Directors & Associates

FOREST TRUST FOR THE CHILDREN OF CORTES ISLAND SOCIETY (FTCCIS)

It takes a community to protect a forest in perpetuity. We invite you to meet some of the members of our dedicated, growing community both on Cortes Island and afield. These individuals weave in diverse colours and textures of professional training, personal experience and personality – creating a human tapestry, almost as rich, as the ecological tapestry of the forest we are working together to protect!

FTCCIS DIRECTORS

Chris Dragseth/ Chair

I am a relative newcomer 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 the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (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 the value of the Children’s Forest as a community asset.  Their involvement re-enforced to me the need for public advocacy in support of protecting this valuable resource.

  • Renewable Resource Technology Diploma 1976/ Kelsey Institute of Applied Arts & Sciences and MA in Leadership & Training 2002/ Royal Roads University
  • Department of Fisheries & Oceans 1976 – 2003/ Fishery Officer, Field Supervisor, South Coast Senior Manager and Senior Negotiator (1993-96) Northern Panel, Pacific Salmon Treaty
  • Service Canada 2003 -2009/ Senior Executive; employment program delivery
  • Community Volunteer/ Cortes Island Emergency Support Services, Cortes Island Streamkeepers  

Christine Robinson/ Secretary

I have lived on Cortes Island for 30 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 and where my children could be rooted and nourished by the natural world. Now, my grandchildren return to Cortes to make fairy homes and catch crabs.      

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 have been involved in local salmon enhancement with students  for many years, helping children learn stewardship for salmon and streams.

I am a founding director of the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society, being involved in the vision of the Children’s Forest from the spark of its inception. I feel we all have a moral responsibility to speak up for and protect the natural world. This begins when a child sees a newt or red-legged frog in a forest pond, touches the moss on a boulder, smells the musty soil or sweet sap of spring alder leaves, listens to the dawn chorus of spring birds, tastes the tang of wild licorice root, and feels the magic and beauty of all this in their heart. The best we can do for future generations of children, and for the well-being of all, is to pass on a legacy of wonder and relationship with the earth, wild creatures and wild places.

  • BA in Literature 1979 and BEd 1994/ University of British Columbia
  • Linnaea School/ Elementary Teacher 1994 – 2011; alternative nature-based school Cortes Island
  • Cortes Island Elementary Junior-Secondary School/ Elementary Teacher 2010 – present
  • Community Volunteer/ Cortes Island Streamkeepers (Recipient Jo Ann Green Environmental Award), Mitlenatch Island Stewardship Team, Cortes Museum School Liaison

Andrew Smyth/Treasurer 

I grew up in the UK, studied foreign languages at university and subsequently qualified as a lawyer and worked for several years for a commercial law firm in London.

In 1998 my husband 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 have 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.

  • BA in Modern Languages 1987/Sheffield University, UK Solicitors Exams 1992/College of Law London and foreign lawyer accreditation & bar exams 1998/ BC Law Society
  • Lovells, London/ Solicitor 1992 – 1998; working in commercial real estate law
  • Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, Vancouver/ Lawyer 1999-2000; corporate law and commercial real estate law
  • GPNW Consulting Corp/CFO & Legal Counsel 2000 – 2006; telecommunications software integration consultancy
  • Linnaea School/Financial Administrator 2008-2010

Maya Buckner

I have lived on Cortes Island for most of my life, I grew up on Linnaea Farm and feel so fortunate to still call the Island home. Growing up on Cortes I found a deep sense of place and connection to the natural world. My education deepened my desire to learn about, and from ecological systems. I am passionate about conservation and about my home Island.

I hope to apply my GIS skills to the mapping of the Children’s Forest land base to facilitate the documentation required for the conservation covenants that will protect these lands in perpetuity.

I am honoured to serve on the board of the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society, and hopefully play a part in inspiring new generations of passionate, curious, stewards of the forests and natural places on Cortes Island and beyond.

