meet the board

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Corry Dow, President

I arrived on Cortes Island in 2008, toting a BSc in Environmental & Conservation Science and two years of WOOFing experience in Great Britain, and following a curiosity about how to feed, shelter and sustain myself that led to the Linnaea Ecological Gardening Programme. After the 8-month residency, I went back to Alberta, packed up my stuff, drove myself and my doggies back to Cortes. I was home. In 2009, I was hired as program coordinator from and lived on the farm as a resident steward until 2014, where I learned a great deal about food, firewood and community process.

When the position of Co-ordinator for the development of the Community Forest Operating Plan (CFOP) came up in 2014, I was inspired to become involved in the community forest as a saner alternative to the forestry I had seen in natural resource management courses and summer jobs in forestry research camps.

When the position on the CCFC Board opened in 2017, I still had a strong feeling that the only way for forestry to be a winning proposition for Cortes Island was for it to be in the hands of those who make this place home, working in partnership to sustain ourselves in the place we love. I value the opportunity that the CCFC offers to give something back to the community and the land that has given me and my son so much.


David Shipway, Vice-President

I started learning about forestry in the early 70s, first in engineering and survey with MacBlo on Vancouver Island, then in treeplanting all over BC. I found the rapacious destruction of beautiful ancient forests quite overwhelming, but also saw the same logged lands slowly become forested again. I discovered Cortes soon after the ferry service started, and moved here permanently in the early 80's, making my living in construction and woodworking, something my ancestors were good at. By managing my own land I realized it takes at least a century to grow big trees that produce good wood. When I realized that neither government or industry wanted to wait long enough for second growth trees to reach maturity, I became active in conservation issues. I also wanted to learn a lot more about this place I call home, and one of the ways was through mapping the island with the Silva team of Herb Hammond and Tom Bradley.

For years this wonderful community has been advocating better forestry on Cortes, and now with the Community Forest Agreement in place, we need to put our big wild ideas into practice. This is a significant challenge with humble beginnings that will grow and achieve momentum organically, just like a new tree in a sunlit space.

Aldo Leopold, an ecologist whose father was a woodworker, wrote something a century ago that has stuck with me: "I have read many definitions of what is a conservationist, and written not a few myself, but I suspect that the best one is written not with a pen, but with an axe. It is a matter of what a man thinks about while chopping, or while deciding what to chop. A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature upon the face of his land."

Since he wrote that, many women have become involved in forestry as well, and that is a very positive trend in working with Nature.


Aaron Ellingsen, Treasurer

I'm a sixth generation Cortes Islander, with two younger generations of the family snapping at my heels.... As owner/operator of a sawmill, I'm also at least the fourth generation to make all or part of my livelihood through forestry- and timber-related work on and around Cortes. I grew up on Cortes and in the Lower Mainland, and have spent my adult years on Cortes, in Victoria, and back on Cortes. I have a professional background in editing, research and writing, degrees in Literature, and a love for the violin. As I contemplated leaving my research and writing work at the Legislative Assembly of BC, I was encouraged and keen to see the Cortes Community Forest formalized, following more than a generation of cooperative work by Cortes Islanders. I have been pleased to contribute energy to the project since the Community Forest Application for tenure was submitted to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in 2013.

With all that Cortes is and has been, the Community Forest creates opportunities for needed local economic diversification, and a chance to showcase the triple bottom line (economic, social and environmental) advantages of small-scale forestry, providing local jobs and supporting small, value-add oriented businesses.

I’m proud to work with the Cortes Community Forest Co-operative, the Klahoose First Nation, the Cortes Forestry General Partnership and the broader Cortes Island community to make socially, environmentally and economically sound decisions to ensure our forests, waterways, wildlife and human community flourish.

Phone: (250) 935-6915


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Mark Braaten,


My name is Mark Braaten. I’m turning 50 this year. Following high school my education consisted of seven years travelling around the world investigating community, spirituality, consciousness, cultures and environment. I obtained certification in Yoga Therapy at SVYASA University Bangalore India.

