Jill Sturdy and the Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon at the ceremony to designate the entire peninsula as a NatureHood site.

Naturehood title bestowed upon all of the Saanich Peninsula

Tim Collins /News staff

It’s a fascinating bit of trivia and something of which most of us are blissfully unaware.

Buffleheads, the smallest of the diving ducks found in the region come back to the sheltered salt bays of the Pacific coast with a punctuality one might expect from a well-run railway. It’s an oddity that has prompted the Friends of Shoal Harbour (FOSH) to create All Buffleheads Day to celebrate the predictable date that the ducks arrive in the region (the 298th day of the year).

Truth be told, FOSH may have an ulterior motive for the declaration of a day to celebrate the Bufflehead and that’s to reach out to the communities of Sidney and North Saanich to recognize the importance of the NatureHood status of Shoal Harbour and the rest of the Saanich Peninsula.

NatureHood, a program of the national environmental non-profit, Nature Canada is designed to connect people of all ages to nature right where they live.

“In Sidney, you are so lucky to be surrounded by nature. It’s such a beautiful place and you’re have the good fortune to have nature right there, accessible to everyone. In a lot of the country we don’t have that situation at all. People living in large urban centres are often only seeing nature on a screen and Nature Canada is designed to encourage people to step outside and find nature, even in the heart of a city,” said Jill Sturdy of Nature Canada.

To that end, Shoal Harbour was designated as a NatureHood site in 2015, a designation that set the stage for a much broader designation of the entire CRD area as a NatureHood this summer at a special ceremony in July at Government House when the Lieutenant Governor, Judith Guichon, made the announcement.

Sue Staniforth, President of FOSH, was inspired by the move and hopes it will lead to the inclusion of Shoal Harbour’s protection in the Official Community Plans of both North Saanich and Sidney.

“We’ve made a presentation to North Saanich council and are slated to make the same presentation to Sidney in the near future and we’re hopeful they will both embrace the concept,” said Staniforth.

“It can get rather confusing in trying to protect Shoal Harbour and other areas on our coast because of the many levels of government that have jurisdiction over the region and the water. To be effective, they all need to buy in.”

Sturdy is hopeful the designation in the community plans will happen and stressed that the future of conservation is dependant on programs like NatureHood.

“It’s a way of inspiring residents to connect with nature. It’s especially true for young people and that’s why we work with a lot of school kids right across the country. As they experience and discover the wonder of nature they develop a bond and we are more likely to build a generation that wants to preserve nature where we can,” said Sturdy.

For the time being Stansiforth and FOSH are planning for the next Bufflehead migration and gearing up to work with school groups and other residents to host events at the Shaw Discovery Centre and through a tour of the area with an excursion by Eagle Wing Tours out of Sidney.

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