Tue, 30 Oct 2018

Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing at Conservation Lands Operations and Management Funding Program Meeting

Lands Management Group Photo

On September 18-19th 2018, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) hosted a meeting of conservation land managers in Penticton, BC. These managers receive funding under the HCTF Conservation Lands Operations and Maintenance Funding Program administered in partnership with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and the Nature Trust of BC. HCTF currently provides $617,500 annually to assist with the operation and maintenance of approximately 115 significant wildlife habitat areas across BC.

This gathering represented the second opportunity for land managers and other stakeholders to come together in person since the establishment of our new partnered approach to administering operations and management funding. Taking a partnered approach to conservation lands management has a number of benefits, including the ability to combine assets and expertise, avoid duplicating efforts and leverage funding.

The meeting was a great opportunity for practitioners from across BC to share knowledge, give feedback on the administration of the program, discuss plans for its evolution, and collaborate to help improve conservation land management in the province.

A highlight of the two-day event was the field trip, which provided opportunities to witness conservation land management in action.

HCTF staff Christina Waddle hiking

First stop on field day was the McTaggart-Cowan/nsək’łniw’t Wildlife Management Area. This site is close to the heart of HCTF, as it is named in part for HCTF’s Founding Chair. The site name also honours the Penticton Indian Band; “nsək’łniw’t” is roughly translated from the Syilx language as “a gash on the side” and refers to a historic trail used for travel, trade, and access to medicine-gathering areas. The group then traveled onward to Skaha Lake Eastside, Vaseux Lake, and finally the South Okanagan Wildlife Management Area. Along the way, they shared common experiences, best practices and challenges related to conservation land management including wildlife usage, mineral claims, grazing, and infrastructure maintenance.

Overall, HCTF was pleased to help facilitate this important gathering and opportunity for conservation land managers to share knowledge and experience. We are in the process of refining the program administration details for the upcoming funding cycle, and look forward to incorporating the vital on-the-ground experience and feedback that was received during the event.

All photos generously provided by Karen Wipond.

Mon, 29 Oct 2018

Welcome New Biology & Evaluation Manager Karen Barry

Karen Barry in the field conducting a bird survey

Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation is pleased to welcome Karen Barry, MSc, RPBio as our new Manager, Biology & Evaluation. Karen holds a B.Sc. in Biology from the University of Waterloo and an M.Sc. in Biology from the University of Victoria. She is a registered Professional Biologist with the College of Applied Biology of BC and has held positions in research, government, consulting, and non-profit organizations.

Karen’s background includes work in freshwater and marine biology in the Great Lakes, Chesapeake and Delaware Bay, and BC. More recently, Karen’s work with Bird Studies Canada involved coordinating volunteer bird monitoring programs, writing technical reports, and leading training workshops. Karen also has experience with the West Coast Conservation Land Management Program where she led fish and wildlife inventory and restoration projects in wetlands and estuaries on Vancouver Island and the central and north coast. While working with other conservation organizations, Karen became very familiar with HCTF’s funding programs from an applicant perspective. Karen brings additional experience in planning events, working with boards, and delivering public outreach.

Originally from Montreal, Karen has lived on Vancouver Island since 2000 and in her spare time, she enjoys exploring wild places, gardening, birding, hiking, canoeing, reading, and baking. She looks forward to supporting HCTF and advancing conservation of fish and wildlife in BC.

Karen’s first day in the office is November 1. Our wonderful outgoing Biology & Evaluation Manager Kathryn Martell will be staying on with HCTF part-time for the immediate future to ensure an effective transition. From all of us at HCTF, welcome Karen!

Fri, 26 Oct 2018

Remembering Brent Gurd

Brent Gurd

The Canadian conservation community recently lost a vibrant champion with the passing of Brent Gurd. Brent was a talented and passionate biologist, and his contributions to the preservation of wild places in BC are a fitting legacy.

Born in Toronto, Brent completed his Bachelor of Science and Master’s Degrees in biology at the University of Guelph before relocating to Vancouver and achieving his Doctor of Philosophy in Ecology at Simon Fraser University. Brent’s passion for wildlife and the environment led to employment at the Ontario African Lion Safari, Nature Canada, and, most recently, as a Senior Biologist with the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Brent worked closely with Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation on a variety of projects with big conservation impacts. He led the Sturgeon Bank restoration efforts, ensuring the protection of one of Canada’s most important habitats for migratory and wintering birds. His other projects included studies of Grizzly Bear abundance in Toba Inlet, as well as managing operations and maintenance activities for the Lower Mainland, a region that includes over 29,000 hectares of critical wildlife habitat, six wildlife management areas and four conservation lands, all situated within close proximity to BC’s largest population base.

