“The Lululemon founder, Chip Wilson, has purchased one Canadian island, and helped buy another, in order to donate them to a charity.
The islands in question are Saturnina and West Ballenas, two tiny undeveloped specks in the Salish Sea off the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. The former yoga apparel magnate also provided major funding to obtain a sizable chunk of a third, Lasqueti Island.
All three islands contain rare, coastal Douglas fir ecosystems that can contain trees upwards of 400 years old, and are critical habitat for at-risk species that also rely on those ancient forests.
Coastal Douglas fir forests are home to such birds as the western screech owl and the marbled murrelet. The islands also support the at-risk tree species of Garry oaks and shore pines, as well as salal, dull Oregon grape, Oregon beaked moss and electrified cat’s-tail moss.
Wilson, a Canadian who was CEO of Lululemon until the mid-2000s, said the impetus stemmed in part from the first time he saw Vancouver’s vast Stanley Park years ago, and he marveled that someone was “brilliant” enough to save it.
“And I thought, if myself and my family ever get a chance, we want to be able to do that for future generations,” he told the Guardian.
The move to buy the islands comes amid a growing conflict over what activists and biologists have said is the British Columbia government’s failure to adequately protect other old-growth ecosystems. Nearly 300 people have recently been arrested for blocking logging roads on southern Vancouver Island.
The effort to protect the islands started last year with a crowdfunding campaign to save West Ballenas, which was slated to be sold and developed. Students from Ballenas high school helped lead the effort, which received donations from around the world. The Wilsons matched donations, and threw in Saturnina Island as well.
In total his family foundation spent C$4m (US$3.2m) to help protect the three islands. Wilson has donated them to the BC Parks Foundation.
If the islands hadn’t been purchased, they would have been sold and developed as private property with homes, which would have disrupted the sensitive ecosystems.
“What we’re really fascinated with is being a part of funding future parks,” Wilson said, suggesting that his foundation is looking to purchase and protect additional sensitive ecosystems…..”