When I reflect on the last year, I see the strength of a deeply rooted organization that was able to adapt, pivot and thrive in spite of the global pandemic. We face increasingly urgent crises — an unparalleled biodiversity crisis, a climate crisis that threatens to destabilize earth’s natural systems and a global pandemic that has brought the world to its knees. Locally, we are seeing increasing selenium pollution in the Elk and Kootenay Rivers, clear cutting of our old growth forests, declining wildlife populations. I find hope in the power of our collective action and in the resilience of nature. And I find strength in the Wildsight community, working to make change in our communities and protect nature.
This year, we celebrated the end of a 30-year saga when the Ktunaxa announced the Qat’muk Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA) to protect the grizzly spirit and bears of the Jumbo Valley. For 30 years, our communities rallied against the proposed four-season ski resort through protests, monitoring camps, photo contests, a Patagonia feature-length documentary, even a four-part symphony performed on a glacier. What began as an issue that divided our communities emerged as an issue that brought us together, that built bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, that united us behind our shared values and our commitment to defend this wild place. The Qat’muk IPCA will be a model of what we can achieve through conservation that is guided by indigenous leadership. We can’t wait to see Qat’muk protected forever.
We have an opportunity to come together as a community and create a different future, to protect nature, to take real climate action, to inspire our youth about the magic and importance of nature. We have seen that our actions make a difference and this year we saw real progress on a number of important issues, but there is still so much more to do. Our voices matter, our actions matter — together, we can make a difference.
Thank you for standing with us to create a world where nature and humans thrive and to find solutions for the challenges we face.
Photo: Jana Malinek
Canada’s Columbia and Rocky Mountain region is home to a diverse range of plants and animals, and has been identified as one of the best places to protect in the face of a changing climate. This opportunity challenges us to take effective action.
It’s an uphill battle as we face decreasing wildlife populations and less and less truly intact landscapes, and the continued invasion from industrial and recreational pursuits putting pressure on the already-stressed environment. But we’re primed and ready for the challenge that lies before us. Our conservation efforts start from an up-close-and-personal approach: studies of cutblocks, walking the ground to see the risks from clearcutting, measuring the water to test for selenium – the data gathering that can only be collected from getting our boots dirty and our backs sweaty. We bring those findings to the table: we meet with government officials, politicians, bureaucrats, industry leaders, and Indigenous Nations. Together, we can bring further protections to our diminishing planet, and help stem the tide of climate change. Through science-based research, and in collaboration with partners across the board, we focus on areas with high biodiversity values and long term impacts, and use our connections at the grassroots level to make our collective voice heard.
The year in numbers
We asked, and you answered! Letters, phone calls, sharing with your friends and family — here’s a look back at how many of you spoke up for wildlife, wilderness and clean water.
2340 spoke up against the Zincton Resort proposal
1150 weighed in on the proposed Castle coal mine
943 stood up to protect our old growth forests
For nearly 30 years, our communities have rallied to defend the Jumbo Valley from the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort. This year, decades of dedication, passion and action to protect this wild place paid off; we celebrated the Ktunaxa Nation’s declaration to establish the Qat’muk Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area. Now that its heart will be kept wild, we look to the larger Purcells region in need of protection.
Defending our mountains from coal mining
More than 100 square kilometres of open-pit coal mines scar the Rocky Mountains in the Elk Valley and send polluted water far downstream through BC, Montana and Idaho. A new mine proposal from Teck Resources would lock in much more coal mining — until 2070 — and take down a mountain that is important grassland habitat for bighorn sheep. Working with First Nations and partners on both sides of the border, we demanded the federal Environment Minister take on a federal environmental assessment of the Castle mine, because past provincial assessments haven’t seriously grappled with the impacts of coal mining. After the public spoke up for the assessment, the Minister agreed.
Our fight continues against coal mining in the Elk Valley that destroys wildlife habitat, kills fish and pollutes our rivers for centuries, and locks in carbon pollution for decades. From bringing independent science and a voice for wild places to the four environmental assessments for new mines in the Elk Valley to pushing for stronger water pollution limits at the provincial, federal and international levels, we’re working to defend our future from the toxic legacy of coal mining.
