It is my honour to share with you the achievements and impact of our organization over the last year. These achievements are made possible only with your support — thank you to our members, donors, supporters, funders, Board of Directors and partners for sharing in this work.
Our race against the clock to halt and reverse the climate and biodiversity crises challenges us to be innovative in how we take action to defend wildlife, wild places and clean water, in how we inspire a love for the wild in our children and youth, and how we respond to the climate impacts in our communities — it challenges us to imagine new ways of living with the earth, instead of living from the earth, and to explore new models of conservation that support the leadership of the Indigenous nations who have stewarded these lands and waters for millennia.
Protecting old growth forests was at the heart of our work last year and we celebrated some big wins, like stopping the clearcutting of ancient forests in Argonaut Creek, home to endangered mountain caribou. Collective action and Indigenous leadership came together to halt logging on 247 hectares of Inland Temperate Rainforest. But for every hectare saved, many more are cut. Scientists issued a dire warning this year — the Inland Temperate Rainforest faces imminent ecological collapse if industrial harvesting continues apace. Our work shines the light on the need for an Indigenous-led conservation vision that protects the clean water, wildlife and carbon values of this globally unique rainforest.
Our Youth Climate Corps expanded to Kimberley-Cranbrook, connecting youth with training opportunities through community-based climate resilience work. Crew members worked on wildfire risk reduction projects, supported food recovery efforts, launched a unique agroforestry project, engaged in riparian restoration and were trained in permaculture design and water monitoring. YCC has formed many new partnerships in our communities and will continue to build bridges as we expand to our third community this year.
Inspiring kids with the magic of nature and supporting place-based inquiry learning remains a core pillar of our work. This year, we launched Teach the Columbia. Eleven unique lessons allow teachers to incorporate the past, present and future of the Columbia River into their classrooms.
And last but certainly not least, we welcomed Wildsight Revelstoke to the family as our 6th Wildsight Branch. The issues we face are complex and challenging and we are stronger when we work together to defend this place we call home.
Wildsight’s model is unique and for 35 years has proven to be very effective. Thank you for being part of this community, for believing in a future with old growth forests, clean water, abundant wildlife populations, climate resilient communities and inspired citizens.
Photo: Evan Dux
The Columbia and southern Rocky Mountains are one of the most important places for wildlife, intact ecosystems and clean water in North America. Grizzly bears and wolverines depend on the Columbia and Rocky Mountains for continental connectivity; the headwaters of the Columbia Wetlands form one of the longest intact wetlands on the continent; and one of the world’s only Inland Temperate Rainforests is home to ancient cedar-hemlock stands and endangered mountain caribou. Protecting this wild ecosystem has never been more important and will play a critical role in halting and reversing the biodiversity and climate crises. In facing this urgent task, we have a historic opportunity to support Indigenous-led conservation through Canada’s commitment to protect 30% of our lands and waters by 2030 – creating a future with clean water, wild places and healthy wildlife.
With your support, here are some of the things we accomplished last year.
Protecting our forests
Last year, the BC government committed to a paradigm shift for the forest industry, committing to all 14 recommendations of the Old Growth Strategic Review Panel, including the deferral of 2.6 million hectares of old growth forests. The polarised debate has pitted jobs against the environment instead of seeing this as an opportunity for a conservation economy that supports Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to transition towards sustainable forestry in a high-value, low-volume industry. Despite promises to protect old growth, cutting continues while forest companies record record-high profits. We continued our work for better forestry, from reviewing planned cutting to public campaigns and policy reform. Your increased support has allowed us to increase our focus on the Inland Temperate Rainforest and old growth protection throughout our region.
Inland Temperate Rainforest (ITR): Canada’s forgotten rainforest, globally unique and one of the best chances of survival for our local herd of 184 remaining southern mountain caribou, has become one of our priority landscapes. We’re working with scientists, Indigenous Nations, and through the collective power of local communities to protect this ecosystem and fight for a future for caribou, lichens and old growth.
Argonaut Creek: Significant pressure from Indigenous nations, partner eNGOs, and the public ensured an important section within the ITR received swift respite from the chainsaw. An act in two parts: in December of 2020, 276 hectares of proposed logging was halted after we stood up for old growth through a massive letter writing campaign. One year later, in conjunction with partner organisations, we collectively sent over 1200 letters. The government’s logging agency, BC Timber Sales, deferred the remaining cutblocks, meaning all 14 Argonaut Creek cutblocks are safe until the provincial mountain caribou herd planning process is complete.
Private Managed Forest Lands Act: We stood up to the BC’s private land logging laws and those using them to clearcut private lands. More than 1300 letters were sent to BC Minister of Forests Katrine Conroy and Premier John Horgan, calling for action to defend our communities from private clearcutting and protect our watersheds and wildlife habitat.
