Course:FRST370/2022/Denman Island Stewardship Project: Canada's Northern Gulf Islands Habitat and Wildlife Conservation

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The Denman Island Stewardship project was a stewardship program whose main goal was to encourage the preservation of natural areas in privately owned lands. The project had two main objectives, including habitat protection of 600 hectares of Denman islands' privately owned land and protecting and monitoring wildlife and habitats in these lands (Macleod & Muir, n.d.). While community members and First Nations peoples highly supported the plan, many challenges arose throughout the project timeline from 1997 to 1999 (Macleod & Muir, n.d.). This included challenges surrounding land acquisition, including the purchase of 4000 acres of land by 4064 ltd. in 1997, offsetting the stewardship program's main goal to protect 600 hectares of land (Bradley, 1998). Further, the short duration of tenures, which at most were 15 years, made it hard for stewardship programs to be put in place and carried out properly, further hindering this program (Vodden, 2011). While these struggles existed throughout the process, the community and members of the Denman conservancy Association (DCA) did not give up on trying to raise funds and acquire lands for their restoration plan. This case study focuses on the development of the Denman Island stewardship project, the changes made during the project, and the challenges faced throughout the project through analysis of tenure arrangement, affected and interested stakeholders, and the overall results of the final project.


Denman Island Community Forest, Stewardship, Ecosystem-based management, Tenure, Stakeholders


Figure 1: Google maps location of Denman Island in British Columbia, Canada.

Location: Denman Island, British Columbia, Canada

Denman Island, with an area of around 51.03 square kilometers, is located in the Strait of Georgia, east of central Vancouver Island. Denman Island’s canopy cover mainly consists of second-growth Douglas Fir, with small areas that are more mature forests. Furthermore, its terrestrial landscape includes agricultural lands and has an estimate of around 3,000 hectares of Coastal Douglas Fir (Macleod & Muir, n.d.). Denman Island is on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Pentlatch People, including the K’omoks, Sliammon, and Qualicum First Nations (Denman Island, n.d.). Denman Island is also known for its vibrant tourism industry, with many beautiful parks and natural attractions that bring in a plethora of visitors and tourists (Bullock, 2006). Due to its prominent tourist industry, Denman does not heavily rely on its forestry practices to generate income for the island.

History of Ownership

Figure 2: Close up of Denman Island, British Columbia, Canada


Weldwood originally owned ⅓ of Denman Island before all the acquisitions occurred. Under their ownership, they participated in logging sporadically and community members were content with their forestry practices and ownership of the land (Bullock, 2006).

John Hancock Timber Resources Group

John Hancock purchased the ⅓ of privately owned land from Weldwood in 1995. They intended to clearcut the forest, severely angering the Denman community (Bullock, 2006).

Denman Forestry Initiative (DFI)

Hancock’s clearcut plan caused the Denman community to form the Denman Forestry Initiative, a Buy-Out group, to purchase the land from Hancock. Community members were regularly protesting and attempting to stop Hancock workers from logging on the land. Hancock communicated their intention to sell the land to DFI but in 1997, they turned around and surprisingly sold the land to 4064 Ltd., to the surprise and anger of the Denman community (Bullock, 2006).

4064 Ltd.

4064 Ltd. is the newest owner of this land, controlling over 4000 acres of land previously owned by Hancock right as this stewardship project started (Bullock, 2006). Their ownership was a huge obstacle for project coordinators to overcome in order to meet the metrics and objectives that they set. They also engaged in aggressive logging before the adoption of multiple bylaws in the year 2000 (Bullock, 2006).

Denman Community Forest Co-operative (DCFC)

In 1997, Denman Island formed the Denman Community Forest Co-operative. They created this group with the intention of purchasing the land from 4064 Ltd., and this group would cooperatively manage the forest (Bullock, 2006).