Protecting our forests
Preserving old growth: Much of the globally unique Inland Temperate Rainforest remains unprotected. We are working with groups from across the province to push the provincial government to update its forestry and land use policy that currently prioritizes industry over ecosystems. Recently, thousands of you demanded the government’s own logging agency stop plans to log critical caribou habitat and old growth forest north of Revelstoke. Thanks to this collective call to action, the government deferred much of the planned logging in this region.
Improving forestry practices on the ground: We undertook detailed reviews of proposed logging plans and field trips with logging companies that frequently result in changes to logging plans, including increasing buffers around rivers and streams, preserving safe passageways for wildlife and protecting the range of plants and trees found in the area.
Private land logging: Last year, we continued the fight to reform private land logging regulations. The Kootenays have a legacy of large private land parcels. Our communities and local governments are united in the need for these reforms, but the BC government has done little to address our community concerns. We will continue to push for much needed reforms that require private land logging adhere to the same regulations as logging on crown land.
Advocating for wildlife
Wolverines: We are uniquely positioned to share science and on the ground knowledge with the public to build pressure for changes at all levels of government and bureaucracy. An example of this is our work to protect wolverines, starting with the Chasing A Trace film tour. More than 1,200 people come out to 13 events across the Columbia Basin to hear researchers speak about the need for protection for this special creature. We used our networks to support ending wolverine trapping in the Kootenays; in June, the Province announced a wolverine trapping ban in the Kootenay and Columbia region as part of new hunting and trapping regulations.
Reconnecting the Rockies: More than 1,600 animals are killed every year on the Highway 3 corridor through the Elk Valley. Alongside our partners Y2Y and the Miistakis Institute, we are advancing solutions to improve wildlife connectivity in this travel corridor within the Crown of the Continent, a globally significant region for wildlife.
Thanks to the work of our coalition, construction is underway near Jaffray for two kilometres of fencing and a wildlife underpass. In 2020, the new Lizard Creek bridge was completed — the first bridge in the region to include a wildlife crossing beneath it. These structures will help save wildlife, and people, as animals navigate this busy highway that cuts through their homes.
Zincton: In a pitch that echoes Jumbo, a developer wants to build a four-season resort over 55 square kilometres in the Selkirk Mountains near New Denver. Zincton would host up to 1,500 skiers daily and include real estate development and year round recreation in the middle of important wildlife habitat. Advocates united in a call to stop this development with more than 2,300 of our supporters speaking up to defend the wild Selkirk Mountains. We will continue to use science, people power and local knowledge to stand up against development in the Selkirks.
Recreation impacts: Out of control backcountry recreation has a major impact on our ecosystems and wildlife. Last year, our voices helped to stop motorized trails in the Purcells and backcountry lodge proposals in the Rockies and Purcells. The Columbia Valley remains the only area in the East Kootenay without a legal access management plan – we continue work to establish one. The growing network of resource roads and the people and vehicles that it brings into the backcountry are stressing our wildlife populations, leaving them few refuges. We continue to push the forest industry to use temporary roads and to rehabilitate roads in critical areas for wildlife.
Prioritizing wildlife and ecosystems: Under BC’s laws, wildlife and ecosystems come second to industry. We have no Species at Risk legislation to protect our at-risk wildlife. Last year, we worked with a diverse group of stakeholders to demand the government prioritize our wildlife.
Photo: Julie-Anne Davies
Kids who learn to love nature grow up to be adults who love and care for our planet. This is the foundation of our Environmental Education programs. Through eight distinct programs, we provide opportunities for our tiniest Kindergarten kids to our graduating Grade 12 students to explore their wild backyards and grow in their understanding, and love, of these wild places.
Despite COVID-19’s impact on traditional classroom learning, we were still able to connect more than 2,800 students across the Columbia Basin to nature in the last school year.
Winter Wonder opened up the world of our snowiest season to 1,780 students in 93 classes from Kindergarten through Grade 3. When we hear feedback like one student who exclaimed, “This is better than my LEGO birthday party,” we know we’re on the right track to engaging students in the natural world around them.
Nature Through the Seasons is a year-long learning journey connecting students to the ebb and flow of seasonal change. Through educator-led sessions and a year long mentoring opportunity for teachers, Nature Through the Seasons results in a deeper understanding of and connection to nature for both students and teachers. This past year, Nature Through the Seasons reached 416 students in 16 classes.
