board and the financial planning committee.

Proposed Budget

Bowen’s contribution of $332,658 to the proposed budget is an increase of about 13 per cent over last year. Along with drawing less from surplus and some other changes, Trust-wide regional and Islands Trust Conservancy programs are proposed to grow this year. These are the subset of the budget that Bowen contributes toward; specifically the costs of operations of Trust Council and the executive committee and of administrative operations of the Islands Trust Conservancy. (Acquisition of nature reserves and covenants is funded through donations, planned gifts and fundraising, not through taxes.) 

For perspective, taxes for Islands Trust made up 4 per cent of the property taxes collected on Bowen in 2018; less than Translink or Police taxes.

Benefits

What do we Bowen Islanders get for our tax dollars? Besides being a member of a federation that protects the Salish Sea, local benefits include: 

  • Tax exemption program
  • Nature reserves like Fairy Fen
  • Well water workshop
  • Reconciliation
  • Advocacy to prevent oil spills
  • Ecosystem data and regional conservation plan
  • GIS digital mapping
  • Advocacy around industrial logging on crown land
  • Supporting Bowen’s quest for rural grant funding

Input Welcome by February 11

Have the most suitable and fair allocations in the proposed budget been chosen? Your knowledge and input are needed. Islands Trust is looking for feedback on our 2019-2020 budget proposal. We are genuinely interested in hearing your thoughts about how the Trust allocates funds in support of its work to preserve and protect the Trust Area.

Share your feedback through an online survey (anonymous and colourful; I think it is fantastic!) and other means. Visit islandstrust.bc.ca/budget to find out more, or get in touch with me; I’m happy to send links and answer questions.

© Copyright Bowen Island Undercurrent

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