Photo: A full moon rises over the Jumbo Glacier. Photo by Steve Shannon

Wildsight Annual Report 2023

From the Executive Director

As I reflect on the last year, I am amazed at how much we accomplished. Together, we celebrated new nature protections, connected thousands of kids and youth to nature, provided hope and training for young adults through hands-on local climate action and worked to make our communities more sustainable. Our success is possible only with your support — thank you to our donors, funders, supporters, members and partners. 

Growing up in the Kootenays, I knew this region was special, but I didn’t know just how important it was on a global scale. As the human footprint expands, climate change impacts increase and biodiversity loss continues at unprecedented rates, it is more important than ever to work to protect the wildlife, wild places and clean water of this special place. The Southern Rocky Mountain Wildlife Corridor is one of North America’s most important wildlife movement corridors, the ancient forests of the Inland Temperate Rainforest are globally unique and are among the most lichen-rich and carbon-dense forests in the world. The Rocky Mountain Trench hosts endangered grasslands and one of the longest intact wetlands in North America: the Columbia Wetlands, headwaters of the mighty Columbia River.

Wildsight is unique — we are the boots-on-the-ground in our communities, in classrooms and in the forests, and we are advocating for policy reforms and nature protection, provincially and nationally. We focus on solutions and work towards a paradigm shift in how we value and respect nature. We centre hope, love and awe in all our education programs, instilling a connection to place and to the land in our kids and youth. The next generation will face unprecedented challenges — hope and action are critical antidotes to the overwhelm and anxiety that many young people are currently feeling. 

A few highlights from the past year: 

  • More than 3,000 kids and youth throughout the region learned from and about the land
  • Youth Climate Corps expanded to Golden; 16 young adults in three communities gained skills and training through local climate action projects
  • We celebrated the announcement of $1 billion for conservation in B.C. through the first of its kind Trilateral Nature Conservation Agreement signed by B.C., Canada and the First Nations Leadership Council
  • Hundreds of you joined old-growth rallies across the region and thousands took action and sent letters to government demanding greater protection for nature, new laws and policies that value biodiversity and wildlife and reject inappropriate developments, like the Galloway Lands in the Elk Valley and the proposed Zincton Resort in the Selkirk Mountains. 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever did.” ~ Margaret Mead

Some may consider this quote a cliche, but I consider it a guiding statement for the work that we do at Wildsight. It is more important than ever that we all do what we can to protect nature for future generations. Thank you for being a part of this community. 

 
Robyn Duncan,
Executive Director
 

From the Chair

I have had the privilege of serving on Wildsight’s Regional Council for a number of years and currently as the Chairperson. I know that I speak on behalf of all the other volunteer Board members when I say how proud I am of our team — staff, contractors, educators and branch members. 

Together, their passion and commitment help make Wildsight very effective: in fostering community wellbeing and sustainability; in increasing respect and stewardship of the wild spaces in the beautiful Kootenay region; in fostering environmental sensitivity and awareness in our youth; in developing more food security; and in partnering with Indigenous, community and government representatives to work towards a better future for all.

Wildsight is a truly grassroots organization, with six autonomous branches throughout the region that each focus on local concerns. I am always impressed with their hard work and amazing results.

Finally, I would like to thank all of our individual, corporate, foundation and government sponsors and supporters who help us do our work and who share our vision and goals. Without them, Wildsight could not do what it does. 

 
Brian Conrad,
Chair
Conservation

Conservation

B.C. takes long-awaited steps toward new era of nature stewardship

In February 2023, British Columbia’s Premier David Eby announced the revocation of a critical clause from the province’s Forest and Range Practices Act. The move would prove to be a precursor of many more nature-based announcements throughout the year, which, combined, herald a transformational change to the way B.C. prioritizes and protects nature. 

For many decades, the ‘unduly’ clause, as it came to be known, prioritized B.C.’s timber supply over all other values, including the provision of clean water, and the protection of wildlife and cultural heritage. Wildsight staff and supporters, alongside other conservation groups, lobbied decision makers for years to have it removed, and the February announcement was widely celebrated as a sign that the province might finally be moving into a new era of forest management. 

This optimism was later confirmed with two major back-to-back funding announcements committing over $1 billion towards nature conservation in B.C. The $1 billion Tripartite Nature Conservation Agreement was signed between Canada, B.C. and the First Nations Leadership Council. This historic agreement outlines a shared pathway and commitment to protect 30% of B.C.’s lands and water by 2030, with funds supporting Indigenous-led conservation. The $300 million Conservation Financing Mechanism will support the transition to a conservation economy.


