As I reflect on the impacts of the past year, I see the common threads of passion, commitment and tenacity that have woven through Wildsight since our humble beginning. Our success is possible only with your support – thank you to our donors, funders, supporters, members and partners – thank you for sharing in this work and walking together for a better tomorrow.
The heart of our work is to inspire a conservation ethic in our communities and a paradigm shift in how we view our relationship to nature, one based on reciprocity instead of hierarchy. This is long-term, generational change, and together, we are making a difference.
We are inspiring the next generation through education programs that inspire love and awe for nature and instil a connection to place, supporting children and youth to develop a relationship with nature based on respect. Last year, we reached more than 3000 students through our school-based programs, bringing the total number of children and youth reached through our programs to nearly 100,000! Our immersive field programs took 25 teenagers out to learn from the land and disconnect from our digital realities.
We are empowering young adults to make a difference in the greatest challenge of this generation, the climate crisis. Through our Youth Climate Corps, we are providing skills training, leadership development and paid opportunities to take local climate action directly in our communities and the ecosystems that surround them. Last year, our two crews engaged in restoration, wildfire risk reduction, energy retrofits and more, and this year, we will be expanding to Golden, our third community.
We are advocating for policy reform to change how we manage natural resources, placing legal values on biodiversity, water and wildlife and increasing the amount of protected lands and waters. We are at an historic moment of possibility with Canada and BC committing to protecting 30% of our lands and waters by 2030 through Indigenous-led conservation and the Columbia and southern Rocky Mountains are cornerstones to achieving this vision. Our conservation team is looked to across the province – and country – as leaders in this field, leading the push for old growth protection in the globally unique Inland Temperate Rainforest, maintaining the transboundary Rocky Mountain wildlife corridor, shining the spotlight on the need for mining reform and new models to steward the transboundary Kootenay River and increasing safe passage for wildlife on our highways. We are uniquely positioned with our feet on the ground and in the field here at home, and in the halls of power in Victoria.
Wildsight is a community of people grounded in a deep connection to the lands and waters we call home, working together in hope, with creativity and resilience. Thank you for being a part of this community.
Photo: Joe Riis / ILCP
Fully functioning intact ecosystems, clean water and important wildlife habitat – these are some of the incredible things that make the Columbia and southern Rocky Mountains one of the most critical places for conservation in North America. This region is a mecca for continental connectivity, ensuring species from the largest of grizzly bears to vulnerable birds like the long-billed curlew have places to rest, move through, and make home. The Columbia Wetlands are one of the longest intact wetlands on the continent. The Inland Temperate Rainforest is home to ancient old growth forests and the last stand for the southernmost mountain caribou herd. The Southern Rocky Mountain Wildlife Corridor is recognized internationally as the most important corridor to maintain continental wildlife movements.
BC’s biodiversity is unparalleled, but so is our list of species at risk. Together, we have a responsibility to protect the rich ecosystems of the Columbia and Rocky Mountain regions for future generations. We find ourselves at an historic crossroads with the opportunity to protect 30% of our lands and waters by 2030 through Indigenous-led conservation. The time is now.
With your support, here are some of the things we accomplished last year.
Protecting our forests
With visions of a brighter future for forests and forestry, we continue to push for better industry practices, policy reform and land use decisions that prioritize Indigenous-led conservation and support communities. A year has passed since the BC government promised to protect old growth, but despite deferrals, cutting continued while forest companies reaped record-high profits and abandoned local mills. From field reviews to public campaigns, your ongoing support allowed us to deepen our work on the old growth campaign in places like the Inland Temperate Rainforest.
Policy reform: We have focussed on advancing policy reform to advance the paradigm shift in how BC’s forests are managed. After several years of pushing for revisions to the Forest Range and Practices Act (FRPA), regulation changes are finally underway. We have continued to advocate for the full implementation of the Old Growth Strategic Review’s Recommendations. We are very engaged with the province in the recommendation to develop and implement a Biodiversity and Healthy Ecosystems Law that would prioritize biodiversity values across decision making in all ministries.
