Building a Legacy: Celebrating 25 Years of Partnership Between Habitat Acquisition Trust and the Victoria Foundation

This is a guest blog post written by Kevin Smith, the Executive Director of the Habitat Acquisition Trust, a Hosted Organization with the Victoria Foundation.

For over a quarter-century, the Habitat Acquisition Trust (HAT) of Victoria, British Columbia, has been at the forefront of stewarding and restoring the region’s irreplaceable natural areas. This unwavering dedication to environmental stewardship wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Victoria Foundation. In 1999, the Victoria Foundation partnered with HAT to establish an endowment fund that is specifically dedicated to HAT’s conservation efforts. The Victoria Foundation’s foresight in creating this endowment provides HAT with a stable and reliable source of funding, allowing us to focus on our core mission – land conservation through community-based stewardship.

This partnership’s impact is undeniable. Over the past 25 years, HAT has successfully conserved over 1,750 hectares through acquisition of and established conservation covenants on ecologically significant lands. These conservation areas encompass a diverse tapestry of habitats – from towering old-growth forests and pristine wetlands to critical wildlife corridors and scenic shorelines. HAT’s work stewards the natural beauty that Victoria is renowned for, ensures the survival of countless species, allows communities to connect with the land, and protects vital watersheds.

Beyond Land Conservation: Building a Vibrant Community

HAT’s influence extends far beyond land acquisition or covenants placed on land. The conservation areas we manage, steward, or restore offer a wealth of benefits to the community. Residents can connect with nature, enjoy outdoor recreation, breathe clean air, and develop a deeper appreciation for environmental stewardship. HAT fosters a sense of community by hosting educational programs, guided walks, and volunteer opportunities that allow for connection with the land. These initiatives empower residents to become active participants in stewarding Victoria’s natural areas. HAT’s work in community is centered around its ongoing partnerships with Indigenous-led stewardship initiatives in the region, which HAT is grateful to be a part of. HAT aims to develop respectful relationships with the longstanding stewards of this region, including the WSÁNEĆ, Sc’ianew, and T’Sou-ke Nations, ləkʷəŋən peoples (Songhees and Xwsepsum Nations). In early 2022, HAT entered into a Standstill Agreement to work together with Sc’ianew (Beecher Bay) First Nation along with the District of Metchosin and Pearson College UWC to create an Indigenous Protected Area on the ancestral land of the Sc’ianew (Beecher Bay) First Nation. This culturally and ecologically significant land comprises a considerable portion of the last old-growth coastal Douglas fir.

galiano island volunteer day
Photo: Galiano Island Volunteer Day. Photo by Milen Kootnikoff.

A Legacy of Conservation: Celebrating Milestones, Looking Forward

This year marks a significant milestone – the 25th anniversary of the partnership between HAT and the Victoria Foundation. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the impact of this collaboration and HAT’s ongoing conservation efforts. Looking ahead, there’s another exciting anniversary on the horizon: the 20th anniversary of the Matson Conservation Area this year! This treasured area exemplifies HAT’s dedication to stewarding critical ecosystems – a 2.4 acre property in Esquimalt that contains Victoria Harbour’s last patch of rare and endangered Garry oak ecosystems. HAT and the Victoria Foundation partnered on a second endowment fund for this area in 2005. These endowments have been critical to maintaining the financial stability of HAT so that we can deliver effective conservation on the ground.

camas in bloom
Photo: Camas in bloom in a Garry Oak Meadow at Matson Conservation Area.

Together, We Can Build a Sustainable Future

The partnership between HAT and the Victoria Foundation stands as a testament to environmental responsibility and the power of collaboration, which will be needed now more than ever as we continue to face challenges like climate change and biodiversity loss. With the continued support of the community, guidance from our Indigenous partners, and through innovative conservation solutions, HAT can contribute to a vibrant future for Victoria’s natural environment. Let’s celebrate the remarkable achievements of the past 25 years that were accomplished with the support of key partners like the Victoria Foundation and continue to work together to build a legacy of conservation for generations to come.