Voices for the Islands

Thirty Years of Nature Conservation on the Salish Sea

By (author): Sheila Harrington
Foreword by: Briony Penn
ISBN 9781772034929
Softcover | Publication Date: July 9, 2024
Book Dimensions: 7.5 in. x 10 in.
288 Pages
$34.95 CAD
E-Book Price: $14.99 CAD

About the Book

A fascinating compendium of stories chronicling the creation of local nature conservancies, and the people behind them, on seventeen islands on the Salish Sea from the 1990s to the present day.

Voices for the Islands brings together the stories and experiences of those who rose to protect areas at risk within their island communities. Narratively linked by author Sheila Harrington’s three-year sailing journey among the islands to interview more than fifty veteran conservationists, the book shares an in-depth view of local protests and the history and evolution of local conservancies from their timely emergence through legal battles and successful partnerships. It highlights how local, provincial, and national support was won, through the collaborative efforts of dedicated locals, resulting in hundreds of new protected areas and parks within one of the most at-risk ecological communities in Canada—the islands of the Salish Sea.

Beginning in the 1980s, when logging and development threatened the fragile ecosystems and natural habitats, and culminating in the creation of more than seventeen local conservancies and the Gulf Island National Park Reserve, Voices for the Islands will inspire readers to turn apathy into action and support the cause of conservation and reconciliation in an era of species extinction and climate change. Full of colour photos, maps, and fascinating first-hand stories by unsung heroes of conservation—many of whom are now elders—this book reveals how local people and grassroots movements have the power to transform the future of our precious planet.

About the Author(s)

Sheila Harrington is an author, sailor, and environmental advocate with a thirty-year career in the conservation field. She was the founding executive director of the Land Trust Alliance of BC (LTABC) from 1997 to 2011 and a director of the Lasqueti Island Nature Conservancy for more than twelve years. She is co-author of the bestselling Islands in the Salish Sea Community Atlas, a finalist for two BC Book Awards and third-place winner of the BC Historical Federation prize. She edited and published Positive Vibrations magazine in the 90s and Giving the Land a Voice, Mapping Our Home Places and the BC Kingfisher magazine in the early 2000s. She currently lives off-grid on Lasqueti Island.

Briony Penn is an award-winning writer of creative non-fiction books as well as a contributor to many anthologies and chapter books. She has been a feature writer and columnist for decades, with over five hundred articles on environmental issues and natural history in newspapers, magazines, government publications, online news sources and peer-reviewed journals. She has also written numerous environmental guides and educational handbooks for teachers in British Columbia. The Real Thing: The Natural History of Ian McTaggart Cowan was the winner of the 2015 BC Book Prize, and Following the Good River: Stories from the Magic Canoe of Cecil Paul, was awarded the 2021 Butler Prize and shortlisted for the 202 BC Book Prizes. Briony lives on Salt Spring Island, BC.


