Asha’s Letter to the SVI

The Social Venture Institute is an annual gathering at Hollyhock, Cortes Island, to share goals, challenges and successes amongst leaders of established small business and non-profit enterprises. Asha is a passionate thirteen-year-old on Cortes who has been advocating for the Children’s Forest for several years.

Asha’s mother has been attending the SVI event for several years, and has become a part of its growing network. Ashe wrote this letter before her 13th birthday, and her mother forwarded it on Asha’s  birthday to participants of the SVI, asking for support.

October 24, 2017

Dear SVI community,

My name is Asha Harvey and I live on Cortes Island. The children here have a dream, of buying 600 acres of forest land in the heart of the island, surrounding Carrington lagoon, that contains many species at risk and Old Growth trees and is the most beautiful place that I know. I am part of a group of kids who have been trying to raise money to buy this land, which we have named The Children’s Forest. This Forest would be owned by the children of Cortes Island forever, passed down generation to generation. It is our dream that our children and grandchildren can experience this forest as we have.

Island Timberlands (I.T) owns this land and would like to come and cut it.  When I was five years old I went to a successful protest and at the end of that rainy day, I felt hope and vowed to protect the forest for my whole life. Now 8 years later, the Cortes Children’s Forest Trust, has become a registered charity. I.T. still owns the land, but we created an agreement with them about buying the Children’s Forest. So we are still hard at work, walking in the forest together on the first Sunday of each month, and each spring participating in a two day biological inventory, bringing in biologists to teach us and identify red listed and endangered species. We’ve also formed a Children’s Forest Theatre troupe, producing plays such as Shades of Green, The Lorax and Without One, None. We perform for the public and at schools (if you’d like us to perform, please let me know!)

We may be a small group of kids, but our hearts are big and we know our voices can change the world. Help us take the first step of this journey. If you’d like to learn more, make a pledge or a donation, please go to our webpage:  If you have any ideas about how we can raise funds or if you can help in some way, please email me:

Thank you for listening,

“Only if someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better… its not.” Dr. Seuss, The Lorax.


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AGM Reports — BioBlitz, Youth Activities, Streamkeepers and more

These reports were presented at the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society’s 2017 AGM. Enjoy!

2017 Chair’s Report by Chris Dragseth

2017 BioBlitz Report by Sabina Leader Mense

2017 Streamkeepers Report by Christine Robinson

2017 Youth Director Report by Ashe Biela

2017 Fish Counting Report by Tosh Harvey

2017 Youth Streamkeeper Report by Sofia Nybida

2017 BioBlitz Youth Streamkeepers Report by Sofia Nybida

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Children’s Forest AGM Update

The Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society had our Annual General Meeting on November 23, 2017. We would like to provide you a summary of our meeting, which outlines the past year and where our focus will be in the coming year.

The Board for the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society is: Chris Dragseth – Chair, Christine Robinson – Secretary, Andrew Smyth – Treasurer, Ashe Biela – Youth Director, Andy Ellingsen, Sabina Leader-Mense, Adam McKenty, Connie Brill and Norlene Lillico.

We also have the following Honorary Directors: Anne Mortifee and Donna Bracewell.

The Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society was formed in 2012 to raise funds to purchase and steward the Children’s Forest, and to undertake place-based experiential education. In 2013 the FTCCIS directors initiated discussions with Island Timberlands, the current landowner and have been in ongoing communication since then. The organization received CRA charitable status in May 2014, and is actively moving forward with fundraising for the land purchase.

Our activities since the 2016 AGM can be captured under two broad categories:

• growth of youth programming and
• moving towards the purchase of the Children’s Forest.

We continue the work on expanding the Youth programming. 2017 was a particularly strong year. The monthly walks in the Children’s forest continued. There were some very significant events over the past year worth noting.

The annual Bioblitz took place from April 28-30 with seven entomologists from Vancouver Island participating. In support of the Bioblitz, a fund raising supper took place on March 11. These funds supported the travel expenses for the entomologists. At the Bioblitz, we had 33 children and 28 adults supporting our weekend. The weather was a bit of challenge, but everyone seemed to have fun while learning a lot about “bugs and insects”. Several community mentors provided valuable mentorship to designated youth during this weekend. There were many lessons learned from this year’s event. One specific item that emerged was the support by parents to fully organize meals and camp management.

The Board sponsors a Friday youth program at Linnaea which was well attended with over twenty children regularly participating. Again a theatre program was offered. The group participated in the CKTZ Lipsynch show on February 18, which was well received. Additionally, the Theatre group visited schools to spread the message about the Children’s Forest. Two presentations took place at Quadra and Campbell River schools on May 30. The presentation was entitled ‘Without One, None’ a murder mystery (loosely based on Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’ ) set at a BioBlitz in the Children’s Forest.