Objectives of Stewardship Project

There were two main objectives with specific metrics that the Denman Conservancy Association (DCA) wanted to achieve with this project:

  1. Obtain 600 hectares (12% of the island) of privately owned land for environmental protection, including habitat and wildlife, by acquiring stewardship commitments from private landowners
  2. Grow involvement in land stewards through working with wildlife and habitat monitoring projects on landowner’s properties to assess the success of this project in wildlife protection.

Tenure & Adminstrative Arrangements

Landowner Contract

All Crown land needs to abide by cutting tenures for timber under the Forest Act in British Columbia and private landowners need to strictly follow this. Since the majority of Denman Island is owned privately, this directly applies to the stewardship project, who aims to visit private landowners’ properties to assess them.

Initial Community Outreach

The project began in 1996 with community outreach to contact potentially interested landowners and ask them to participate. In September 1996, the DCA created a Land Protection Options Questionnaire for all land residents in hopes to gauge public support for this particular stewardship project (Macleod & Muir, n.d.). Everyone responded favourably, which gave DCA the green light to conduct research on the development of this initiative. In July 1997, the DCA mailed letters introducing the project to 550 permanent households and 400 off-island landowners (Macleod & Muir, n.d.). The letter invited landowners and households to phone the project coordinators to book a site visit or visit them in person for more information. Throughout the summer of 1997, the project staff initiated many site visits and it became an extremely popular idea amongst private landowners, and they eventually started to receive many requests for site visits from interested landowners (Macleod & Muir, n.d.).

Community Events

The stewardship project had a unique format which can be attributed to Denman’s strong “island identity” (Macleod & Muir, n.d., Process, para. 3). Extreme community spirit exists on Denman Island and the DCA used this to their advantage and participated in community events to advertise this upcoming project. Specifically, they honed in on the fact that this project is a community-focused one, and that it would “recognize individuality, embrace enthusiasm, and show case a sense of commitment”, all highly values mantras that are respected on Denman Island (Macleod & Muir, n.d., Process, para. 4). Project coordinators went to seven community events and sponsored 19 workshops which opened up networking opportunities and got the project well known amongst the Denman Island community.

Administrative Arrangements

Stewardship Site Visits

The site visits consisted of recording natural features of the property and recording landowner’s prospective plans to protect the habitat they owned. Moreover, these site visits included the identification of native plans and animals located on the land inspected to help landowners gain a better understanding of the interconnectedness of these species with the habitat each land provided (Macleod & Muir, n.d.). Data collection was used after to be incorporated into the landowner’s personal stewardship plan for their property catered to each specific landowner.

Stewardship Plans & Pledge

One of the projects key components was to provide present and future landowners with a written record of their site visit accompanies with a long-term plan to support stewardship activities on their land. It included a description of their land, natural features, history, conservation goals, and various tables of native plants and animals. As well, the project coordinators also gave landowners an information folder containing an evaluation form, copy of the Stewardship Series booklet, and Project Evaluation Questionnaire to fill out after their site visit. All participating landowners signed the project’s voluntary pledge that resembled stewardship pledges used by other projects.

After the site visits were conducted, the landowners were asked to continue to respect the biodiversity and habitat on their land and to notify project coordinators of any significant changes to their land, such as sale of the property. The stewardship pledge was signed after the site visit by each landowner. These two key components, the site visit and pledge, were the main incentives of this project to encourage landowners to participate. Furthermore, consistent emphasis of the voluntary nature of this project was also a key to success (Macleod & Muir, n.d.).

Other Community Initiatives

Wildlife on Denman island: Black-tailed deer are highly abundant on the island

Wildlife and Habitat Initiatives

The project conducted a number of wildlife workshops to help inform the public on how to complete an environmental impact assessment, similar to the one conducted at site visits, and how to monitor wildlife. The workshop had two primary purposes: to raise general awareness for wildlife on the island and provide technical information about wildlife species on Denman Island so the public knows how to record different aspects of their land. These workshops included activities such as counting swans, bird, deer, and how to conduct a salmon habitat assessment (Macleod & Muir, n.d.).