  • BSc in Geography & Environmental Studies 2017/ University of Victoria
  • Island Sea Farms/ Research & Development Coordinator 2017 -2020; shellfish aquaculture experimental research and application author for CRA Scientific Research & Experimental Development Program
  • Custom Map Design/ GIS Specialist 2020 – present; cartographic consulting and custom georeferenced maps for ecological research and land conservation using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software

Eric Hargrave

All the stars aligned for Eric and his family to move to Cortes Island nine years ago.

We had already decided to move to Canada, and hopefully Cortes, as my permanent residence application was in process. As a part of the extended Cortes community, I heard when the Natural Food Coop was looking for a manager and one thing led to another. I started as the General Manager less than a month after my residency was approved.

My family includes my wife, Theresa, and our two children, Nathaniel (14) and Esiana (11).  I’ve spent many years being out in nature; I decided to pursue degrees in Geology so I could be in the field as much as possible.  We spend our summers roaming the island on bike, on foot, and in canoes and kayaks.  We attended many FTCCIS events sponsored in the Children’s Forest, including the monthly walks.  When Sabina asked me to join the Board, I told her I would have to consult with my family.  When I asked them, the answer was a resounding yes!  I hope to continue the good work done by all the adults and young people who have brought this organization so far in such a short time.

  • BSc Honours in Geology1997/University of Puget Sound and MSc Geology 1999/Arizona State  University
  • Consultant/ Technical certifications in computer networking and operating systems
  • Cortes Natural Food Cooperative/ General Manager 2012 – present
  • Community Volunteer Board Director/Cortes Island Business & Tourism Association

Connie Brill

My formative years began in rural British Columbia’s west coast rain forest. As a young adult life took me on the road to new adventures in the city, leaving the forests behind for a time. When I returned and settled back on the coast, I met my husband, Colin, a North Vancouver native. In 1988, with a young family starting, we chose to raise our children in Banff, a town offering wilderness, arts and strong community with an international sensibility. The beauty of the mountain landscape caught our imaginations.

For the next twenty-seven years while focused on growing our family we also focused on environmental activism through Precipice Theatre.  As the founders we wrote, produced, performed and toured plays on environmental issues ranging from recycling to beehive/societal collapse. As the children headed off into the world, Colin and I determined it was time to reconnect with our west coast roots. Drawn again by wilderness, the arts and a strong community we landed on Cortes Island in the lush west coast rain forest.  Home.

Having spent the past 30 years involved in highlighting environmental awareness and protection through theatre, I dove in when asked to help with a theatre project for the Children’s Forest. Children and wilderness are a natural fit. The enthusiasm and energy the youth give while trying to preserve ‘their’ forest drew me further into involvement at the board level.

  • Professional Dancer, 1977 – 1983/ San Diego Stage7, Las Vegas MGM Grand, New York and Vancouver
  • Happy Trails Theater Collective/ Co-founder 1984 – 1986; using theatre to create ‘living press releases’ about environmental issues, e.g. Carmanah Valley and Stein Wilderness
  • Precipice Theater/ Co-founder 1988 – 2009; environmental theatre highlighting issues including: recycling (Trash Pageant), Alberta’s Water Resources Act (Watershed of Tears), the Yellowstone to Yukon initiative (Corridor Croquet), effects of development on the riparian zones (Splash & Ripple)

Mary Lavelle

I moved to Cortes Island in 2004 with my husband and two young children. We were attracted to the beauty of the beaches and forests as well as the wonderful community.  I grew up on the West Coast, and have always loved to spend time outdoors. I wanted to give my children the opportunity to be connected to the natural world as they grew up. The Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society offered programs and education that were a perfect match for us.

My children, Alma and Laara, created art for the book, Forest Alphabet, which was the first fundraiser for the Children’s Forest. Over the years, they took part in the monthly walks, the annual BioBlitz, several fundraisers and the theatre program. I volunteered on a theatre tour to Saltspring Island and was a cook at several fundraisers & BioBlitzes.