Photo: Siobhan Williams

Mobilizing action to end old-growth logging

Thousands of people came together in communities across B.C. in late September, including at Wildsight-organized events in Revelstoke, Nelson, Golden and Invermere, for a provincial day of action against old-growth logging. Timed to coincide with the B.C. Legislature’s return to parliament, the rallies demonstrated strong public support for old growth protection and reminded the government of its unfulfilled promise to enact all 14 recommendations from the 2020 Old Growth Strategic Review.


Photo: Trevor Haldane

Advocating for wildlife protection in the East Kootenay

Wildsight staff were amongst more than 20 local people to form British Columbia’s first regional wildlife and habitat advisory committee last year under the implementation plan of the Together for Wildlife Strategy. Members are united in their common goal to improve the health of wildlife and habitats in the East Kootenay. 

The committee gives the East Kootenay a direct line of communication with provincial staff to voice concerns and set direction on issues affecting wildlife in the region. Members receive updates on proposed policies, and develop priorities and recommendations to share with the province and First Nations.


The Greenhills Mountaintop removal coal mine. Photo: Garth Lenz / ILCP RAVE

Pushing for action on the Elk Valley’s water pollution crisis

Wildsight continued to support the Ktunaxa Nation’s call for action on selenium pollution in the Elk-Kootenay/ai watershed. Contaminated waters from Teck’s Elk Valley coal mines flow through Elk Valley communities, into Lake Koocanusa on the Canadian-United States border, and into Montana and Idaho, before returning back to B.C.’s Kootenay Lake. The Ktunaxa Nation’s leadership led to the recent announcement of a reference to the International Joint Commission, an independent body created to manage transboundary water disputes between Canada and the United States.

We advocated for strong, enforceable federal coal mining effluent regulations and published results from our moss study documenting air quality impacts from coal mining in a peer reviewed journal.


The Columbia Wetlands. Photo: Patrice Halley

Advocating for the environment in Columbia River Treaty negotiations

Wildsight, in collaboration with a coalition of Canadian NGOs, has been supporting the work of First Nations leadership to ensure that wildlife and river ecosystems are prioritized in a modernized Columbia River Treaty, as Canada and the United States edge towards potentially reaching an agreement in principle in 2024. 

The 1964 Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the U.S. governs the river’s flow only for maximum electricity production and minimized flood risk. But with some of the treaty’s provisions set to change this September, treaty negotiators are trying to reach a new agreement — providing the opportunity to enshrine environmental values as one of its guiding tenets and increase benefits for Indigenous nations and local communities.


A mountain-top coal mine.Photo: Garth Lenz / ILCP RAVE

First Nations win pivotal court case on mineral claims 

In a landmark ruling on September 26, Supreme Court Justice Alan Ross ruled that there should be a duty to consult with First Nations when applying for mineral claims in their traditional territories. The B.C. government now has until March 2025 to update the Mineral Tenure Act accordingly. 

Ross’ ruling was made in relation to two petitions made by the Ehattesaht First Nation and Gitxaala Nation seeking review of claims granted on their territories without consultation or notice. Wildsight, as part of the BC Mining Law Reform Network, was one of several intervenors in the case that argued against B.C.’s outdated mineral tenure regime. 

While the full effects of this decision remain to be seen, it is a significant step forwards in terms of First Nations reconciliation and environmental protections.

 

Education

Education

Photo: Morgan Mitchinson

Connecting future environmental leaders with the wild

During the 2022-2023 school year, Wildsight’s 23rd year of delivering engaging environmental education, we brought 114 Education In the Wild programs to 2,666 students across the Columbia Basin. 

Education In The Wild connects kids with their wild backyards and supports them to learn about and explore nature all year round. Through programs like these, Wildsight is helping to raise the next generation of environmental stewards. This suite of three programs takes students outside to learn basic ecological principles including the importance of healthy and functioning natural systems. 

Winter Wonder took 1,430 kids from Kindergarten to Grade 3 on half-day winter ecology field trips, exploring snow crystals with magnifying glasses and following animal tracks in the snow. 

Classroom with Outdoors connected 1,060 kids from Grades 4 to 7 with the natural world through all-day field trips to local grasslands, wetlands and forests. We engaged students in games and activities involving everything from backyard biology with dip netting to guided exploration with magnifying glasses, bug boxes and discovery scopes, Indigenous learnings, forest inventories and plant classification exercises.

EcoStewards guided 176 students through seven hands-on stewardship projects, each of which was designed to empower with a dynamic blend of citizen science, inquiry-based learning and stewardship action learning. Wildsight’s approach goes beyond traditional education, fostering hands-on experiences that not only teach but inspire a sense of responsibility towards our environment. 

