Modern History of Land Use

Where did the name Burns Bog come from?

This section contains information about land use in Burns Bog following European settlement. To learn about the relationships First Nations have had with the bog since time immemorial, head over to our First Nations and the Bog page.

Patrick Burns

Early 1900s: The Burns Brothers

In 1905, brothers Dominic and Patrick Burns purchased the land that is known as Burns Bog. Their dream for the land was to raise livestock, such as cattle and sheep. Unfortunately for the brothers, the peaty soils were not the best conditions for these animals. The cows were constantly stuck in the peat, and some of the animals even ate the poisonous plants that grow in the ecosystem. The brothers decided to move their farm dream further North, thus ending the livestock dream on the bog lands. This bog land was later named Burns Bog after Dominic Burns.

Burns Bog peat harvesting 1940s

1930s – 1950s: Peat Harvesting

Land use in Burns Bog then shifted to extraction. In the 1930’s peat extraction began to take place in Burns Bog. This peat was used for agricultural purposes due to its ability to retain water, and as a fuel to heat homes. Peat was also used to help create weapons, as peat was an important catalyzer for magnesium, which was used in incendiary bombs. Two peat plants were established in Burns Bog.

In 1941, following Pearl Harbour, the United States had an increasing need for peat. Shipments from European countries were no longer available, and so they reached out to Canada to supply them with this valuable resource. Peat extraction ramped up in Burns Bog, and over 100,000 bales of peat were shipped to Nevada during the war. This extraction impacted nearly 70% of Burns Bog. Following the war, peat extraction was primarily for agricultural purposes.

In the 1950’s, a company called Western Peat constructed 16 kilometres of railway in Burns Bog.

Aerial shot of Burns Bog

1980s – 1990s: City Development

In the 1980’s, peat harvesting came to an end. In 1988, Western Delta Lands proposed a development which would create a deep-sea port on Burns Bog. This idea was met with strong opposition by the public, and was eventually rejected by Delta Council. This proposal was revamped and resubmitted in 1990 and 1991, but was rejected both times.

In 1996, the City of Vancouver, GVRD (now Metro Vancouver), and the city of Delta struck a deal to move the Vancouver Landfill to the southwest corner of Burns Bog.

In 1999, there was discussion about moving the PNE to Burns Bog, which would develop a portion, but also protect 1400 hectares. This prompted a full ecosystem review which can be found here.

The Burns Bog Boardwalk

2000s – Present: Ecological Covenant

In 2004, after years of public outcry, four levels of government purchased just over 5,000 acres of Burns Bog. The City of Delta, Metro Vancouver, and the Provincial and Federal government developed a management plan which was implemented in 2007, and placed the majority of the land under an ecological covenant. As for the other 3000 acres of Burns Bog, current land use is comprised of the landfill, non-use or agriculture, and development proposals. Visit our Threats to Burns Bog page to see how these developments could impact Burns Bog.