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Princess Louisa Inlet, a fjord located 60 miles from Vancouver, Canada, is a spectacular stretch of remote wilderness. Accessible only by boat or plane, the 3.7-mile-long (6-kilometers) area is popular with outdoor enthusiasts who flock to admire the 120-foot-high Chatterbox Falls or to hike the numerous trails to other scenic features. Its dense forests are home to a wide variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, mountain goats, and eagles. Now, thanks to an unprecedented crowdfunding campaign, the pristine land will be preserved forever for future generations to enjoy.
The chain of events began in June 2019, when three adjacent privately-owned land parcels, covering 3 miles (4.5 kilometers) of the waterfront and about 1900 acres of the inlet's watershed, came up for sale. With several logging companies expressing interest, BC Parks Foundation knew it had to do something to save the property, which is home to millions of majestic cedar trees. Despite having "zero funds," the charitable foundation agreed to acquire the land for CAN$ 3 million (US$ 2.3 million). Fortunately, the owners gave the nonprofit three months to come up with the money.
BC Parks Foundation CEO Andrew Day says, "We were very familiar with the beauty of the inlet and these properties in particular, and felt that it was really important to try to step in and see what we could do. We were very lucky and appreciative the vendors gave us an exclusive purchase and sale agreement until the end of August. That gave us three months to try to pull off the impossible.”
After much deliberation, the nonprofit decided to reach out to the general public through a crowdfunding campaign. To its surprise and delight, money started trickling in from people worldwide. Among the donors was a class of fifth-grade students from Cambridge Elementary School in Surrey, British Columbia, who raised an impressive CAN$ 1,109 (US$ 836) for the cause. Their check came with a poignant message which said, “We hope that this gift will help you purchase the land and keep it wild forever. One day, we might all have the chance to visit this beautiful piece of wilderness, knowing that we played a role in saving it for future generations.”
But despite the outpouring of support, on August 28, 2019 — the day of the sale deadline — the nonprofit was still short CAN$ 100,000 (US$ 75,000). Just as the officials were despairing, a businessman from Vancouver stepped in with the funds. He wrote, “These protected areas are our crown jewels, and I think it is madness to consider letting them go for short-term economic gain when they provide much more in perpetuity. In 100 years, will future citizens look back and wish we had created more parks or logged more timber?”
"It's just an amazing, amazing thing that people have done," said Day. “Hopefully we do see more of this kind of thing, in the right places at the right time. When we set out to do it, we were conscious of not just protecting Princess Louisa, but also trying to inspire this kind of movement internationally.”
BC Parks Foundation next plans to create a protected area of 2,233 acres in the Princess Louisa Inlet. It will comprise the existing marine park and the recently purchased land, as well as the adjoining government land and other nearby properties with conservation status.
Resources: bcparksfoundation.ca, fastcompany.com.