Education Program

To further educate residents, project coordinators implemented an extensive education program to increase awareness and appreciation of stewardship values. Specifically, they worked in partnership with the Denman Island Community School to create two summer science day camps, both for children and adults. As well, they sponsored a school-based wetland program which was delivered by the Friends of Boundary Bay, an environmental advocacy group based in Delta, a city in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver. Lastly, project coordinators hosted a West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation Conservation Covenants workshop to present information on legally binding forms of land protection to Denman Island residents.

Affected Stakeholders

Denman Island Community Members

The Denman Island community members were mainly the ones directly affected by the companies who purchased the private lands. When Hancock followed by 4064 Ltd. took control of the land, community members were no longer able to access the forests that they had a great connection to. They are affected stakeholders because they live on the island and around these forests and wildlife.

Denman Conservancy Association

The Denman Conservancy Association was founded in 1991 by a group of community members of Denman island who came together with the goal of preserving the island’s environmentally sensitive and historically significant land. The DCA is the main stakeholder in the stewardship project and project coordinators that conducted the project were in this organization. Essentially, they are the spearheads of this project who are also affected by the outcomes of this project because they are community members who live on this land.

Private Landowners

The private landowners are the main interests and targets of this project, as it is their land the community members are trying to assess and record data from. Denman island is largely privately owned, so it makes sense that this stewardship project solely focuses on these multiple landowners to encourage stewardship and land conservation.

Habitat Conservation Trust Fund (HCF)

The Habitat Conservation Fund is one of the main supporters of this project as they funded a majority of the initiatives. Although there were multiple funders of this project, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation was the biggest donation made (Macleod & Muir, n.d.). Founded in 1981, the HCF was created by a group of fish and wildlife enthusiasts from Cranbrook, British Columbia. Additionally, they discussed with the government to establish a legislated conservation fund in British Columbia which would ultimately affect Denman Island. They were heavily involved in the salmon conservation processes in the workshops and site visits conducted by this project.

Interested Stakeholders

British Columbia Government

The British Columbia Government is an interested stakeholder because they are not directly affected by what happens on Denman Island. It was stated in one article that they were not truly interested in the Denman Island community and they provided little support (Bullock, 2006). The only support they did provide was to make themselves look better politically (Bullock, 2006).

John Hancock Timber Resources Group

John Hancock originally purchased ⅓ of the island from Weldwood for the sole purpose of clearcutting the forests to earn a profit (Bullock, 2006). Their workers traveled to the island solely for logging purposes, making them interested stakeholders.

4064 Ltd.

4064 Ltd. purchased John Hancock’s ⅓ of Denman Island (Bullock, 2006). Similar to Hancock, they are interested stakeholders because the sole purpose of the acquisition for them was to travel to Denman Island and gain a profit from logging.

Issues & Challenges

Figure 3: Land ownership Classes on Denman Island represented by area of land owned (Bradley & Hammond, 1998)

Private Ownership

The first issue is that Denman island is almost entirely privately owned (93%) and there are no First Nations reserves (largely settled landscape). Just as the project began in 1997, 4064 Ltd. purchased over 4000 acres of land on the island, equal to 35% of the island’s land base (Bullock, 2006). This made project objectives significantly more challenging.

Lack of Organizing Bodies and Consensus

Denman Island does not have municipal status or law, and community planning needs were organized under the Island’s Trust Council (ie. zoning, by-laws, services, environmental protection, etc.) (Bland, 2010). This led to a key issue on Denman Island as after all the private acquisitions there was strong difficulty reaching a consensus due to the lack of organizing bodies (Bullock, 2006). There was constant and sudden change which “required swift community action” (Bullock, 2009, p.299). Throughout the project, multiple small initiatives attempted to go forward to please community members failed or created further conflict. This needed to be solved through proactive management regulations for private forest land in British Columbia.

