Maltby Lake – Headwaters of the Tod Creek Watershed
A Re-introduction to Maltby Lake
Maltby Lake is a pristine fresh water lake in Rural Saanich’s Prospect Lake District. The lake is located at the headwaters of Tod Creek, a major water course in Saanich vital to Tod Creek’s almost 22 km2 watershed, which includes 29 wetlands and four other lakes – Prospect, Philippa (aka Little Maltby), Durrance and Killarney Lakes.
Critical to Maltby Lake’s health is 172 acres of almost completely undisturbed forest and wetlands that surround it. The property is an example of unspoiled lake and land ecosystems. Much of the forest surrounding Maltby Lake is mature and wild, with Pacific Yew, Dogwood, Gary Oak and old growth fir, including a 600+ year old Douglas fir – one of the largest trees in the CRD. This precious ecosystem is home to hundreds of species, including fresh-water jelly-fish, fresh-water sponge, great horned owls, pygmy owls, red-tailed hawks, purple martins, painted turtles, and more.
Prior to 2007, the lake and five land parcels surrounding it were privately owned by several branches of the same family. In 2007, one land owner gifted their 35% interest in the Maltby Lake lands to The Land Conservancy (TLC) of BC to be protected. The Conservancy accepted the property based on its high ecological values.
Later, in 2013, the Land Conservancy’s precarious financial situation led it to consider selling its ownership in many Conservancy properties, including Maltby Lake. Seeking assistance to resolve its debts, TLC sought and was granted protection under the Supreme Court of BC monitored Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.
The Friends of Maltby Lake Watershed Society (FMLWS) is established
Almost immediately, a grassroots community movement (made up of family of the original donor, friends, neighbours, and complete strangers) developed. The fledging “Friends of Maltby Lake Watershed Society (FMLWS),” with support from 10 organizations, including its community association, and representatives across political parties and all three levels of government, lobbied the Courts to protect Maltby Lake and support purchase of the Conservancy’s interest by Woody Thomson, nephew and godson of the original donor’s family.
Legal proceedings followed, and in February 2015, the Supreme Court of BC sanctioned the sale of a large percentage (29%) of TLC’s interest in Maltby Lake to the Thomsons. Almost two years later, the Courts sanctioned the sale of TLC’s remaining interest: 3% was purchased by the FMLWS and 3% by the Thomsons.
Where are our opportunities?
In the midst of growing pressures from ecosystem fragmentation region-wide, the efforts of the FMLWS and its community supporters have helped safeguard Maltby Lake as one of the last undisturbed ecosystems in the Capital Region, and certainly the most untouched example in Saanich.
Co-owning the five land parcels is both an opportunity and a challenge when determining what “protection” would look like in Saanich, and how the FMLWS and Thomsons might best meet obligations set out in the Supreme Court Sale Orders. The legally binding Court Orders include a protected area designation upon partition of the property and conservation, covenant and preservation articles that would protect Maltby Lake’s biodiversity and expansive watershed.
Assuring protection in perpetuity
It is generally understood ecologically significant land donations have significant tax benefits and conservation covenants can ensure land is protected in perpetuity.
Several agencies in the Capital Region accept gifts of land, including The Land Trust Alliance of BC, The Nature Trust of BC, and Habitat Acquisition Trust. Also, the District of Saanich and the CRD have Land Acquisition Funds. Most, however, do not accept shared interest gifts.
Where are we now?
Currently the Maltby Lake land owners, which includes the FMLWS, are in mediation. A process that is helping owners to focus on and communicate their values, aspirations and expectations.
Mediation may prove helpful, and at this time it appears to be appropriate for Maltby Lake because all owners are willing to meet, no owner appears to ignore the environmental values of the land and lake, and there is a willingness to move cautiously using the flexible and less formal mediation process as opposed to solutions that are imposed by a third party decision-maker.
Timeframe to complete negotiations is framed by the complexity of ownership, a desire to thoroughly understand the interests of all parties, and a need to discuss conservation and other issues thoroughly. The FMLWS is confident if we work together this priceless ecosystem will be protected for the environmental well-being of Saanich and the greater community, and for future generations.
To Friends of the natural world and our cherished supporters and donors, we extend a sincere thank you for your continued encouragement and endorsement.
Friends of Maltby Lake Watershed Society
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