540 students in 22 classes became ecosystem scientists during full-day field trips through Classroom with Outdoors. This is an incredible program, but don’t take our word for it. Here’s what one Grade 4 student said: “I liked going to the big tree and being active all day long because I haven’t been so active and relaxed in a very long time.”
EcoStewards involved 68 Grade 4-7 students in stewardship action projects. The EcoStewards program is guided by the passion and interests of each class who undertakes their very own stewardship project.
Online Learning Resources
When COVID-19 struck, our Education team was quick to pivot to an online platform for learning, incorporating a variety of educational resources with easy-to-use materials for home-based learning. With learners accessing resources from across BC, Canada, and even internationally, we found a way to take students outdoors, even when we couldn’t gather together.
“The weekly newsletters were excellent,” wrote one teacher about our online resources, echoing many other comments we heard during and after these lessons were developed. “I took many of the ideas and posted them on our school website and included others in my emailed lessons to parents. Thank you Wildsight for many fresh, interactive and engaging outdoor lessons for connecting students and families to nature.”
Beyond Recycling takes students on a 24-week journey to explore energy, water, consumption and the impacts of our lifestyles on the planet. Last year, Beyond Recycling reached 615 students in 25 classrooms across the Columbia Basin.
When classroom sessions were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, we were able to turn Beyond Recycling into web-based learning opportunities, through three video lessons, three EcoChallenge investigations and 24 comprehensive student lessons including podcasts, videos, hands-on activities and journaling opportunities.
Know Your Watershed
Know your Watershed, a Columbia Basin Trust program managed and delivered by Wildsight for Grade 9 students, enriches appreciation and understanding of local watersheds, including drinking and wastewater issues and the impacts of climate change. We successfully delivered 33 such programs in 14 schools across the Basin in fall 2019. When COVID-19 brought classroom learning to a standstill, our Educators created a series of ten distinct lesson plans with videos and hands-on, home-based lessons. Last fall, our team worked hard to bring Know Your Watershed back into Basin classrooms through a modified program that follows School District-specific restrictions.
Photo: Evan Dux
Our communities are where we live, work, and play. With increasing demands on our natural world, re-localizing is critical. Our work to promote sustainable communities includes the work we do to lessen our carbon footprint, increase food security, reduce conflict and coexist with wildlife in our communities.
Youth Climate Corps
We launched the Youth Climate Corps in the fall of 2020 alongside several partners. This program empowers young people to find and implement solutions to the climate crisis.
Our inaugural crew of 14 young adults was based in the West Kootenay. The crew completed a wildfire risk reduction project near Nelson’s water supply area, drew up plans for a local farm to incorporate longer term sustainability measures, and undertook small group projects to further the program’s reach and their understanding of key topics of concern. Along the way, crew members gained skills beneficial for future careers that are both personally fulfilling, and help our society meet the climate change challenge.
We hope to secure funding to expand this program to other Kootenay communities in 2021.
Wildsight works collaboratively with our autonomous branches on initiatives that promote local sustainability. In the last year, branch-led initiatives included the launch of an electric car share program in Invermere and a green mapping project in Creston; promoting local food in Fernie and Kimberley / Cranbrook, and a Golden-led study on swallows in the Columbia wetlands. These very tangible projects lead to big changes, and we’re proud to be a part of these initiatives.
While it was outside the last fiscal year, we are too excited to not share the latest branch-related news. In January 2021, we welcomed Wildsight’s newest branch to the team, Wildsight Revelstoke!
This report covers Wildsight’s fiscal year from October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020. Read our full audited financials here.
Misc includes contracts, events, interest, market value adjustments and other miscellaneous revenue. Donations also includes memberships.
Photo: Justin Keitch
Ambler Mountain Works
Columbia Basin Trust
Columbia Shuswap Regional District
Columbia Valley Community Foundation
Community Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies
Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program
Golden and District Community Foundation
John and Barbara Poole Family Funds at Edmonton Community Foundation
Kootenay Savings Credit Union
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council
Province of BC
Real Estate Foundation of BC
Regional District of Central Kootenay
Regional District of Fraser Fort George
Regional District of Kootenay Boundary
Western Mining Action Network
Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative
Thanks to our incredible individual donors and funders for supporting Wildsight this past year. We are so grateful for you!