Sooke Hills

#6
Sierra Club BC 50 Places Project

The Sooke Hills are located on southern Vancouver Island within the territories of the T’Sou-ke First Nation and the Scia’new First Nation, also known as Beecher Bay. The Nations have used the area for many thousands of years for spiritual, food, medicinal and other purposes. T’Sou-ke oral history includes stories of hunting, digging camas, gathering a range of forest and marine products, and fishing for salmon, trout and steelhead.

sooke hills, sooke, 50 places, sierra club bc

The Sooke Hills contain cultural heritage resources and sacred sites and continue to be used for traditional practices and harvesting. The Nations maintain a deep connection to their lands and waters, which are integral to their well-being and cultural identity. They are working with the Capital Regional District to conserve ecological and cultural values within their territories.

“We used to live sustainably, and only took what we needed from the land. We need to get back to that.” – Chief Gordon Planes, T’Sou-ke Nation

The forests of the Sooke Hills are critically important for communities across the region because they act as a buffer for the watershed that provides drinking water for Greater Victoria. The area also provides habitat for wildlife such as the endangered marbled murrelet, black bears, elk, cougars and wolves.

f
forest, trees, sooke, sooke hills

In the 1990s, our members were among the many voices calling for protection of this local treasure. When a plan emerged for commercial logging in the watershed by the Victoria Water Board, Sierra Club BC’s Victoria Local Group stepped in. Members including Brian Pinch, Ray Zimmerman, and Mehdi Najari were instrumental in turning the tide through legal research and a hiking trip arranged for the water commissioner to visit the area.

Together with the Wilderness Committee and concerned local residents, Sierra Club BC’s Victoria Local Group engaged in a four-year legal battle to protect the Sooke Hills. In 1994, logging in Victoria’s watershed was ruled illegal by the BC Supreme Court.

Today, the Sooke Hills are part of a regional vision for a Sea to Sea Green Blue Belt. This vision involves over 8,000 hectares of connected land held in various forms of protection between Saanich Inlet, the Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park Reserve, the Sooke Basin and the Sooke River. The mountainous area features important wetlands, old-growth forest, rocky bluff ecosystems and several lakes and streams. It is a popular area for swimming, bird watching, fishing, camping and walking or cycling the spectacular Sooke Hills Wilderness Trail.

In early 2019, news spread that the BC government was considering building a road through the Sooke Hills as an alternative to the Malahat highway. Negative reaction to this plan was strong and swift. Sierra Club BC received numerous emails of concern from our members and we knew we must act.

Sierra Club BC’s Galen Armstrong spoke at a CRD Parks and Environment Committee meeting along with more than thirty others—all against the Province’s anticipated proposal. In an era of climate change, cutting down the forests that protect us from further warming in order to build a road for more commuter vehicles, rather than investing in public transportation and local rail service, makes no sense.

After hearing this unanimous message, the committee voted (almost unanimously) to recommend to the CRD that they send the Province a clear message: the Sooke Hills Wilderness Park exists for very good reasons, and it must continue to exist as it is. The CRD Board voted to follow their recommendations, telling the Province that a road through this area is unwanted.

Sierra Club BC will continue to stand up for the protection of this spectacular place to ensure its integrity is maintained for future generations.

50 Places, 50 Stories

Sierra Club BC’s 50 Places Project celebrates stories of conservation across BC. As Sierra Club BC marks 50 years of conservation work, we raise our hands to the longstanding Indigenous stewards of 50 special places in BC. 

Donate Today!

Want to help protect and conserve more special places? Become a member by donating to Sierra Club BC today.

Donate

Read more conservation stories

sooke hills, sooke, 50 places, sierra club bc

50 Places Project: Sooke Hills

The Sooke Hills are located on southern Vancouver Island within the territories of the T’Sou-ke First Nation and the Scia’new First Nation, also known as Beecher Bay. The Nations have used the area for many thousands of years for spiritual, food, medicinal and other purposes.