Across these age groups, we aim to pique curiosity, to infuse wild wonder into the lives of local kids, and to give them hands-on experiences. By facilitating these early connections with the wild for our region’s youngest residents, we hope to create more resilient and inspired future communities that are well-equipped to navigate the environmental challenges to come.


Photo: Elemental Journeys

Immersed in our wild backyard

Thirteen teenagers spent six days and five nights traversing the Height of the Rockies Provincial Park for Wildsight’s 2023 Go Wild! backpacking adventure. Under the guidance of two experienced ACMG guides, participants gained valuable backcountry hiking and camping skills such as map reading, route planning, meal preparation and wildlife safety. They also gained a deeper appreciation for the world-class wilderness in their backyard, learning about mountain ecology, history, conservation and backcountry ethics.


Community leaders and youth learn together on the Columbia

Amid record low water levels on the Columbia River last summer, Wildsight hosted 12 community leaders for a three-day-long weekend to learn about the issues facing the river and highlight what can be done. Local councillors, mayors and members of the Columbia Basin Regional Advisory Committee and Columbia River Treaty Local Governments Committee came together to camp on the banks of the river, learn, debate, discuss, and, of course, spend time on the water. Four teenage alumni from Wildsight’s 15-day Columbia River Field School (see below) joined them for part of the weekend to share their unique perspectives and knowledge with the older generation, including through a mock Columbia River Treaty negotiation.


Bringing the Columbia alive for teachers and students

Alongside Wildsight’s work engaging community leaders in the protection of the Columbia River, we also work directly with both students and teachers. In 2023, Wildsight hosted its second annual Teach the Columbia field course, an intensive four-day learning experience that aims to provide local high school teachers with the skills, knowledge and confidence to bring Wildsight’s Teach the Columbia curriculum alive for students back in the classroom.  

We also ran the fourth annual Columbia River Field School, bringing together fifteen high school students from across the region for an immersive two weeks spent travelling down the river. Students learned about the river’s history, geography, ecology and more through guest speakers, an in-depth curriculum and time spent immersed in the wild.


Beyond Recycling in Castlegar.

Moving beyond recycling to a more sustainable tomorrow

Over 400 students from 16 classrooms participated in Beyond Recycling during the 2022-2023 school year, exploring and learning how to reduce their ecological footprints under the guidance of Wildsight educators. Over more than 20 weeks, they investigated the true environmental cost of a product’s lifecycle, studied the cumulative impacts personal choices have on the climate, and gained a better understanding of how and why their lifestyles impact the planet’s health. Students were also taught about tangible actions they can take in their homes, schools and communities to feel more empowered and be part of the solution.


Designing the communities of the future

In 2022-2023, we piloted a new environmental education resource with the support of 16 area teachers. Based on our longstanding Beyond Recycling program, Communities of the Future was a curated series of flexible classroom resources built to inspire hope in students as they learned and designed for a sustainable future. 

Through in-depth lesson plans and engaging videos, students explored different design elements of sustainable communities in areas such as food, waste, water, transportation and energy. Using real-world examples and guided questions, students deepened their understanding of the concepts before translating that knowledge into creative community builds. The pilot program was so successful that this year, Wildsight is preparing to make it available to teachers across the Columbia Basin and beyond, under a new name. Stay tuned for more on this exciting program!

Sustainable communities

Sustainable communities

Photo: Amelia Caddy

Youth Climate Corps supports whitebark pine conservation

Wildsight’s Youth Climate Corps contributed to the protection of the imperilled whitebark pine last year, helping to collect the seeds of trees showing a resistance to white pine blister rust, a human-introduced fungus. Whitebark pine is a keystone species found in high elevation forests throughout the Canadian Rockies, and south into the northern Rockies, Cascades and Sierras in the United States. But now, the whitebark pine is at risk of extinction. 

Over the last decade, more than half of all whitebark pines have died or are dying due to a combination of white pine blister rust, mountain pine beetle outbreaks, fire suppression and a warming climate.

Kimberley-based biologist Randy Moody has been collecting the seeds of whitebark pines that show some level of genetic resistance to the fungus, in the hopes of eventually producing seedlings that will be able to coexist with it. 

“The goal is not to target trees that are entirely resistant to the pathogen… We want to avoid the possibility of the pathogen evolving into a form that is 100% lethal to all whitebark it interacts with,” Randy says. 

In the early summer of 2023, members of Wildsight’s East Kootenay crew went out with Randy to climb trees and place metal cages around clusters of developing cones. Then, as autumn arrived, they returned to remove the cages, collect fully-formed cones, and make observations about the presence or absence of blister rust. 