I have worked as an administrator in the non-profit sector for 24 years and am an active volunteer in my community. I joined the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society board to help continue its valuable work. I believe much good comes from connecting children with the forest and fostering their relationship with nature.

  • Women’s Studies 1990/ Concordia University
  • Axis Theatre Company/ Tour Coordinator 1997 – 2003
  • Community Service/ SRD Alternate Director Area B Cortes Island 2014 – 2019, Cortes Health Center medical office administrator 2018 – present and Southern Cortes Community Association Hall Manager 2009 – present; children’s programmer & preschool manager of care
  • Community Volunteer Board Director/ Cortes Island Community Foundation, Siskin Lane Strata, Child & Youth Action Committee, Linnaea Farm Society

FTCCIS HONOURARY DIRECTORS

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.

I now live and work on the other side of the world, for ten years in Hanoi Vietnam and now in Nairobi, Kenya, but 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.”   J. Muir

  • BA Honours in First Nations Studies and BEd in Special Education 1982/ York University
  • Consultant/ Integration and Inclusion of Children with Challenging Needs 1982-1991
  • Linnaea School/ Founder-Principal 1987 – 2009; alternative nature-based school on Cortes Island
  • United Nations International School of Hanoi in Vietnam/ Learning Support Teacher 2009 – 2019; for middle school students
  • International School of Kenya/Lead Teacher 2019 – present; Life Centered Education Inclusion Program for children with intensive needs

Andy Ellingsen

I am a descendant of the Manson family which first came to Cortes Island in the 1890’s; my mother came to Cortes as a girl of 5 years and I came to Cortes around the same age, after being born in Rock Bay on Vancouver Island. In 1945 I moved with my family to a small logging camp at the head of Von Donop Inlet, then Manson’s Lagoon and on to Hague Lake. I have had a “Home Sense” of Cortes ever since. I met my wife Sue here, we summered here with our children, have owned property since 1972 and we have lived here permanently since we retired in 1995. I am delighted that our children have chosen to make their lives here on Cortes Island and raise our grandchildren here.

I left for Vancouver in Grade 12 and worked in logging on the lower coast between years spent at UBC. The year following my graduation, I was asked to try my hand at teaching Math to Forestry & Fisheries students at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in Burnaby, which lead to a very rewarding 27 year career helping many students reach their educational objectives.

I have been quite involved with community organizations on Cortes Island since my return. I believe this is a community worthy of my support.

I believe my early experiences on Cortes Island have given me a sense of wonder and delight in observing Nature and sharing my observations with like-minded curiosity seekers. The forests, lakes and shores are an excellent learning environment, and after many years here I am still pleased to find things which I have not before seen or recognized. Cortes Island is a beautiful home, and I hope to die here.

  • BSc in Physics 1968/University of British Columbia
  • British Columbia Institute of Technology/Math Department Instructor 1969 – 1995
  • Community Volunteer Board Director/Cortes Island Firefighters Association, Harbour Authority of Cortes Island Society, Southern Cortes Community Association, Cortes Island Seniors Society

Ann Mortifee

I was born in South Africa on a sugar cane farm in Zululand. My Grandfather helped to establish the Imflozi Game Reserve to save the white rhino, which is now tragically extinct. It was those early years living close to the land that instilled in me my awareness of our utter dependence upon and interdependence with the natural world.

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 and lived in war-torn Beirut. My life has been blessed with adventure.

Moving to Cortes Island in 1998 with my 10-year-old son was one of the wisest choices I could have made for both of us. It was on Cortes, living in tandem with this magnificent rain forest that I co-founded, The Trust for Sustainable Forestry, which seeks to finance and protect endangered forest lands by creating light-on-the-land conservation communities. Now being an Honourary Director of the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society, is a wonderful extension of my love and passion for the forests. 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 she or he belongs to and is a living part of a magical and mysterious world.

