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.


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!

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.

Connie Brill

My formative years began in British Columbia’s west coast rain forest. As a young adult, life took me on the road to new adventures, 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. Along with growing a family and work, we started Precipice Theatre and wrote, produced and toured environmental plays on issues concerning Banff and Alberta.

Twenty-seven years later, the children had grown into young adults and were off in the world. Colin and I determined it was time to reconnect with our west coast roots and found Cortes Island. The draw of Cortes is again the wilderness, arts and a strong community – only this time in the lush west coast rain forest. It was coming 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. The enthusiasm and energy the youth give while trying to preserve this forest drew me further into involvement at the board level. Children and wilderness are a natural fit.

Eric Hargrave

All the stars aligned for Eric and his family to move to Cortes eight years ago. We had already decided to move to Canada – and hopefully Cortes – and my permanent residence application was in process. As a part of the extended Cortes community, I heard when the Co-op 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 get both my Bachelor’s and Master’s 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 events sponsored by 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.

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. I studied Geography and Environmental studies at the University of Victoria, which deepened my desire to learn about, and from ecological systems. I am passionate about conservation and about my home Island.

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

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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