Forestry reviews and reducing the annual allowable cut: Our focus for forestry plan reviews in 2022 were rooted in changing the fundamental paradigm in how we log, how much we log and how we manage natural resources in this province, with an emphasis on improved practices and outcomes for wildlife, ecosystems and water. Several logging plans in areas we reviewed were changed to incorporate movement corridors, partial retention, and larger riparian buffers. These piecemeal wins are very important, but the overwhelming and cumulative impacts that continue are daunting as the annual allowable cuts are still being set unsustainably and too high for wildlife and local ecosystems. We’re actively engaged in discussions around the Kootenay Lake, Golden, and Revelstoke Timber Supply Reviews requesting significant reductions in annual allowable cut levels.
Inland Temperate Rainforest: There is a lot we don’t yet know about the world’s only remaining inland temperate rainforest (ITR). As industrial harvest continues, we don’t understand the scale and scope of what we are losing. Estimated to be one of the world’s most lichen-rich forests, we launched a project to document what is at stake with renowned lichenologist Dr. Toby Spribille, to identify, assess, and advocate for the protection of endangered ITR old growth forest. The study is ongoing, but we have already documented rare and at-risk lichen species and their old growth habitats, including two COSEWIC-listed threatened species, one extremely rare macrolichen, and several other rare and uncommon species in just three potential cutblocks in the Seymour-Blais area.
New mediums of digital advocacy and engagement: We launched new content on Instagram and TikTok to raise the profile of the Inland Temperate Rainforest and Wildsight through our ITR Tuesdays video series. These ITR-focused videos have been viewed by more than 30,000 people across the globe. In addition, the ITR and our work has been featured heavily in provincial and national media.
In the summer we launched The Secret’s Out! campaign – over 1600 of you wrote letters and signed the petition to demand an end to old growth logging in the ITR! We’re continuing to work 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 across the ITR.
Advocating for wildlife
The Columbia and Rocky Mountains remain instrumental for wildlife connectivity, incredible biodiversity, and the mitigation of climate impacts in North America. But, threats continue to rise for biodiversity and ecosystem health across the region, nation and world. From the biggest of grizzlies to the tiniest of skinks, the heart of our work remains in maintaining this unique landscape and its functioning natural ecosystems that all living things depend upon.
BC Minister’s Wildlife Advisory Council: John continues to participate in the BC Minister’s Wildlife Advisory Council, an important avenue to pursue legislative and regulatory change provincially. The council is tasked with implementing the Together for Wildlife (T4W) strategy which includes Indigenous knowledge and scientific approaches for wildlife stewardship.
East Kootenay Regional Wildlife and Habitat Advisory Committee: We have also been instrumental in the formation of the East Kootenay Regional Wildlife and Habitat Advisory Committee with the goal of setting legal objectives for wildlife and habitat in concert with First Nations and the province throughout the East Kootenay region.
BC Fish and Wildlife Coalition: We have continued to be very engaged in the BC Fish and Wildlife Coalition, working with this multi-stakeholder group (hunters, trappers, guides, tourism operators, ENGOs) to influence provincial wildlife policy, legislation and regulation.
Biodiversity and ecosystem health law: 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 biodiversity as priorities in all land use and resource management decisions, as recommended in the Old Growth Strategic Review and the Together for Wildlife Strategy.
Southern Rocky Mountain Wildlife Corridor: The Flathead and Elk Valleys are critical pieces of the transboundary Southern Rocky Mountain Wildlife Corridor, key to maintaining core wildlife habitat and connectivity in the Yellowstone to the Yukon transboundary corridor. 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 prioritize fish and wildlife habitat and incorporate Indigenous knowledge.
Protecting 30% of our lands and waters by 2023: After Canada joined the global conservation movement by committing to protecting 30% of Canada’s lands and water by 2030, British Columbia was slow to sign on. However, after the efforts of a provincial coalition that we co-led, we were gratified to have Premier David Eby commit British Columbia to meeting the 30×30 target. The ongoing development of a Nature Agreement between Indigenous Nations, BC and Canada will be key to the success of 30×30.