  • Intentional full length Musical Theatre Productions: Reflections on Crooked Walking (to cure a community’s sleeping sickness), When the Rains Come (to end apartheid), The Mysteries (to restore equality for women)
  • Performed and toured with Paul Horn (her late husband), Harry Belafonte, John Denver, Michel Legrand, Bobby McFerrin; symphonies throughout Europe and North America
  • Author of, In Love with The Mystery and The Awakened Heart, co-written with John Robbins
  • Ann is a member of the Order of Canada; Canada’s highest civilian honour
  • Co-founder and active member of, The Somerset Foundation/social innovation and The Trust for Sustainable Forestry/conservation

FTCCIS COMMUNITY ASSOCIATES

Tim Parton

I was born in England but transferred to New York in 1990 for work, met my wife Olivia, and we stayed.  Our connection to Cortes Island was entirely serendipitous; we came to Victoria in 2011 to visit friends who had recently moved there, found an intriguing house to rent near Squirrel Cove for the balance of our trip, and we fell in love!  We have spent time on the island every year since – except last year sadly – and along the way have become co-owners and land partners on the island.  Our daughter Isla attended Power of Hope and she and her brother Angus are equally smitten with Cortes.

I marvel at, and passionately believe in the importance of protecting, our natural world.  I love trees!  I believe that the Children’s Forest project is an absolutely critical one that I first became acquainted with back in 2015 and I strongly support. 

My mother grew up in South Africa and I retain a firm connection to that continent also; I am on the board of a conservation organization in northeast Tanzania.

  • BA Economics & Accounting 1986/University of Bristol
  • Chartered Financial Analyst 1989-1992
  • JPMorgan Asset Management/ Managing Director 2000- present; investment on behalf of clients in US equities and management of a number of investment strategies that focus on higher growth companies and industries: technology, healthcare, renewable energy, among many other things
  • Community Volunteer Board Director/University of Bristol US Foundation, African People & Wildlife

FTCCIS EDUCATIONAL & RESEARCH ASSOCIATES

Sabina Leader Mense

I have been a Cortesian 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 anywhere I have seen or experienced in my travels across the planet!

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 founding director and Educational & Research Associate of the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society, is to ensure that the children’s voices are heard and that their vision of the Children’s Forest, preserved and protected in perpetuity, succeeds!

  • BSc in Marine Science 1979/ University of Victoria
  • Bamfield Marine Station/ Research Technician 1980 – 1985; coordinate, support and conduct a diversity of research programs for an international community of distinguished researchers
  • Marine-based educational tourism 1986 – 2020; expedition leading, lecturing, staff training and international tour planning, research, design & implementation from the Arctic to the Antarctic
  • Eldron Consulting/ Principal 1995 – present; environmental consulting in marine & terrestrial resource use, environmental place-based education, youth leadership & citizen science and land conservation landscape level planning, outreach, assessment, baseline documentation

Andy MacKinnon

Andy MacKinnon is a forest ecologist who lives in Metchosin, British Columbia, who until his retirement in 2015, worked for the BC Forest Service later Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations for three decades, mostly on the BC coast. During that time, primary areas of study for Andy involved:

1. research in forest ecology and ecosystem-based management (EBM), and

2. refinement of the biogeoclimatic ecosystem classification (BEC) system and mapping of biogeoclimatic units (subzone, variants) in the West Coast Region.

Andy’s research focus on old growth structure and composition have earned him the esteemed title of BC’s old growth GURU. Andy believes that understanding fungi informs the basis of forest ecology, which is evolving from what had been thought to be a competitive system, to a model of co-operation.

FTCCIS has welcomed Andy to the Children’s Forest on Cortes Island, where he has played pivotal and powerful roles in mentoring island youth in advocacy for the wonders of the forest they strive to protect in perpetuity!

