A pristine piece of land in the Bella Coola Valley will continue to be untouched after a B.C. couple donated the land to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Harvey and Carol Thommasen purchased 122 hectares of land on the riverfront in 2018 intending to make it a bird sanctuary and protect it.
Since then, the area has been a thriving rainforest, floodplain and riverside habitat that supports an abundance of wildlife and plant diversity. It's also home to thriving grizzly bears and many other animals.
"Harvey, who is the donor, he set up quite a few wildlife cameras in the area and he has video of beavers, cougars, wolves and deer,” says West Coast program director Steven Godfrey.
Once a doctor, Harvey’s passion was conservation and he even wrote a book about birds on the central coast.
The area is adjacent to the traditional Nuxalk village site of Nutl’lhiixw and the present-day Burnt Bridge Conservancy, home to a grove of old-growth red cedars.
Godfrey says the Nature Conservancy of Canada received consent from the Nuxalk First Nation to work in the area and they will continue to work closely with them.
“We are grateful to the Nukalk Nation for their confidence in us to care for this portion of their ancestral territory, and for the vision and commitment of Harvey and Carol in protecting this land,” says Godfrey. "Its conservation value is significant, especially for the riparian habitat it provides for juvenile coho and pink salmon, and its importance for grizzly bear, wolf and many other species of wildlife.”
A Nuxalk Nation councillor says they’re committed to protecting vulnerable ecosystems in their territory.
"We have given our support to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to manage this area as we believe they will be able to protect this land for our Putl’lt — those who are not yet born,” says Iris Siwallace.
As for the future plans of the property, Godfrey says it will remain untouched.
“Mostly, we just want to see it kept in its natural state as possible,” he says. "We might manage invasive species or put up some access signs if necessary but for the most part we want to steward it to maximize its conservation value.”
Godfrey explains that land and valley bottoms tend to be converted to agricultural uses or are often used for logging.
"Just to have a piece of land that is set aside for its ecological value and wildlife habitat is really important," he says.
The location is not accessible to the public, but there are trails in the provincial parks nearby.