Reconnecting the Rockies: After years of planning, momentum on Highway 3 and the Reconnecting the Rockies project is taking off. Over two kilometres of wildlife fencing and four underpasses were installed to ensure safe passage for wildlife along this dangerous but critical corridor area, with more work ongoing.
Along a lethal stretch of highway near Radium, we continue to make headway pushing for a wildlife crossing for the bighorn sheep. Backed up by your support in a massive letter-writing campaign which 1533 of you wrote for, meetings with the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure resulted in Indigenous highway guardians and a speed limit reduction throughout the most deadly zone.
Defending our mountains and waters from coal mining
Mining in the Elk Valley has come under increased public scrutiny this year as Teck received the largest environmental fine in Canadian history, $60 million dollars for impacts on fisheries from mines in the Elk Valley, and just recently another for over $16 million. We continue to advance solutions to the transboundary selenium pollution crisis and support the transboundary Ktunaxa Nation in calling for a joint reference to the International Joint Commission on the Elk-Kootenay River system, raising the pressure on BC and Canada to deal with the ongoing pollution issues and put a stop to further coal mines or expansion projects until there is a solution to the selenium crisis.
Policy engagement and public comments: Legislation regulating coal mining effluent is long overdue in Canada. We are actively engaged and have completed an extensive review of the proposed federal Coal Mining Effluent Regulations (CMER) being developed by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). We are advocating that the regulations meaningfully reduce the risk harmful substances released in coal mining effluent pose to fish and fish habitat. Our submitted comments have been supplemented by meetings with senior staff at ECCC as well as Natural Resources Canada.
We are also engaged in the modernization of BC’s Natural Gas Royalty Framework and the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation to integrate mining into land-use planning. We have reviewed and submitted comments on newly proposed coal mines and coal mine expansions (Fording River Expansion Project; Tent Mountain Redevelopment Project).
Studying fugitive dust emissions through moss biomonitoring: In order to understand the extent and spatial distribution of contamination from fugitive dust emitted from Elk Valley coal mines surrounding the town of Sparwood, our Mining Policy and Impacts Researcher examined the elemental concentrations of selenium and other potentially toxic elements in local moss species from the region. This study helps shed light on environmental contaminants outside the often discussed water quality concerns and highlights the need to further understand the risk fugitive dust poses to the environment and community health. The article is currently under review in Environmental Geochemistry and Health special issues: Environmental Impact and Health Risk Assessment Due to Coal Mining and Utilization.
Gitxaała and the Mineral Tenures Act case: We are participating as intervenors in a case brought forth by the Gitxaala challenging legislation under the Mineral Tenures Act that currently allows for mineral claims to be made without the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples. This case will be precedent setting.
Columbia River Treaty and Indigenous-led salmon reintroduction
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 Columbia River Treaty negotiating team working collaboratively with Canada and B.C.
Our efforts through the Upper Columbia Basin Environmental Collaborative are focused on increasing holistic ecosystem function in a modernized CRT system. We are also working to amplify Indigenous-led work on salmon reintroduction. It appears that treaty negotiations between Canada and the U.S. are getting closer to an agreement. On behalf of its partners on the Canadian negotiating team, the Province of B.C. has committed to engage with Columbia Basin residents once an agreement in principle has been reached but before a deal is finalized. We stand ready to engage productively with all opportunities that may arise.
Photo: Morgan Mitchinson
We protect what we love and know. Ecological literacy and building knowledge to face an uncertain future has never been more important than in this moment right now. Instilling a connection to nature, and to place, has been a part of our organization for over two decades, and has fostered a love for the wild in over 100,000 kids across our region. With your support, our programs continue to inspire and initiate lasting generational change by educating the wild stewards of tomorrow, and by providing the tools teachers and educators need to bring environmental education into their own classrooms.
There is hope in getting youth into nature. From our immersive programs where youth spend up to two weeks paddling wetlands by canoe, traversing glaciers, or summiting incredible peaks, to our unique 24-week Beyond Recycling program that takes kids on a journey to create positive change in their own lives and communities, we know firsthand how powerful environmental education is for our kids and the planet in times ahead. Some of these kids grow up to fight for nature in their careers and lives, now passing on their love of the wild to their own kids. That’s a powerful, generational shift that starts right here, with environmental education.
