FTCCIS Directors

Chris Dragseth

I am a relative new comer to Cortes Island, moving to Cortes in the fall of 2009 with my wife Debbie. I retired after 33 years with the Federal Government, serving 27 years with DFO and 6 years with Service Canada. Service to the community has been an important aspect of my career, having been a member of Scouts Canada, BC Ambulance Service, Lions Club and the United Way.

The Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island is another opportunity to serve my community. Part of my career involved habitat protection with DFO, so the value of the Children’s Forest from a salmonid perspective is clear. However, equally important is the value this watershed is to the well being of our children. My grandchildren Kiera and Aidan have played a role in the public awareness of this valuable asset and have brought home to me the need for public advocacy in support of protecting this valuable resource.

Sabina Leader Mense

I have been a Cortesisan since 1990, my husband and I choosing Cortes Island as the place to make our home and raise our son based on its wealth of biological diversity and intact marine and terrestrial ecosystems. As a professional biologist, with over 30 years experience in international, marine based educational tourism, home still rivals anything I have seen and experienced in the Arctic, Amazon or Antarctic!

Children raised in Nature develop a relationship with the natural world that sees them through life. It was Einstein that wrote, “Look deep into Nature and you will understand everything better.” These children are the ones that speak for the Earth and for the protection of her wild spaces. My role as a director with the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island, is to ensure that the children’s voice is heard and that their vision of the Children’s Forest, preserved and protected in perpetuity, succeeds!

Christine Robinson

I have lived on Cortes Island for 23 years, moving here from the city with my husband, daughter, and son, to a place where forest and beach could be woven through our daily lives. I am a certified BC teacher and outdoor educator, having taught for over 20 years on Cortes, with a particular interest in bringing children, nature and an outdoor curriculum together. I love to explore the natural world with children, and foster relationships between people and nature. I have also been involved in local salmon enhancement with schools for many years, and am a part-time kayak guide.

Having been involved in the vision of the Children’s Forest from the spark of its inception, I feel one of the most vitally important tasks we are facing today is the protection of natural places for future generations of children, and for the well-being of all!

Ashe Biela

After traveling the world for 10 years (every continent but Antarctica!) I planted my feet on Cortes Island.

I bought into 20 acres of raw land with three other families and began the work of building my home, putting in big community gardens and orchards, raising goats and chickens, and homeschooling my 3 children.

The best part of this land community is the 9 free ranged children who live here and have grown up exploring and being nurtured by this land. Their depth and observations are so pure and genuine, their inner sense of confidence worn so comfortably.

I know they will grow to be leaders in their future because they have been encouraged to have a deep relationship to the natural world.

My hope as Youth Director for The Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island is that their children will also have that chance, and their children’s children.

“For this we know that the earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.”

Andy Ellingsen

I am a descendant of the Manson family which first came to Cortes in the 1890s, my mother came to Cortes as a girl of 5 years, and I came to Cortes around the same age, living at Von Donop Creek, then Manson’s Lagoon and on Hague Lake until I left for Grade 12 in Vancouver. I worked in logging on the lower coast between years spent at UBC, graduating with a BSc in Physics in 1968. The following year I was asked to try my hand at teaching Math to Forestry students at BCIT in Burnaby, which lead to a very rewarding career with the BCIT Math Department for 27 years .

In 1995 I retired early to return to Cortes Island where my parents and my older brother and his family lived, an easy transition as my wife and I had purchased land on Gunflint Lake in 1974 and had summered there most years. I have been quite involved with community organizations on Cortes Island since my return.

Adam McKenty

I moved to Cortes in 2002. Since then I have worked as a nature photographer and graphic designer, done programming and web development for clients around BC and internationally, and worked as a researcher for the Global Education Project, a non-profit publishing organization. I have also served on boards and committees of several local organizations. When not engaged in an excessive number of volunteer and entrepreneurial projects, I can be found playing music for dances and community events around the BC coast with my family’s band, The Merry McKentys.

I believe that wilderness is essential for the long-term spiritual, mental, and physical health of humans and all of life, and the experience of wilderness is especially important for children in today’s increasingly media-saturated and fast-paced culture. I’m grateful to be able to contribute to making a permanent place for protected wilderness here on Cortes.

Andrew Smyth

I was raised in England, studied foreign languages at university and subsequently qualified as a lawyer and worked for several years for a commercial law firm in the City of London.

In 1998 my spouse and I immigrated to Canada and settled in Vancouver.  I was, and continue to be awestruck by the physical beauty of British Columbia. Proximity and easy access to wild and unspoiled places has been one of the qualities that has made living in BC so fulfilling to me.

After 10 happy years living and working in Vancouver, first in law, and subsequently for our own software integration consultancy, we finally moved to Cortes Island in 2008. We were seeking a place where we could live at a slower pace and raise our daughter in a small community with unrestricted access to nature.

The system of parks and protected wilderness in Canada is a testimony to those who had the foresight to advocate for protection, starting more than 125 years ago. And as many special places in British Columbia continue to be threatened by population growth and resource extraction projects, there are times when communities need to mobilize to protect such places for future generations. The Cortes Children’s Forest represents an opportunity to preserve a remarkable, pristine watershed for the benefit of all, and in particular, current and future generations of children, and I feel privileged to be able to help in this effort.

Honorary Directors

Ann Mortifee

I was born in South Africa on a sugar cane farm in Zululand. My Grandfather helped to create the Umflozi Game Reserve to save the white rhino. It was those early years that instilled in me my passion for Nature. Later, I became a singer/songwriter, a creator of film and ballet scores, CDs, musicals, one-woman shows, workshops and keynote addresses. I have travelled the world, worked with the dying abroad and in Calcutta with Mother Teresa. I’ve spent time with the head Sangoma of the Zulu Nation, lived in war torn Beirut and co-founded The Somerset Foundation and The Trust for Sustainable Forestry. My life has been blessed with adventure.

Moving to Cortes in 1997 with my son, who was 10 at the time, is one of the wisest and most fulfilling things I have done. I knew that the values he would receive here in Nature would be for him, as they were for me, the best education he could receive. And now, being an Honorary Director of the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society, I feel the joy of being part of something important and life giving. Every child deserves to be nurtured by the spirit of the land and to know that he or she is a living part of a magical and mysterious world.

Donna Bracewell

I am deeply honoured to have been asked to be serve on the board of the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society. Cortes Island was my home for 22 years, during which time I raised our 6 children and was founder-principal of Linnaea School; a nature based alternative school for island children. Many of the children and youth who are working now to preserve the Children’s Forest, attended Linnaea School. They are living proof that children raised to love and care for the natural world, who regularly spend their time with their hands in the dirt, playing in the forest, daydreaming on the shores of a lake and marveling at the morning dew on a spider web, truly understand the preciousness of the gift that is slipping from our grasp.

Although I now live and work on the other side of the world, in Hanoi Vietnam, my heart has stayed connected to Cortes Island. As my husband, David, recently wrote, “Planting a tree here in Hanoi will have an impact on people around the world. My granddaughter in Canada probably will never breathe a single molecule of the oxygen released by these trees, but nonetheless her air will be sweeter for their existence”. So will the entire world be sweeter due to the continued existence of the Children’s Forest.

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
— John Muir

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