The Stream Keeper program “Gently Down the Creek” was offered to the children on May 12. The Forest Trust Board and the Friends of Cortes Island jointly sponsored this initiative.

Under the leadership of Krista Smith, the children participated in art classes, which lead to an impressive art showing at the TOSH on July 28-30 and August 4-6. There was significant community support with many pieces of art purchased in support of the Children’s Forest.

The Board took a significant step this past year towards negotiations with Island Timberlands. The Board sought and received permission from IT to conduct assessment work in the Children’s Forest. The first piece of work was obtaining a land valuation. The Board engaged the services of Francis Guthrie to obtain this information. The second piece of work was to contract the services of Econ Consulting to provide a timber valuation. These two pieces of information provided the Board with needed benchmark values that will influence our negotiations with IT. To this end, the Board created a Negotiating Committee (Andy, Andrew and Chris). A meeting of the Negotiations Committee and IT took place on May 17. Ongoing negotiations continue with Island Timberlands. The Board will provide the Community updates as progress occurs.

The Board continues to approach individuals for donations. The main challenge continues to be the lack of a negotiated sale price with IT. We anticipate that a successful outcome in negotiations will improve the climate for donors. In the interim, the ongoing program needs still require support through donations.

As the Cortes Community is aware, the Community Forest General Partnership is proposing to move their operations into the Carrington Bay area. Our Board has approached the Partnership to emphasize the importance of James Creek to the Children’s Forest. We will be pursuing discussions directly with the Partnership to clarify our interests and seek their support.

The Cortes Museum is establishing a permanent exhibit, ‘Wild Cortes – Woods, Wetlands & Waters’ at the Linnaea Education Centre, and are looking for partners to support this work. The Board has agreed to support this work and work with the Museum.
The Board will also be looking at opportunities to engage with other Land Trusts. To this end, Sabina recently attended the Land Trust Alliance of British Columbia meeting. Possible partnership opportunities may emerge for our Board to pursue.

Finally, the negotiations with IT will continue and hopefully result in success.

Thank you for your support!

Chris Dragseth, Chair
Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island

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Children’s Forest Youth Update Summer 2017

As the youth programming for The Children’s Forest slows down for the summer, I want to offer the community an update. It has been a fast paced, fun filled, deeply educational and rewarding year. We have had 20 plus youth participating weekly, and over 30 youth involved. The Youth Program is a completely volunteer run program offered to all youth, free of charge. This year we added a 2nd hour to the Friday gatherings which allowed us to include the younger youth.

The monthly walk into the Children’s Forest is a real highlight. Our youth learn so much from being in the forest – deep ecology; biology; Latin names of plant and animal species; counting rings on old growth trees; documenting their finds; the art of haikus; use of a compass; and a sense of community created by the togetherness of being in a forest. The youth are hardcore and swim every month, even in January when they had to crack the ice first!

The Bio-Blitz in April was amazingly attended. With many mentors, our youth learned heaps while camping out. Big thanks to Sabina Mense for organizing this special event!

From October, 2016 – June 2017 Connie Brill, Christine Robinson, Krista Smyth, Norleen Lillico and Ashe Biela have held down the weekly theatre and arts program. Projects over this period included: making endangered species prayer flags to sell at the Christmas market; staging and performing a music collage for Lip Sync; a sleep-over pizza party/workshop; writing, rehearsing and performing a play; lots of cool art with some slated for exhibition at the Schoolhouse Art Gallery;   playing and learning new leadership and interactive games.  It’s become a real leadership program centering around environment, biology, arts, and supporting one another. In many ways we just stand back and hold the space for the youth to find their strengths and shine.

And what a shiny group they are. Since early January we have been working on the play Without One – None, a murder mystery centred around the disappearance of an eco-system. In May, the troupe of 22 youth performed Without One – None at schools on Quadra Island and Campbell River. The feedback received was how confident, strong, and engaged our youth are. And it’s true.  With the many mentors who step in and offer their time, and with the loving encouragement from the community, our youth really are raised by the village. It feels like an honor to send out into the world such passionate, intelligent young people.

There have been so many people who have stepped up to help support the program this year, to name a few…..Thanks to Connie Brill, Christine Robinson, Sabina Mense, and Krista Smith who hold down the vision and continue to volunteer hundreds of hours out of love for the forest and the youth. Shout out to Dan Peters who always comes to our rescue last minute, to everyone out at Linnaea Farm who rents us the space at a very generous rate and who are flexible with the (often times) chaos of this project (herding 22 kids!), thanks to the WCC board for allowing us use of the Gorge hall, Colin Funk for your background support, the Children’s Forest Board members who are working so diligently in the background to protect this special place, thanks to all the parents who commit to getting their kids to us on time, and the biggest thanks goes to all the youth who stand tall, who have bravely pushed themselves to their limits, who have worked so hard and show such passion for our future and for all that lives but has no voice. I feel so hopeful knowing what leaders and beauties we are sending out into the world!