Here are some of the highlights from our education programs this year that we made happen together.
Education in the Wild
Winter Wonder: Each winter, thousands of students across the Columbia Basin turn into snow scientists and storytellers with the snowy landscape as their inspiration and muse. Learning the stories of the land and tuning into the voices of the plants and animals who live here, students learn about the special adaptations required to survive the long cold winter, and why this season is so important to our local ecosystems. Our young scientists practice their skills, meticulously studying the shapes of snowflakes with magnifiers, following fresh animal tracks, looking for traces of life, and of course, performing the very scientific snowflake dance. Last year, 1,717 students from 23 communities stepped out into the wintry world discovering the magic of winter.
Nature Through the Seasons: One of our most sought after programs, Nature Through the Seasons, draws students to learn from our natural world and explore the seasons all year long. Wildsight educators support teachers by leading four seasonal visits and providing resources and tips and tricks to build an outdoor teaching practice. More than 400 students became deeply connected to special places in nearby nature, learning about the ebb and flow of the seasons through exploration, investigation, and play.
In 2022, teachers across the Columbia Basin were also invited to participate in four virtual Nature Through the Seasons professional development workshops led by Wildsight educators to help deepen and expand their outdoor teaching practices.
Classrooms with Outdoors: Classroom with Outdoors is about learning from the land and understanding our connection to it. In 2022, 1,057 kids from 22 communities listened and connected to the stories of the land through hands-on learning. Through a day-long field trip to their local grassland, wetland or forest, students explored the unique ecosystems that exist all around us and the services these ecosystems provide. Studying ecology through an inquisitive and place-based lens provides the scaffolding for elementary school students to develop a deep connection to the wild places where they live, and in turn, a desire to protect these places.
EcoStewards: From collecting lichen for local caribou maternity pens to planting hundreds of native plants to re-wild local parks, more than 300 students from across the Kootenay and Columbia regions made tangible and meaningful differences in their communities. Thirteen unique EcoSteward projects took place this year, each one with a focus on being stewards of, and champions for, the wild places that we live in. Students and teachers, with the help of their Wildsight educator, designed, planned and implemented projects, making them truly relevant and community-specific.
The 2021/22 school year was the 13th year for Beyond Recycling, a classroom-based Environmental Education program Wildsight delivers across the Columbia Basin. This program provides solutions-focused learning that allows students to recognize not only the impact of their lifestyle choices, but also highlights the importance of individual action.
With 11 dedicated educators, we partnered alongside 20 classroom teachers to bring this program to 462 students in 15 schools across 12 communities! We also offered an online Earth Day program that almost 40 teachers used in classrooms across the basin.
Columbia River Futures
After COVID restrictions put a hold on Columbia River Field School for two years, we were excited to bring the field school back in July 2022. Over 15 days, students explored the Columbia Wetlands, visited the Kinbasket Reservoir and the Revelstoke Dam, paddled across the Arrow Lakes Reservoir, and met the Kootenay River where it joins the Columbia in Castlegar. Students developed their canoe and camp skills, and took away not only a deeper understanding of the Columbia River’s past, present and future, but also valuable life skills to adventure safely and do no harm to the land around us.
In 2022, we developed Teach the Columbia curriculum to bring the Columbia River Field School learning into the classroom through a series of 11 adaptable lessons in four themed modules. To workshop the material and invite teachers on an immersive learning journey, we hosted our first ever Teach the Columbia field course last summer. The 14 participants explored the curriculum while camping and canoeing alongside the Columbia Wetlands and main stem of the Columbia River. Thanks to the success of this first field course, we anticipate growing this program in coming years.
Know Your Watershed
Wrapping up its 12th season of operation, the 2021-22 delivery year was a banner season for Know Your Watershed, a Columbia Basin Trust Program administered and delivered by Wildsight. More than 1,300 students from 24 schools across 16 communities participated in 61 Know Your Watershed programs in the 2021-22 school year, facilitated by an incredible team of 15 highly qualified and experienced Wildsight Educators.