Improving forestry practices on the ground: We worked with forestry companies like Canfor and Downie Timber, and the province’s timber management company, BC Timber Sales (BCTS), to increase riparian protection and forest retention and to monitor High Conservation Value and endangered forests. With your support, we were able to put boots on the ground in crucial areas measuring trees, surveying future blocks and researching maps against old growth deferral areas and wildlife values, holding industry accountable and providing expert recommendations.
Advocating for wildlife
The ecosystem of the Columbia and Southern Rocky Mountains provides one of the best opportunities to mitigate climate impacts and maintain fish and wildlife diversity in North America. In the face of declining fish and wildlife populations across the globe, Wildsight is working in this unique landscape to maintain the functioning natural ecosystems that all living things depend upon.
Prioritising 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. We are working with a diverse group of stakeholders, demanding that the provincial government legislate ecosystem health and integrity as priorities in all land use and resource management decisions, as recommended in the Old Growth Strategic Review and the Together for Wildlife Strategy.
Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Coalition (FWHC) formed: In May of 2021, the FWHC was announced. The coalition of organisations, the largest ever seen in the province, includes 25 organisations representing a total of more than 300,000 British Columbians and more than 900 businesses across BC. Wildsight played a key role in forming this coalition, created to adequately deal with a mounting crisis of biodiversity loss and cumulative impacts on ecosystem health.
Together for Wildlife Strategy: John was appointed as a member of the BC Minister’s Wildlife Advisory Council, an independent panel of knowledgeable individuals each with a deep history of conservation in BC. The group of 18 was appointed by the province to advise and implement the Together for Wildlife Strategy that includes Indigenous knowledge and scientific approaches for wildlife stewardship.
Rocky Mountain Wildlife Corridor: The Flathead and Elk Valleys are critical pieces of the transboundary wildlife corridor that runs from Yellowstone to the Yukon. Field trips with Indigenous people and consistent input into development plans is keeping this region wild while we continue our efforts to bring about new land use designations that prioritise fish and wildlife habitat and Indigenous governance.
Reconnecting the Rockies: In 2021, the ongoing efforts to improve connectivity through the Highway 3 corridor began to come to fruition after a decade of persistence. Wildlife underpasses were created through the modification of bridges and the completion of a new bridge over Lizard Creek near Fernie. Monitoring of these sites with wildlife cameras demonstrates that the underpasses are working. Preliminary work was completed for fencing along almost 5 km of highway near the BC/Alberta border and once the fencing is installed it is anticipated that even more animals will use the crossing structures. The process and work to date was documented in a recent Canadian Geographic article.
Wolverines: We supported Dr. Tony Clevenger and Dr. Mike Sawaya to undertake a transboundary genetic analysis of wolverines to better understand wolverine populations, how they are connected, and landscape linkages across Western North America.
Recreation impacts: The burgeoning impacts of backcountry recreation remain a major issue for ecosystems and wildlife. Last year, we continued to provide information to the public on the proposed Zincton Resort, calling for a modernized land use plan that assesses the cumulative impacts of existing and proposed commercial and industrial tenures in the area. In the Columbia Valley, we continued work to establish a legal access management plan for the Columbia Valley, the only region in the East Kootenay without a formal plan.
Access Management: Roads are one of the greatest contributors to fish and wildlife habitat loss. Wildsight has successfully engaged both industry and government to reduce road density through deactivations which have been mandated through land use planning processes such as the Elk Valley Cumulative Effects Framework and insisting that new roads to access forestry cutblocks be deactivated.
Protecting 30% of our lands and waters by 2030: While Canada has committed to protecting 30% of our lands and waters by 2030, the BC government has yet to make the same commitment. We are working in coalition to urge the BC government to fulfil its promises to wildlife protection, DRIPA and old growth protection by joining with the Canadian government and committing to protecting 30% of BC lands and waters by 2030 through Indigenous-led conservation.
Defending our mountains and waters from coal mining
In March 2021, after nine years of investigation by Environment Canada, Teck received the largest environmental fine in Canadian history under the Fisheries Act for polluting waterways – but this historic fine has done little to halt the mounting water pollution crisis. In the Elk Valley today, selenium levels are even higher than they were back then. With no leadership from our government to address this issue and four new coal mines proposed for the Elk Valley, we are supporting the transboundary Ktunaxa nation in the call for the immediate pause to new mines until the selenium crisis is halted and the request for the International Joint Commission to intervene in the decades-long water pollution crisis in the transboundary Elk-Kootenay River system.