The weekly theater and arts programming takes a break for the summer, but we plan to re-group next fall. All youth are invited to join and to bring ideas of what they would like to do in the next year. We are open to facilitating just about anything (as long as it fits into our mission statement of buying and protecting The Children’s Forest!) Current ideas circulating are: touring Vancouver Island with Without One – None; making a documentary; more hands on biology stuff; more art.

And finally, I would like to invite one and all to see our show Imagine, A Forest in Trust to the Children located at the Old Schoolhouse Gallery July 28- August 6. Krista Smith is coordinating this show and has put in lots of energy working alongside the youth for this project.  We hope to see you then.

In Trust to the Children and the Forest,
Ashe Biela
(youth director for The Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island)

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Shorekeeper Foreshore Training 2017

Shorekeeper foreshore training was sponsored by the FTCCIS and offered to Cortes youth in May of 2017. Twelve permanently established sites in the rocky foreshore of Cortes Island are monitored annually by the Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) Society.

Cortes youth were trained at the Seaford site during the low tide sequence in May, when the foreshore was exposed to the 1.0m level. Data collection involved a standardized quadrat methodology that collects both quantitative and qualitative data every 0.5m between 1.0m and 3.5m vertical heights above datum. FOCI welcomes the volunteer monitoring by trained Cortes youth!

FTCCIS foreshore training2

FTCCIS foreshore training1

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A Forest Full of Thanks…

… to everyone who contributed to, participated in, and supported BioBlitz 2017!


What an amazing weekend we had in the northern wilds of Cortes Island! We had some truly WILD moments: rooting and pooting for insects, braving a full-on sou’easter with a beach seine and underwater camera, bioluminescence Avatar style, Blitz Bluff bryophyte crawl and so much more!

Rachel Carson wrote: “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder… he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in…”

Bioblitz 2017 kept the wonder alive…

Professional mentors in entomology, fisheries and bryology, together with educators/ naturalists in the arts & sciences, youth leaders and parents, took Cortes youth by the hand and introduced them to the wonders of the natural world.

We are inspiring a whole new generation to be curious, engaged and mindful of the place we call home…

Imagine… a forest in trust to the children!

BioBlitz 2017 was sponsored by the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society/FTCCIS.

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BioBlitz Benefit Success – Our Thanks!

The Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society would like to extend sincere thanks to all community members who came out to support our recent BioBlitz Benefit; thank you!

64 dinners were served and the stars of the evening were the Cortes youth who cooked and served them with zeal! A forest full of thanks to: Seren, Molina, Nadia, Lily, Seamus, Kaysha, Bella, Josh, Lilly, Sophia, Ezra, Angus, Katie, Laara and Nola!We love you!

There’s always someone who spearheads an event – our heartfelt thanks to Lillian Noland, who ran with the lion’s share of the work from inception to the final sweep!

Solid thanks to the rock solid kitchen support from Mary Lavelle, Sujon, Kirsten, Billie, Lucky & Belle! And those oh sooooooo many dishes; sudsy thanks to Andrew, Caleb, Mary Clare and Bill!

Stellar thanks to the Floathouse Restaurant staff, for the serious kitchen support and Gorge Harbour Marina for their -over the top- generous food donations!

And then there was the silent auction… sincere thanks to all bidders and our donors: Verdiblue, Brilliant by the Bay B/B, Bill Wheeler, Amy Newsom Design, Andy Ellingsen, Linnaea Farm and TwinComm! Special thanks to Jeramie for making the auction happen!

Gorge Hall was filled with music & dancing until late evening and our foot-stomping thanks go to Kesu with Luke & Robbie Noland and Roadside Rattle! Scotty was on sound… thanks Scotty!

Smilin’ Tom packed away the tables & chairs with us at the end of the evening; thanks Tom!

Humble thanks to all the unseen, voluntary, quietly offered little extras that folks spontaneously contributed to make it all work!

Last but by no means least, final thanks to the Whaletown Community Club and good old Gorge Hall… for holding the space!

This great community evening has successfully raised the funds to bring professional natural history expertise to our upcoming 2017 BioBlitz in the Children’s Forest; yahoooooooooo!
so… get ready to BioBlitz, April 28, 29, 30!!!!

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Video: Children’s Forest Youth at the CRTZ Winter Lip Sync!

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Stand Up For the Forest — Children’s Forest Music Video!

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Video: Carrington Bay + James Creek Watershed aerial footage

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