We care about what we know – which is why the fate of Canada’s diverse ecosystems and the plants and animals they support lies partly in ensuring Canadians have opportunities to explore the country’s wild places and natural landscapes.
For Coral Russell-Dobbs, introducing her seven-year-old daughter Jade to the ecosystems of B.C. is an essential part of her child’s education.
“I want my daughter to learn about the unique places in B.C., and to be aware that many species are becoming endangered due to development,” says Russell-Dobbs. “I want her to learn first-hand how important it is to protect and conserve these places and species.”
The mother-daughter team recently came out to a Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) volunteer event on James Island, near Victoria. The pair joined a crew of enthusiastic volunteers in cleaning up a beach and pulling Scotch broom, an invasive plant that has been damaging the island’s sensitive sand spits, which are protected by NCC.
“We learned about the native plants on the island and how broom has taken over,” says Russell-Dobbs. “We planted some native wildflowers and then had a chance to explore.”
The two also joined a group of families, couples, naturalists and students at an event in Moorecroft Regional Park near Nanaimo on Vancouver Island where they hiked and learned first hand about ferns, frogs and trees from an NCC staff biologist.
Events like these not only help Canadians experience and care for nature, they also help NCC steward the over 2.7 million acres of land the conservation organization has helped to conserve since 1962.
“NCC was started by a small group of plucky naturalists who believed in the importance of protecting our best national places for future generations,” says Erica Thompson, NCC’s senior director of national conservation engagement and development.
Today NCC is Canada’s leading private land conservation organization and Canada’s only national land trust.
“To identify, secure, conserve and restore natural areas across the country, we partner with landowners, corporations, conservation groups and all levels of government,” says Thompson. “We then follow through by finding ways to share these natural places with Canadians, encouraging them to connect with the natural world.”
One way that NCC reaches out to Canadians is through its Conservation Volunteers program. Events like those attended by Russell-Dobbs and her daughter are offered year-round from coast to coast.
“These events address priority conservation actions,” says Thompson. “They’re important projects identified by our staff to care for our natural spaces – from installing boardwalks and removing invasive plant species to doing waterfowl surveys and butterfly counts.”
The organization also offers the Nature Days program to build opportunities for urban youth to spend time in nature at NCC properties with their school and experience the sights, smells and sounds of streams, forests and grasslands up close.
“When scientist and poet Robert Michael Pyle asked ‘What is the extinction of the condor to a child who’s never known a wren?’, he reminded us of the importance of building personal connections to place, creating experiences that lead to curiosity and wonder about the natural world,” says Thompson. “We care about what we know. At NCC, conservation includes community engagement. The two go hand in hand.”