This is just one of many projects Wildsight’s Youth Climate Corps worked on in 2023. A total of 16 young adults from three separate crews — based in Kimberley, Nelson and Golden, where we launched a new pilot program — took on everything from ecosystem restoration in local creeks, forests and wetlands, to food sustainability efforts, wildfire risk reduction and climate initiatives.


Western Painted Turtle. Photo: J. Maughn / Flickr

Improving turtle nesting habitat in Revelstoke

Western Painted Turtles, a beautiful and vulnerable species, have been dying on Revelstoke roads for years, despite many valuable efforts from people and organizations to reduce mortality rates. Last May, Wildsight hosted an open house to discuss the issue, and from that, the Turtle Conservation Revelstoke group was born. Members are now working with experts and local groups such as Wildsight to identify priority actions to improve the turtles’ odds of survival — like the habitat restoration day they coordinated with Wildsight’s Golden Youth Climate Corps crew in October.


Taking climate action to the streets

Wildsight’s West Kootenay Youth Climate Corps played an essential role in supporting both the City of Nelson and the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s efforts to create more sustainable and climate-aware communities. Over four months, the team engaged in more than 200 meaningful conversations with members of the public at market stalls, events and festivals. Crew members helped to dispel misinformation through education, spread awareness about local government climate initiatives, and provided advice to those seeking tangible ways to take climate action within their communities.


Rachel Darvill, the Columbia Wetlands Waterbird Survey (CWWS) program biologist, coaches nearly frost-bitten citizen scientists for a program run through Wildsight Golden. 

A network of local change

Relocalization is the antidote to the ever-rising demand on our natural world. In the 2022-2023 financial year, Wildsight’s six autonomous branches in Golden, Invermere, Kimberley and Cranbrook, the Elk Valley, Creston and Revelstoke worked directly within their local communities to empower environmentally sustainable lifestyles and protect the wild. Their diverse projects spanned everything from food security to ecosystem enhancement, public engagement in issues that impact the region, conservation, critical habitat protections and more.

To find out more, support their work or get involved, visit the branch pages linked above, or find them on social media. 

 

Financials

Financials

Photo: Eddie Petryshen

Revenue $2.08M

 

Expenses $1.91M

 

For Wildsight’s full audited financial statements, click here

*This report covers Wildsight’s fiscal year from October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2023.
**Misc includes fees paid for education programs and trips, events, book sales, exchange gains/losses, market value adjustments, interest and other miscellaneous revenue. Donations also include memberships. Our audited financials break down fee-for-service revenue, contract and miscellaneous revenue in a slightly different way, which we have adjusted here for consistency with past and future years.

Our funders

Our funders

Photo: Douglas Noblet / Wild Air Photography

Thank you to the incredible funders who supported Wildsight throughout the 2022-2023 financial year. Without you, our work wouldn’t be possible. 

  • 444s Foundation 
  • Arjay R. and Frances F. Miller Foundation
  • BC Conservation and Biodiversity Foundation 
  • BC Gaming Commission
  • BC Hydro 
  • Bowman Employment Services
  • Catherine Donnelly Foundation
  • Columbia Basin Trust
  • Columbia Power Corporation
  • Columbia Shuswap Regional District 
  • Columbia Valley Community Foundation
  • Community Foundation of the Kootenay Rockies 
  • Consecon Foundation
  • Copernicus Education Products
  • Eco Canada
  • EcoAction 
  • Edmonton Community Foundation 
  • Fortis BC
  • Golden & District Community Foundation 
  • Habitat Conservation Trust Fund
  • Kelsch Family Foundation 
  • Kimberley & District Community Foundation 
  • Kootenay Career Development Society 
  • Kootenay Employment Services 

  • LeRoi Community Foundation
  • Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation 
  • MakeWay Foundation 
  • MakeWay Foundation – Patagonia
  • National Parks Conservation Association
  • Nature Canada
  • Nature Conservancy of Canada
  • Osprey Community Foundation
  • Province of British Columbia
  • RBC Foundation 
  • Real Estate Foundation of BC
  • Regional District of the Central Kootenay
  • Resorts of the Canadian Rockies
  • Sitka Foundation 
  • Small Change Fund 
  • TD Friends of the Environment Foundation
  • Teck Metals
  • The Hamber Foundation
  • The Houssian Foundation
  • Thomas and Norwell Forestry Consulting
  • Vancouver Foundation 
  • Wilburforce Foundation 
  • Wildlife Habitat Canada


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