British Columbia

Tech entrepreneur donates $14.5M to protect threatened B.C. ecosystems

The donation from Age of Union Alliance, led by Lightspeed Commerce founder Dax Dasilva, is the largest single donation in the history of the foundation, which aims to enhance and expand the province's parks system.

Dax Dasilva says he wants to use some of his wealth to buy land in B.C and keep it from being developed

Part of the Age of Union Alliance's $14.5-million donation to the B.C. Parks Foundation will go towards preserving the Pitt River Watershed. (B.C Parks Foundation/Submitted by CNW Group/Age of Union Alliance)

A tech entrepreneur has given the B.C. Parks Foundation $14.5 million to protect local ecosystems.

The donation from Age of Union Alliance, led by Lightspeed Commerce founder Dax Dasilva, is the largest single donation in the history of the foundation, which aims to enhance and expand the province's parks system.

Part of the money will go toward buying land in Vancouver Island's French Creek Estuary, a critical eagle habitat.

"It's a migratory stopping point as the eagles migrate and, of course, there are resident eagles, and it's surrounded by subdivisions," Dasilva said. 

"If we didn't protect it, I think we would be really endangering the future generations of eagles."

Money will also go to the Pitt River Watershed in Metro Vancouver and other projects. 

Dasilva, 45, was born and raised in B.C. and made his fortune with Lightspeed, a payment processing company. He says he wants to use some of that wealth to buy land in B.C and keep it from being developed.

"There's a specialness to what we have here that can't be replicated and I think that we never want to ever be at the point where we feel like, oh wow, we let it slip through our fingers and we let it be lost," he said.

Dasilva also says he hopes his gift will inspire other successful business leaders to make donations.

Last year, a donation from the family foundation of Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson and his wife, Shannon, allowed the foundation to purchase threatened Coastal Douglas fir ecosystems in the Strait of Georgia.

Christie Stephenson, executive director of the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, said large donations can inspire others to share their wealth.

"I think it's really positive when you do see someone stepping forward and making a really meaningful contribution and then others take note and feel excited about contributing themselves or seeing that maybe they have an obligation to contribute as well."

B.C. Parks CEO Andy Day says the foundation has received donations — both big and small — from British Columbians looking to preserve the region's biodiversity.

"We have this kind of global responsibility to protect and uphold our natural legacy," he said. 

With files from Liam Britten and The Canadian Press

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