I spent the balance of my adult life living in intentional communities and engaged with my family, homesteading, and homeschooling four children. The youngest Samuel, now 14 was born on Cortes Island. We travelled constantly for most of those years, practicing Permaculture in remote rural communities. We have been on Cortes now for 18 years and recently purchased Raven Farm as a collective.

I tree planted for 13 years, planting over 1 million trees. I learned much about forestry and ecology during that time. I was a member of the Slocan Valley Watershed Alliance and part the CORE Process in the 90s. I am currently working as a Licensed Residential Builder on Cortes with particular interest in local materials and “green” technologies.

I am serving on the Cortes Community Forest COOP Board as Secretary. It is a great privilege to be working with such a bright, talented and dedicated group. It is an honor to play a supporting role in the partnership with the Klahoose First Nation. I see the Cortes Community as having unique and exemplary potential. The Community Forest is a powerful way to put our values into positive action.


John Drew

I first came to Cortes in 1975 with spouse and four kids, the eldest six; we camped out on Hanks Beach (at the time a recovering log dump) and did so for many years. In 2005 I purchased the old Jimmy Smith homestead on the Gorge Harbour and moved to the island to live in 2012. So, right now, I’m a woodlot owner, feeling pretty good about regenerating a nice fir forest from the previous owner’s controversial logging slash; I’m a somewhat self-sufficient homesteader and amateur saw-miller. I’m in my second year on the Board.

For many years I have been intellectually curious about how plants and forests grow and about how teams work and people come together to make things happen. This curiosity led to a PhD in plant physiology and genetics and a research career in the tropics and here on the west-coast; and, to an MBA and forest executive assignments: notably, Regional Director General of the Canadian Forest Service and, Executive Director of the Alberta Reforestation & Reclamation program. I am a Registered Professional Forester (retired) and trained as an Executive Coach; what I did for 12 years right before moving to Cortes.

As a Board member, I’m interested in protecting our forest; important with another fire season looming. I’m interested in conserving our forests, to only cut what we grow and maintain an age class distribution to benefit all the “critters” that live in the forest. I’m interested in understanding the potential of our forest and in innovative forestry practice so we create great forests and great jobs that contributes to the Island well-being. I’m motivated by a visual of my kids, and grand-kids, and their kids, walking and driving through spectacular Cortes Community forests and saying to each other, “The people who did this really cared”.

I tip my hat to the folks who have come before and the skills and energy that got us a Community Forest. Now, using other energy and skills, we just need to make it happen.


Carrie Saxifrage

I moved to Cortes Island in 1994 for the Linnaea Farm Ecological Gardening Program following work in Washington State as an RN and lawyer. I served on the Cortes Ecoforestry Board for many years while we sought Crown land tenure in partnership with the Klahoose First Nation. I also served on Linnaea Farm and Hollyhock boards and on the Cortes Island Volunteer Fire Department. My family moved to Vancouver for our son’s high school years and returned to home on Cortes a few years ago. While in Vancouver, I wrote a climate change memoir titled The Big Swim - Coming Ashore in a World Adrift.

The practicalities of implementing our community’s long held ideals seem daunting within the context of government requirements based on industrial logging and log export. On the other hand, we have achieved land tenure, put some operational lessons under our belts and displayed stamina and creativity in how we protect our forests and use our wood. With this strong history and everyone’s continuing efforts, we’ll improve our ecosystem protection and on-island wood processing for economic development.

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Ralph Garrison

I grew up and spent my early adult life on Vashon Island in Washington State. There I became a boat builder, cabinet maker and timber framer. Following a lifelong romance with rocky shores and wilder places I moved to the Tiber Bay Community on Cortes Island in the early 1990s.

As a builder I have developed a commitment to using local wood, as well as energy efficiency.

My interest in environmental issues led me to be part of the Cortes Ecoforestry Society and the Friends of Cortes Island.

My wife, Maureen Williams, and I recently returned to Cortes after a few years in Victoria, shepherding our daughter, Melanie, through secondary school.