Increased capacity: In 2021, we recruited scientist Wyatt Petryshen to our team as Mining Coordinator to give us full time capacity on the coal mining file.
Navigating transboundary waters: Coal mining effluent remains a transboundary water quality issue with more than 100 square kilometres of open-pit coal mines in the Elk Valley sending polluted water far downstream through BC, Montana, and Idaho. For five years, experts on both sides of the border worked together to find a safe limit for selenium pollution in Lake Koocanusa, determining a scientific consensus of 0.8 parts per billion. Yet, the BC side continues to pollute well above this amount. As the province fails to step in, we urge the federal government to call in the International Joint Commision (IJC), set up under the longstanding Boundary Waters Treaty. The IJC can only be called if governments on both sides of the border call them in – and the US is ready to do so. Last year, nearly 200 of you wrote letters to the Canadian federal government, advocating that they call in the IJC for the sake of fish, birds, wildlife, and clean water.
Coal Mining Effluent Regulations: Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is at long last developing Coal Mining Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act to regulate mining effluent and reduce the risks to fish and their habitat by regulating the levels of harmful substances in mining waste, and set requirements for monitoring. Thanks to your support, our increased capacity has allowed us to participate heavily in this process to develop future Coal Mining Effluent Regulations.
Qat’Muk – Jumbo Wild
In November, the BC government introduced Bill 26 to the Legislature, which included measures to dissolve the Jumbo Municipality. The town should never have been created, but its dissolution is a necessary step in moving forward to establish the Qat’muk Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area. Its creation should serve as a stark reminder to our communities of what’s at stake when we lose local democratic process and accountability in land-use decision making. But after 30 years of fighting to defend Qat’muk/Jumbo, we can celebrate the protection and stewardship of this special place under the leadership of the Ktunaxa Nation, as the Qat’muk Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area is created. Now, the fight continues to protect the surrounding areas in the Purcells.
Columbia River Treaty
Ongoing negotiations to modernize the Columbia River Treaty are an incredible opportunity to restore some of the ecological, cultural and economic losses from the damming of the Columbia River. In a parallel effort, the Ktunaxa, Secwepemc and Syilx Okanagan Nations are leading efforts to return salmon to the Upper Columbia alongside Indigenous counterparts in the U.S. These three nations are also members of the Canadian CRT negotiating team working collaboratively with Canada and B.C. Our efforts through the Upper Columbia Basin Environmental Collaborative are focused on increasing holistic ecological function in a modernized CRT system. We are also working to amplify Indigenous-led work on salmon reintroduction.
It’s not enough just to protect the places we love right now. If we want them to remain protected into the future, we need to inspire the next generation to love them. It has been proven that wild experiences in nature as youth help form adults who will take positive environmental action – and our programs, from introductory ecology classes to multi-week in-depth studies not only teach our kids how to read maps, but also about how love for a place can form the roadmap to who they will become. After two decades of programming in Columbia and Rocky Mountain communities, we have had the great joy of watching students grow up in our programs and go on to be conscious stewards of this planet, including joining our teams as adults!
Our education programs have always been about holistic change across the whole community. It is not only the youth who receive environmental education, but teachers who acquire the confidence to carry on with genuine explorations of our wild world for years to come. We know education is the key to real change, and we look forward to supporting environmental education in our communities into the future.
Education in the Wild
Winter Wonder: We want even the littlest learners to understand the beauty, importance, and wonder of the world around us. Last year, our Winter Wonder program introduced 97 primary classrooms in 23 communities to the magic of winter ecology. 1790 kids got to explore the winter survival strategies of our local species like hibernation, food shortage and foraging. Together, we peered at thousands of snow crystals and followed animal tracks in the snow, some exploring our wild backyards in the winter this way for the very first time.
Nature Through the Seasons: Each Nature Through the Seasons journey is a collaboration between students, teachers, and our experienced educators — working together to tune into the rhythms of seasonal change and learn from our wild backyards in every season. Over the course of the year, 16 classes experienced a full cycle of activities to bring nature into the classroom each month.
Nature Through the Seasons continues to grow beyond environmental education resources. It is a community where teachers can expand their outdoor learning toolkit and share their experiences with colleagues. An experience where more than 400 students connect to and learn from nature all year long – and an opportunity where families of students can participate with take-home learning for the summer season.
Classrooms with Outdoors: No matter where students live, there is a nearby opportunity to experience nature up close and hands-on. Our Classroom with Outdoors program connected 822 kids in 22 communities with the natural world through activities and games during day-long field trips to local grasslands, wetlands and forests. We also supported teachers in 46 classrooms with pre and post-trip lessons and resources so the learning continues even when kids are back in the class.