Brent was a committed conservation leader, and a deeply cared-for colleague and collaborator. He will be missed by his partners at HCTF, and our hearts are with his family.

You are invited to send your personal messages and memories to Brent’s family here. In lieu of flowers, his family has indicated that donations to The Nature Trust of British Columbia or Nature Conservancy of Canada would be appreciated.


Wed, 24 Oct 2018
Tags: Stewardship

It’s Bat Week: Be a Bat Hero!

Bat Week 2018 Flyer

Guest post courtesy of the BC Community Bat Program

As Halloween approaches, images of scary, blood-sucking bats become common place. This year, counter these myths and support bats by participating in international Bat Week (October 24-31).

Bat Week is an opportunity to celebrate these amazing animals and their benefits, from eating insect pests to pollinating the agave plant used to make tequila. Take a moment to learn about the many ways bats contribute to our lives, and what you can do locally for bats, at www.batweek.org or through the BC Community Bat Program at www.bcbats.ca. Host a bat party, attend a bat talk, or maybe join an invasive weed-pull… there are so many ways to participate!

“Bats help us – but now they need our help,” says Mandy Kellner, Coordinator for the BC Community Bat Program. “The conservation of bats in BC has always been important, since over half the species in this province are considered at risk. With the discovery of White-nose Syndrome in Washington State, bat conservation is more important than ever.”

White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is a disease caused by an introduced fungus, first detected in North America in a cave in New York in 2006. Since it was discovered, it has spread to 33 states and 7 provinces in North America, decimating bat populations along the way. “Luckily, WNS is not yet in BC” continues Kellner, “But we are preparing for its arrival by raising awareness about bats, working with landowners who have bats in buildings, enhancing bat habitat, and monitoring populations.”

Monitoring for WNS will continue this winter, with Community Bat Programs requesting reports of dead bats or sightings of winter bat activity starting November 1. You can report sightings at www.bcbats.ca, or 1-855-922-2287.

In partnership with the BC Ministry of Environment, and funded by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Habitat Stewardship Program, the BC Community Bat Program provides information about bats in buildings, conducts site visits to advise landowners on managing bats in buildings, coordinates the Annual Bat Count, and offers educational programs on bats.
To find out more about the BC Community Bat Program and options for helping local bat populations, visit www.bcbats.ca or call or 1-855-922-2287.

Mon, 22 Oct 2018

Spotlight on HCTF Board Chair Dr. Winifred Kessler

Dr. Winifred Kessler

Long-time Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation board member Dr. Winifred (Wini) Kessler recently returned to the role of Board Chair. Her decades of experience in the US Forest Service, academia, and the non-profit sector, have made her extremely well-suited to helming the organization and we are thankful for her expertise.

A new book co-edited by Dr. Kessler, entitled North American Wildlife Policy and Law, was recently released by the Boone & Crockett Club. Its publication prompted Dr. Kessler and HCTF Communications Officer Heather Forbes to reflect on how the field of conservation and natural resource education has evolved over Dr. Kessler’s career. Below is an abridged transcript of their correspondence.

How has natural resource education evolved over your career, and what enthuses you about its current and future direction?

I think some universities have started to do a better job of providing an integrated approach to natural resources education, which is a positive development. I am also really excited about the large numbers of women in university wildlife programs, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. There were very few when I got started. The expanding diversity in this profession is great to see!

However, I’m afraid other changes have not been for the better. The hands-on component has diminished as curricula have dropped field courses. Students are sitting at computers instead of being outside in forest and field. I’m aware that students spend much time these days running computer models, and very little time collecting real data and learning hands-on skills they will need in the workplace.

What is your advice for students starting out in the conservation field?

My best advice is to get a copy of Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, read it carefully, and reflect on what you’ve learned. Then read it again and again, and discuss its Land Ethic and other essential lessons with anyone who will listen.

Who do you hope reads this book, and what do you hope they take away from it?

Our target audience is 3rd & 4th year undergraduate students and graduate students in wildlife, conservation biology, environmental science, environmental law, and related fields like forestry. We also intend that this book become a staple reference in the personal libraries of professionals in wildlife and related fields. We designed it as a one-stop shop for information on history, policy, law, and management of wildlife resources in the jurisdictions that comprise North America (with lighter coverage on other regions of the world).