Low Government Support

While the government was involved in the creation of DCFC, its involvement in community initiative remained at a base level (Bullock, 2006). The Government continued to support 4064 Ltd. knowing that the Denman Island community was fighting against them including the support for marketing deals involving 4064 Ltd which helped  rapid acquiring of the land and rapid harvesting (Bullock, 2009). This was a paradigm in the difficulty the community had in acquiring the land and ties back to the dominance of industrial Forestry in BC (Bradley, 1998). In 1998, the passing of Bill 34, the Forest Statutes Amendment Act, was supposed to be a method for the government to improve their tenures but these rights are still yet to be seen (Vodden, 2011).

Bundle of Rights

Since this stewardship project was working with private landowners, these landowners have all of the bundle of rights fulfilled, compared to most community forest initiatives where their bundle of rights are limited. This can be explained by this case study being located in Canada, a predominantly privileged country with a lot of freedom in terms of land ownership. An analysis of the rights held by people on Denman Island can be seen in the table below:

Rights                                         Denman Island Stewardship Project
Access (rights to enter a defined area) Yes
Withdrawal / Use (rights to obtain resources) Yes
Exclusion (rights to determine who will have access to defined area) Yes
Management (rights to regulate internal use) Yes
Alienation (rights to sell or lease management or exclusion rights) Yes
Duration (rights applicable within specified time frame) No duration limit of rights
Bequeathe (rights to pass on your right to someone else) Yes
Extinguishability (rights to due process, provision for adequate) Yes

Figure 4: Bundle of Rights analysis for Denman Island Stewardship Project


Results of Project

Network of stewarded lands established

Though many difficulties were faced throughout the duration of this project, the successes and achievements should not be overlooked. Macleod and Muir describe that the stewardship project established a network of stewarded lands which developed a strong and sound foundation for the continued growth of land stewardship on Denman Island. Further, there was an extremely positive response by landowners towards site visits and program development across the island. This assembly of community is equally as crucial as land acquisition as it is the base for community forest development and increased support around land acquisition in the future. It also shows that the community of Denman island can establish a strong land management plan, whether for a small amount of land or larger, which furthers their credibility in establishing a strong community forest.



Through the program, 118 site visits were conducted, with 114 landowners pledging to steward 1200 acres of their private land (Macleod & Muir, n.d.). The initial goal of stewarded land was around 600 acres, so these Pledges amount to around 15% of the island land, which is over the initial goal. The pledge consists of 4 main factors, as explained by Simon, 2012: Respect biological diversity by showing sensitivity to wildlife and plants that inhabit our property, Recognize the crucial role of clean, fresh water and soil on our land, Sustain stewardship plan by seeking project's help when changes to land are made, potential threats introduced, Support continuity of the Stewardship Project by informing owners of the property of the pledge. Each property is committed to these four factors, along with ecosystem components specific to the property.

Wildlife and Community Interest and Involvement

The program also sought to provide education and support to wildlife found in the wetlands and salmon habitats. This was all integrated into the network of protected land established by the stewardships. The education was provided by delivering workshops and creating research foundations. Specifically, 15 wildlife workshops were given, and the establishment of the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation Conservation Covenant Workshop also influenced and supported further research on land and wildlife conservation (Macleod & Muir, n.d.). West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation Conservation Covenant Workshop also influenced and supported further land and wildlife conservation research.

Risks & Mitigations

Confidentiality of Landowners’ Information

While these successes are an important part of the project, it does not come without risk and mitigations. Respectively, the confidentiality of landowner information is often at risk regarding private properties and land stewards. This was a huge concern to participating landowners and needed to be addressed early on in the project. To mitigate the issues with confidentiality, the project allowed landowners to control access to the site visit data that was collected (Macleod & Muir, n.d.). Further, the data collected was categorized as either confidential or for conservation use only. Conservation use only: accessible to the public but only under the condition that the applicant signs DCA's memorandum of understanding that this information is strictly used for conservation purposes (Macleod & Muir, n.d.). The confidential information was accessible by landowners only.  

