Island Trust website

Folk U: The Island Trust model for local governance

Today’s Folk U show is Lessons on Governance, Ecology and Protecting Rural Character: What Cortes can learn from the Islands Trust model.

The Islands Trust is a special purpose government entrusted with a mandate to preserve and protect over 450 islands and surrounding waters in the Salish Sea. Known as the Islands Trust Area, the region comprises the Southern Gulf Islands, Howe Sound, and Denman & Hornby Islands.

In 1974, the Government of British Columbia acknowledged that unrestrained development arising from the Islands Trust Area’s proximity to major urban centres such as Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo and Seattle could irreversibly damage this uniquely biodiverse and ecologically sensitive region. It established the Islands Trust Act, a unique provincial legislation to preserve and protect the Trust Area and its unique amenities and environment for the benefit of its residents and of British Columbia generally. This gave rise to a federation of thirteen local trust areas / island municipalities, represented by twenty-six locally elected trustees, with a special regional mandate for conservation-oriented planning, regulation, inter-agency cooperation and advocacy. 

In this show, Cortes Islander, Sobhana Dilani Hippola, shares some personal insights and reflections from her current role working as Senior Policy Advisor for the Islands Trust.

She highlights her sense that the same pressures that gulf islands to the south have faced over the years are now making their way north and requiring Cortesians to think strategically about how they govern these special lands and waters into the future. Drawing reference to the complex policy landscapes facing all local governments today, Sobhana highlights some of the unique challenges and strengths that many rural islands share in common, and the value of regional approaches, advocacy and knowledge sharing. In reflecting on the notion of rural island culture, Sobhana draws attention to the inseparable influence of the sense of “place” and calls for a broad view of “community” that encompasses not only the human elements, but also the more-than-human elements of ecosystems, species at risk and the unseen world.

With this broader perspective, she reflects on the value of developing a strategic, whole-of-island approach to governance that maps out and protects the more vulnerable aspects of the island, such as cultural heritage sites, groundwater quantity and quality, sensitive ecosystems and biodiversity, to name a few. Preserving and protecting this place, she argues, is the key to protecting the unique rural island culture so cherished by Cortesians. 

Please note that the contents of this interview reflect Sobhana’s personal views and do not necessarily represent the view of the Islands Trust.

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3 thoughts on “Folk U: The Island Trust model for local governance”

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    Sincerely,
    Seyna Gellman

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