As my co-authors and I state in the book’s introduction, “a basic understanding of wildlife law and policy is essential knowledge for anyone who desires to work in the wildlife profession or other natural resource fields. No matter what job you may aspire to, your work will be defined, bounded, guided, or enabled by the applicable wildlife laws and policies.”

You are known as a champion for innovative and integrated approaches to natural resources education, and have been celebrated for this commitment. How has this informed the book?

Rather than have a book specific to only one country, we realized that wildlife conservation in North America requires a continent-wide perspective. We developed chapters for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, and included comparisons of their policy and legal approaches. We also incorporated environmental policy and law into the book, which will make it useful to other natural resource disciplines such as forestry and rangeland management. Focusing narrowly on wildlife would have missed these other fields that, together, enable an integrated approach to land and resources management.

The book is also unique in having integrated the Indigenous perspective into its coverage of policy, law, and management. I felt it was essential to include chapters on Indigenous peoples’ relationships to wildlife; including tribal wildlife management and the rights & roles of Canada’s First Nations. It would have been incomplete without this important content.

While you have officially retired, you remain deeply involved in the conservation community and currently serve on multiple boards, including the Ecosystem Management Research Institute, the Wildlife Society and, of course, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. What inspires your volunteerism, and what enthuses you about the role of non-profits like HCTF in ecological conservation?

From my first years in this field, I never viewed my employment as “just jobs.” The positions I held enabled me to do meaningful work that would help achieve positive outcomes for the natural resources and wild places I cared about. My passion was seeing science get applied to solve actual problems and inform policy. None of that has changed after retirement, except I don’t get paid anymore! I still seek opportunities to advance wildlife conservation, solve natural resource problems, and inform environmental policy through the application of science. Organizations such as EMRI, TWS, and HCTF are in that very business, and I’m privileged to have a role in their worthy conservation missions.

What enthuses you about the current direction and future activities of HCTF?

I have been with HCTF for two decades, and for many years I described it as “BC’s best-kept secret.” For a long time, the organization chose to keep a low profile, doing its job quietly and independently. I’m glad to see that HCTF has emerged as a major force for conservation in BC, and one that is evolving to take on new issues and challenges. Very importantly, HCTF is engaging with the public and partnering with other organizations, including government, to advance shared conservation objectives. The problems out there are huge and getting more complex all the time. No single organization can move the bar; it takes partners working together to do the heavy lifting.


Thu, 18 Oct 2018
Tags: Education

HCTF Partners with C2C to Support Environmental Education

NatureKids Otter Home Learner Club - Photographer Colin McQuillan

Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation is pleased to once again help sponsor the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication (EECOM) conference. This popular annual gathering brings together educators from across the nation to share resources and best practices related to place-based education and environmental literacy.

“Partnering with #EECOM2018 is a great way of living out HCTF’s mission to foster environmental stewardship from a young age,” explains HCTF Board Chair Winifred Kessler. “We know classroom programs are a great way of encouraging life-long conservation, and so we are very happy to help teachers gather new tools to take back to their home communities.”

HCTF is part of the BC Classrooms to Communities Network, a group of diverse organizations working together to link education, community and conservation in B.C. This year’s conference has chosen the theme “Classrooms to Communities”, which envisions “learners and educators being deeply connected to place, community and planet, able to effectively communicate their stories of connectedness, and taking responsibility to do so.”

The 2018 conference will take place Thursday October 18 to Sunday October 21 at St. Eugene Mission Resort on Ktunaxa Nation land in BC’s Kootenay Rockies. St. Eugene Mission Resort is owned by several Ktunaxa communities: ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation, ʔaq̓am, ʔakink̓umǂasnuqǂiʔit (Tobacco Plains), yaqan nukiy (Lower Kootenay) and Kyaknuq+i?it – the Shuswap Indian Band. This former residential school site now serves as a vehicle for education and economic development, and is therefore a very fitting venue for this conference.

“We are very grateful for the support of HCTF and share the Foundation’s commitment to finding creative ways to facilitate place-based learning,” says CBEEN Executive Director Duncan Whittick, who coordinated the event. “This conference marks the culmination of work by the Classrooms to Communities (C2C) provincial collaboration which HCTF has been part of since the very beginning.”

The conference will be the launching point for annual provincial Classrooms to Communities conferences taking place across BC as part of the provincial Pro-D day on October 19, 2018. Click here for more information.