Gwen and Derek Mallard
Gwen and Derek Mallard were founding members of the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation,(SPEC) the first environmental association in BC. It is situated in Vancouver. Some years later, after moving to Vancouver Island the couple incorporated a new society under the name Citizens Action To Save The Environment (CASE). Gwen and Derek were leaders by action. They started to grow organic garden produce, gathered water into a cistern from the roof of their home and vegetarian restaurant on West Saanich Road. Often the salads came fresh right out of their own garden. The restaurant became a gathering place for environmental talks and action plans.
A very important topic for the Mallards became ‘genetically modified crops’. CASE as a society informed the public about the dangers of the unpredictability of those innovations, of crop contamination, of concentration of ownership of seeds by Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Dow and of corporate takeover by patents on what should be the common inheritance of all, the seeds of our crops. CASE worked closely with the SaskOrganics Organic Agricultural Fund, THE RIGHT TO EAT GMO FREE. CASE hosted farmer Percy Schmeiser when he made a speaking tour of the Island about his supreme court case against Monsanto. The case involved the ownership of ‘Roundup-Ready’ canola seeds found on his property that had arrived by themselves in the wind.
As local residents of Saanich, Gwen and Derek became aware of the beauty and fragility of the Saanich Intlet, a beautiful fjord that stretches from Satellite Channel in the north near Salt Spring Island to Squally Reach and Finlayson Arm in the south where the only tributary feeds the inlet from Goldstream River. This fjord has a shallow shelf at its entrance such that the flushing of the water by tidal action is never complete. For this reason, the Mallards actively opposed any developments along the shores of the inlet lest run off and pollution would endanger those cherished waters. There were successes and failures.
One big success was the creation of the Gowland Todd Provincial Park on July 22, 1995. The work had begun in 1991with many long hours, countless meetings in their café, and lobbying at the highest levels, and partnering with other community groups which finally led to success. Gowlland Tod Provincial Park protects a significant part of the Gowlland Range, one of the last remaining natural areas in Greater Victoria, and a significant portion of the natural shoreline and uplands of Tod Inlet and the Saanich Inlet. The Gowlland Range is a particularly rich area of biodiversity, with more than 150 individual animal and plant species identified. The protected area preserves a rare, dry coastal Douglas fir habitat that features grassy meadows, rocky knolls and old-growth forest. The park also protects a wetland area which provides habitat for the blue-listed Northern red-legged frog and associated riparian areas habitat for the fragrant white rein orchid.
The Gowlland Range towers 430 metres over Finlayson Arm, part of the Saanich Inlet, a unique fjord that only replenishes its marine waters once a year. Species that are rare elsewhere in the world flourish in this isolated and stable habitat. The abundance of marine activity attracts scuba divers from around the world, as well as boaters seeking the calm waters and sheltered anchorage of Tod Inlet.
They were very pleased with their accomplishments with regard to Todd Inlet and Finlayson Arm but continued to the end of their lives as protectors of the environment; they did not rest on their laurels with pride. The Mallards developed their own extensive library at the café which was for all to use. The annual butterfly count was both a social event and a scientific survey. When time and aging took the Derek and Gwen Mallard from us the people of Saanich lost a beautiful pair, a loving couple as beautiful and natural as the birds that share their name.