“In Voices for the Islands, Sheila Harrington chronicles the legacy of the many dedicated, local activists who worked for over fifty years to build the land trusts, conservancies, and precious wild sanctuaries that now safeguard the very soul of BC’s Gulf Islands. She documents what these nature heroes did against daunting odds, employing land covenants, scientific research, innovative fund-raising, and effective advocacy, to save nature from development. As such, she also provides a how-to guide. This is an impressive, engaging book. I highly recommend it. If you care about passing nature onward, Voices for the Islands is a must-read that I suspect may inspire you too to join the action.”
Ric Careless OBC, founding member of the Sierra Club of BC and BC Parks Foundation
“As a sailor, I have had the privilege of visiting every one of the islands in this book and hiked many trails in the parks and protected areas. Each Gulf Island holds a distinct beauty where orange Arbutus trees reach for the sun off rocky cliffs while towering Douglas fir support Bald Eagles in their treetop nests. Orca, humpback whales and seals wander the deep waters. It is a delight to follow in the wake of fellow sailor Sheila Harrington as she meets the people and organizations that have fought tirelessly to preserve these unique ecosystems for future generations to enjoy.”
Bob McDonald OC, author, journalist, and host of CBC’s Quirks & Quarks
“At last, a Good New Story. This book details the ongoing successful battles to preserve the natural spaces on the treasured Islands of the Salish Sea. Engagingly written, part chronology, part inspiration and part guide for the future. It details the battles and sacrifices of the many dedicated crusaders for Mother Gaia.”
Bobbi Hunter, Greenpeace co-founder and editor/contributor of Mr. Mindbomb: A Life in Stories
“In Voices for the Islands, Sheila Harrington takes readers on a delightful sailing journey through the Salish Sea. As Harrington visits each jewel on the long necklace of Gulf Islands, detailing their rich conservation history, she shines a light on the passionate residents who have dedicated so much of their lives to protecting nature in doggedly creative ways. Voices for the Islands unflinchingly documents the mounting threats facing the islands in the Salish Sea and describes on-going efforts at reconciliation with First Nations, the original stewards of the waters and land. In these troubling times of climate change and biodiversity loss, Harrington’s book is an uplifting testament to how individuals and communities working together to protect what they cherish can make an incalculable difference.”
Sarah Cox, author of Signs of Life and Breaching the Peace
“The interconnected islands of the Salish Sea present wonderful diversity—from arbutus groves to intertidal ecosystems, camas meadows, and vital wetlands. But these delicate zones are threatened by biodiversity loss, land clearing, and climate change. As a fellow island dweller invested in conservation, I appreciated learning more about the differences between reserves, conservancies, covenants, and parks, as well as how the Islands Trust movement began. Sheila Harrington reminds us that islands are a construct and draws our attention to the waterways and desire trails that connect these jewels. Reading about the many individuals and groups working to preserve these lands helps me feel a little less alone, the distances easier to cross.”
Amanda Lewis, author of Tracking Giants: Big Trees, Tiny Triumphs, and Misadventures in the Forest
“Aboard her small sailboat, Sheila Harrington takes us to the islands in the Salish Sea to tell a remarkable story. As developments began to threaten unique ecosystems, local activists rallied round to preserve them. Determined, creative, and savvy, they often succeeded. Their fights contain lessons for all of us—both timeless and timely!”
Claudia Cornwall, author of British Columbia in Flames: Stories from a Blazing Summer
“A beautifully crafted, comprehensive tour of these iconic, fragile islands, seen through the eyes and hearts of those who tend them. Indigenous and Settler. Through colourful photos, and conversations with colourful locals, Sheila Harrington shows us restoration is possible.”
Pauline le Bel, author of Whale in the Door: A Community Unites to Protect BC’s Howe Sound
“Conservation does work. From philanthropy to volunteer hours to policy campaigns, regular people who care about community have shaped and reshaped the Western land and seascape. This book is a beautiful tribute to those people—past and present—who have continuously engaged in the hard work of protecting nature. It is celebration and inspiration.”
Andrea Olive, University of Toronto Mississauga professor and author of Protecting the Prairies: Lorne Scott and the Politics of Conservation
Voices for the Islands will be an important contribution to understanding how conservation has and will happen on the Salish Sea Islands.”
Duane West, former superintendent of Parks Canada, former director of Gabriola Lands and Trails Trust, and current director of Lasqueti Island Nature Conservancy
“The telling of the history of conservation on Bowen Island, capturing all its details and personalities, is a real gift to our community. We, Bowen Island, need to know our conservation history. Good things don’t just happen—people work hard to make them happen, and Sheila Harrington tells that story well. I learned a lot reading it.”
Bob Turner, former mayor of Bowen Island and current director of Bowen Island Conservancy
“An enjoyable trip down memory lane for sure, and inspiration to keep on going!”
Dr. Kathy Dunster, former director and co-chair of Land Trust Alliance of BC, former board member of the Islands Trust Fund (Conservancy), and lead Urban Ecosystems faculty at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.