Eleven Grade 9 classes undertook an extension known as a Student Action Project, where students worked on watershed restoration, communication, or public connection projects that allowed a deep appreciation of local watersheds. Student Action Projects saw thousands of native plants planted in wetland and riparian areas, and kilometres of wetland or creekside nature trail built, cleaned up, or restored in popular water-focused recreation areas in and around communities across the basin. Sixteen community water stewardship groups partnered with Know Your Watershed classes to deepen connections between students and local stewardship projects. In addition, 10 Know Your Watershed Deep Learning programs allowed students outside Grade 9 to increase their watershed literacy.
In July, 2022, 13 youth from across the Columbia Basin joined Revelstoke ACMG Hiking Guide, professional skier, and Patagonia Ambassador Leah Evans, fellow ACMG Hiking Guide and wildlife biologist Dave Quinn from Kimberley, as well as Wildsight Golden board member Brittany Verbeek on a 6-day wilderness adventure in Top of the World Provincial Park, one of the marquis wilderness areas of the southern Rocky Mountains.
The team learned firsthand about the rich Ktunaxa history of the region and were immersed into mountain geography and geology, and studied evidence and examples of abundant wildlife along the way. A small-scale case study of the impacts of climate change on our mountain ecosystems revealed rapidly disappearing alpine meadows under an onslaught of forest ingrowth hastened by warmer temperatures and lower snow packs. Amongst all this vivid natural history the youth learned how to travel leaving no trace of their presence, how to navigate and plan backcountry routes in the mountains, and how to safely plan and prepare backcountry camps and meals under an increased awareness of mountain weather, terrain, water quality, and the wildlife that allowed us to share their home.
Above all the team shared an experience of the incredible gift of connection with nature, and the stewardship inherent in that wild bond that will remain with them the rest of their lives.
Youth Climate Corps
Wildsight’s Youth Climate Corps (YCC) exists to connect, inspire, and empower young adults interested in making a difference for the greatest challenge of this generation: the climate crisis. We work together to minimize the impacts of climate change in our communities while building a more resilient future. YCC bridges the gap between knowledge and action, between aspirational climate targets and next step practicalities. Our vision is about building better leaders who can communicate, collaborate, navigate barriers, and build capacity by embracing challenges as an opportunity to grow and learn.
2022 saw continued strengthening of YCC as we developed further links with community partners, grew the scale of projects, piloted intentional outreach opportunities and sought to better understand our relationship with the land, and with each other, as this program grows across our region.
As Wildsight’s YCC Program enters its fourth year of operations, our partners at Youth Climate Corps BC are looking to spread this model to other regions of B.C., while the Climate Emergency Unit is driving support for YCC at the national level as well as in other provinces.
There’s no denying it; it’s an exciting time to be part of YCC. In 2022, both our West Kootenay and Kimberley/Cranbrook teams were met with new challenges and unique opportunities, as well as continued development on multi-season projects creating lasting climate renewal on the ground.
Under the guidance of coordinator Mel Lavery, our West Kootenay crew tucked a lot of experience and energy into the four-month season. The 12 crew members worked with community partners to achieve tangible climate action projects in Nelson and surrounding communities.
Working with Kootenay Society for Community Living and FortisBC, our team helped to provide an energy retrofit to an ageing home, bringing it to the same energy-efficiency level of a newly built, code-compliant house. They helped update insulation, replace windows, and improve air sealing on the house, which will allow residents to enjoy a more comfortable, energy-efficient home all year long.
Our multi-year Bannock in Bloom Agroforestry Project near Silveron continued to build on previous season’s work. This year’s crew planted 500 trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants on site, as well as working to create fencing to protect the pilot project. Apart from this flagship project, the team also worked on permaculture projects in Nelson, Kaslo and Winlaw. Other projects in the 2022 season included building up FireSmart practices in Kaslo and protecting local waterways with the Slocan River Streamkeepers.