EcoStewards: EcoStewards continues to break down barriers for dedicated teachers who’ve worked with us before in other education programs to deepen and enrich their student’s ecological learning. Guided by the passion and interests of each class who undertakes a project, we supported teachers and students to design, plan, and carry out 19 student-led EcoSteward projects last year. Whether carrying out a community-science initiative such as a species count, fostering student focused inquiry-based learning, or restoring a local ecosystem, eight communities across the region received the meaningful benefits this program fosters.
Our Beyond Recycling program is a classroom based environmental education program unlike any other. Last year, 434 students went on an intense deep-dive into the impacts of our lifestyle choices and sustainability through a 20-week curriculum where we investigated ecological footprints, undertook product lifecycle studies, and sought ways to make better choices with the things we buy, the things we throw away, and the cumulative impact of our lifestyle choices.
With an amazing team of 11 educators, Beyond Recycling continues to provide action-oriented and solutions-focused development for youth stewards in our local communities. While COVID continued to impact school-based programming, our team was able to pivot and adapt to connect with students in-class, outdoors or online as school restrictions dictated.
Know Your Watershed
The 2020/21 school year saw the successful running of Know Your Watershed, a Columbia Basin Trust program managed and delivered by Wildsight, for the 11th year! This program enriches appreciation and understanding of local watersheds, including drinking and wastewater issues and the impacts of climate change.
We delivered Know Your Watershed to 23 schools in 16 communities. With 36 regular programs, 11 student action projects, and 13 deep-learning initiatives, Know Your Watershed effectively reached more than 1,120 students in spite of the variables COVID-19 brought to our more traditional face-to-face program delivery.
Columbia River Field School & Go Wild!
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we were unable to run Columbia River Field School and Go Wild! Programs this year. However, we are looking forward to the return of both these programs in the summer of 2022.
Youth Climate Corps
Wildsight’s Youth Climate Corps seeks to connect, inspire, and empower young adults interested in tackling the climate crisis. We work together to minimize the impacts of climate change while building a more resilient future. Our crews address climate change at the local level, directly in their communities and the ecosystems that surround them.
After a successful launch of the Youth Climate Corps program in the fall of 2020 in the West Kootenay, we were able to run a second West Kootenay crew season in 2021, as well expand to Kimberley/Cranbrook. Crews partnered with community leaders and experts to work on projects as varied as wildfire risk reduction, ecosystem restoration and local food systems.
The Youth Climate Corps has now trained 24 young adults. 2022 is set to continue the momentum, with crews hired for Kimberley/Cranbrook and the West Kootenay.
While we continue to seek sustainable expansion of our Youth Climate Corps program across the Columbia Basin, our partners at the national Youth Climate Corps are working to grow this successful model across the country.
Photo: Kari Medig
Wildsight’s roots run deep. We are embedded in the communities that first planted our organization. Over the past 35 years, our community branches: Golden, Invermere, Kimberley and Cranbrook, the Elk Valley, and Creston, have grown a small seed of an idea into a healthy organization that thrives because of its people, its passion, and its perseverance.
In January 2021, we celebrated the addition of a new branch, Wildsight Revelstoke. With a deep history in the community, the previously named North Columbia Environmental Society represented the environmental issues that concern residents of Revelstoke for more than 20 years. With similar missions, we have long stood together in support of wilderness protections and now have greater capacity to undertake effective work on sustainable community development, large landscape conservation, and critical habitat protection across the area.
With increasing demands on our natural world, relocalizing is critical. Wildsight works collaboratively with our community branches on local initiatives that promote sustainability, food security, ecosystem enhancement, public engagement in issues that impact the region, conservation projects and more. Despite the challenges that COVID-19 brought to in-person gatherings and regular programming, branches adapted and came up with creative ways to connect to their communities from virtual film fests and online webinars, to auctions and engagement opportunities.
*This report covers Wildsight’s fiscal year from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021.
**Misc includes contracts, events, interest, market value adjustments and other miscellaneous revenue. Donations also include memberships.
Ambler Mountain Works
Arjay R. and Frances F. Miller Foundation
City of Nelson
College of the Rockies
Columbia Basin Trust
Columbia Shuswap Regional District
Columbia Valley Community Foundation
Community Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Golden and District Community Foundation
John and Barbara Poole Family Funds at Edmonton Community Foundation
Kimberley and District Community Foundation
Kootenay Career Development Society
Nature Conservancy of Canada
Osprey Community Foundation
Province of BC
Real Estate Foundation of BC
Regional District of Central Kootenay
Regional District of Fraser Fort George
Revelstoke Community Foundation
TD Friends of the Environment
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!