Future Areas of Study

Gaps in knowledge

Little is known about the self-reliance the community has developed, and it would be a great area of future study to look into the acquisition of 4064 Ltd. for the community and create an even larger area for community forestry to be carried out. Since the project ended in 1999, the Denman island community, along with the Denman Conservancy Association, continued their efforts to acquire the 4064 Ltd. land. In the early 2000s, Denman Conservancy Association sued 4064 Ltd. for a breach of the land purchase contract because of their aggressive logging over the years (Millen, 2007). This would be an interesting case to research and look into how Denman's community works together to preserve the ecology and habitat of the island. Further studies and examination of the case, Denman Island Local Trust v. 4064 Investments Ltd., would better understand the current Denman island situation and the future steps that can be taken once the land is acquired. As of now, the case has been taken to the Supreme Court of Canada, and the island community continues to fight to get their land back.


Land Acquire:

While the implemented Stewardship project had the issue of not having access to a large chunk of land, which was purchased by 4064 Ltd. in 1997, continued efforts to acquire the land are needed for Denman Island to expand its stewardship program, implement an ecosystem-based management plan, and reduce the negative effects caused to the environment by rapid logging. It is advised that the Denman island's community carry on with their focus on making their land more community forest-based for future generations, as this will become a long-term sustainable economic and ecological investment despite hardships that may be faced at the time of purchase (Bradley, 1998).

Forest Management:

When land is acquired or, if not, how to work with 4064 Ltd. to redevelop the land or a portion of the land through ecologically responsible forest management, as we had seen in the Weaverville example in class (Frost & Sheen, 2022). Management of forest in Weaverville consisted of a collaboration of the Weaverville community forest with larger groups such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to develop a community forestry plan which considered social and economic factors (Frost & Sheen, 2022). With enough support from the government, it may be possible for the Denman Island community to form a relationship with 4064 Ltd. to improve land management and reduce the amount of timber that is logged. Rapid logging by 4064 Ltd. is a significant issue regarding the preservation of old-growth timber on Denman island; community action to push the conversation around an ecosystem-based management plan up to higher power support is of utmost importance time.

Next Generation:

As the fight for community forest establishment and acquisition of land on Denman island continues, so should the development of education and research programs for the next generation. Our forest and their impacts on communities continue to be an essential and relevant topic to the younger generation. As the initial Denman Island stewardship program focused on education, whether another project is established again or not, getting students involved in the forestry management plans and stewardship project will help them prepare for when they may want to take over and continue managing the forest. We recommend further involvement of students and the next generation through education or social media to increase their engagement in Denman island initiatives. Through these efforts, there is hope that the success of the stewardship project is not overpowered and dissipated by logging companies but maintained for years to come.


As the interest in the development of community forests in different areas of BC grows, initiatives taken by communities such as Denman Island have a huge impact on the future of community forestry in BC. Through this case study, our goal was to examine the results of the Denman Island Stewardship project, understand the involvement of affected stakeholders through the project process and analyse the administrative arrangement which led to the project's positive outcomes. With this information, we hope to understand the limitation of the project and how they occurred due to the challenges faced during the project and the project's impact on the community and the ecosystem. Completing the Denman Island Stewardship project impacted three significant categories, including education program implementations, the formation of networks of stewarded lands, and wildlife protection. While these results are certainly a step forward in the right direction, there continues to be the struggle of having limited access to land, with a large majority being owned by 4064 Ltd. However, we recommend the continued involvement of communities and especially the future generation in the development of the Denman island ecosystem-based management plan, as well as the continued fight to acquire the land from 4064 Ltd. and implement the plans on these lands.


This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST370.

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