  • BSc in Botany 1978 and MSc in Mycology 1982/ University of British Columbia and honourary Doctor of Science 2013/ Simon Fraser University
  • BC Forest Service later MFLNRO/ Forest Ecologist & RPF 1982 – 2015; responsible for ecosystem classification & mapping and a program of forest ecology research focused on old growth structure & composition, effects of climate change, BC’s native plants & fungi
  • Consultant/ Forest Ecologist 2015 – present; defining & implementing ecosystem-based management in Haida Gwaii & the Great Bear Rainforest, co-teaching rainforest ecology field courses for UBC & UVic and co-authoring field guides on BC plants & mushrooms
  • Metchosin Councillor 2014 – present & Metchosin-Esquimalt Green Party Candidate 2017 & 2020

Briony Penn

Briony Penn is a writer, naturalist and educator who lives in WSANEC territory overlooking WENNANEC (Fulford Harbour on Saltspring Island). Briony is well known in British Columbia for her indomitable spirit and tireless devotion to protecting endangered species and sensitive ecosystems in her native BC. 

An award-winning author of creative non-fiction books, she is also an investigative journalist, feature writer and columnist. Her latest books in collaboration with elder Cecil Paul/ Wa’xaid have been selected by BC Teachers Federation for curriculum; Stories from the Magic Canoe of Wa’xaid and Following the Good River, also short-listed for the 2021 BC Book Prizes. 

Briony is a geographer and pioneer of community mapping whose mantra is… “Map it and save it!” Briony gives animated and personally illustrated workshops & talks across BC on natural history and works as a community researcher.

As an Educational & Research Associate of the Forest Trust for the Children of Cortes Island Society, Briony sees her most important contribution as the mentoring of the next generation of forest stewards… the children of Cortes Island’s Children’s Forest.

  • Visual Arts Diploma 1977/Banff School of Fine Arts, BA in Geography 1981/University of British Columbia and PhD in Geography 1988/University of Edinburgh
  • The Land Conservancy of British Columbia/Co-founder 1997 – present; working with local & provincial environmental & cultural organizations towards innovative land conservation solutions
  • University of Victoria/Adjunct Professor School of Environmental Studies 1991 – present; taught classes in biodiversity, forest policy, restoration of natural systems, communication and education around environmental issues
  • Penn & Associates/ Principal 1991 – present; educational tourism, scientific illustration, environmental education resources, ecological report writing, investigative journalism

Paul Stamets

Paul is a speaker, author, mycologist, medical researcher, entrepreneur and is considered an intellectual and industry leader in fungi: habitat, medicinal use, and production. He lectures extensively to deepen the understanding and respect for the organisms that literally exist under every footstep taken on this path of life.

Paul’s philosophy is that “MycoDiversity is BioSecurity.” He sees the ancient Old Growth forests of the Pacific Northwest as a resource of incalculable value, especially in terms of its fungal genome. A dedicated hiker and explorer, his passion is to preserve and protect as many ancestral strains of mushrooms as possible from these pristine woodlands. His research is considered breakthrough by thought leaders for creating a paradigm shift for helping ecosystems worldwide.

Paul initiated his role as FTCCIS Educational & Research Associate in the autumn of 2020 while hosting a MycoBlitz in the Children’s Forest on Cortes Island. With morel walking stick held high in hand, Paul walked and talked youth through the mycological wonders of the season like Merlin with young Arthurs in the Forest of Broceliande!

  • BSc in Taxonomy 1979 and Microbiology & Electron Microscopy 1984/Evergreen State College and Honourary Doctor of Science 2012/National College of Natural Medicine
  • Fungi Perfecti LLC/ Founder & Owner 1980 – present; family-owned business dedicated to promoting the cultivation of high quality gourmet and medicinal mushrooms
  • MycoMedica Life Sciences Public Benefit Corporation/ Founder & CEO 2021
  • Paul has received numerous awards for his work, most notably the Invention Ambassador Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science

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