YCC seasons build in opportunities to expand skill sets for public engagement, and this year was no different. Partnering with the City of Nelson, crew members became climate ambassadors, championing the city’s climate action plan to more than 200 community members through the summer. YCC members also worked on engagement projects to deepen understanding and action on important local climate issues.
This was the second season for Kimberley-Cranbrook Youth Climate Corps. Coordinator Tim Chapman led a group of six passionate young adults in a diverse range of projects to bolster local climate action initiatives.
The crew continued where the first season team left off, working alongside the Healthy Kimberley Food Recovery Depot to build up local food security. They also helped out at the Cranbrook Public Produce Garden and Apple Quill Farm on local food efforts.
The crew hosted the first ever YCC Fix-It Fair. From appliance repairs to clothes and more, the crew’s efforts helped keep pre-loved items out of the landfill while also educating the public about the value of fixing, not nixing, the things we own.
The Kimberley-Cranbrook crew spent a lot of time, chainsaws in hand, to bring wildfire fuel management practices to areas in and around local communities. Wildfire risk reduction work in the Kimberley Nature Park and Bull River area, as well as wildfire fuel monitoring in various locations, helps to ensure our communities and forest ecosystems are better equipped to handle an increasingly volatile climate.
Other projects in partnership with local organizations saw crew members restoring a pollinator meadow near Wasa, helping create a wetland complex in the Sparwood area, undertaking whitebark pine recovery and seed collection near Farnham Glacier, and even wildlife tree identification and protection in between Kimberley and Cranbrook.
Photo: Steve Ogle
Relocalization is the antidote to the ever-rising demand on our natural world. Our six autonomous branches in Golden, Invermere, Kimberley and Cranbrook, the Elk Valley, Creston, and Revelstoke work directly within our communities to empower environmentally sustainable lifestyles in harmony with the wild places that surround us.
Our collaborative work on local initiatives in sustainability, food security, ecosystem enhancement, public engagement in issues that impact the region, conservation, critical habitat protections and more have long-lasting impacts that are numerous and invaluable to the health of our communities and ecosystems – now and into the future.
*This report covers Wildsight’s fiscal year from October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2022.
**Misc includes events, book sales, exchange gains/losses, market value adjustments, interest and other miscellaneous revenue. Donations also include memberships. For the purposes of these charts, we categorized one significant amount received from a foundation as a grant, in order to maintain consistency with previous years, while it is donation in our audited financials.
Photo: Evan Dux
Alpine Club of Canada
Arjay R. and Frances F. Miller Foundation
BC Conservation and Biodiversity Foundation
BC Gaming Commission
Bowman Employment Services
Canada Summer Jobs
Columbia Basin Trust
City of Nelson
Columbia Shuswap Regional District
Columbia Valley Community Foundation
Community Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies
Copernicus Educational products
Engineers and Geoscientists of BC
Edmonton Community Foundation
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Keefer Ecological Services
Kimberley and District Community Foundation
Kootenay Career Development Society
Kootenay Employment Services
Healthy Kimberley Wellness Foundation
Living Lakes Canada
Nature Conservancy of Canada
Osprey Community Foundation
Patagonia Environmental Grants Fund of Tides Foundation
Province of BC
Regional District of Central Kootenay
Real Estate Foundation of BC
Sunrise Rotary Club, Cranbrook
Thomas and Norwell Forestry Consulting
Western Mining Action Network
WhiteBark Pine Foundation
Wildlife Habitat Canada
Thanks to our incredible individual donors and funders for supporting Wildsight this past year. We are so grateful for you!
In early September, community leaders and young people came together in Burton on the banks of the West Kootenay’s Arrow Lakes Reservoir for a long weekend of intergenerational knowledge sharing and learning about the Columbia River and its management.Read more
The U.S. Government has pledged $200 million over 20 years to support a tribe-led reintroduction of salmon to the Upper Columbia River Basin. As Wildsight’s Director of Water and Climate, Graeme Lee Rowlands, writes, the U.S. announcement could be the start of an exciting new chapter for Canada.Read more