BC Nature – “Know Nature and Keep It Worth Knowing”

by Penney Edwards

The heading says it all. That is the motto and mission of BC Nature, an umbrella organization bringing together some 53 local clubs and societies, throughout British Columbia. Founded and legally named the Federation of British Columbia Naturalists, we are publically known as BC Nature.

Before discussing the history and purpose of BC Nature, one point should be clarified up front – there is a difference between naturists and naturalists. Some people may be both the former and the latter, but most of us are the latter.  Naturists are those folk that frequent WreckBeach in Vancouver and the “clothing optional” sections of sea and lakeside beaches elsewhere.  They love bathing, in water and in sun, in the buff.  “A ‘naturalist’ is one who goes out clothed, as it often requires boots and coverage against biting insects and weather. We are hikers and walkers who explore the outdoors, learning about plants, birds, marine and terrestrial mammals, invertebrates (the spineless critters), entomology (insects), geology and astronomy (and mycology – mushrooms and fungi). We are enthusiastic amateurs and professionals in various fields of science who go out exploring and conserving our natural world…and pass along our knowledge to other adults and children.” The definition, without the parenthetical additions, is from one of our Vancouver-based members, Wally Kiel.

Yes, we have individual as well as club group members. There is contact information at the end of this page.  Members of the federated clubs automatically become members of BC Nature when they pay their annual dues. The Federation of BC Naturalists, which started life as the BC Nature Council, in February 1963, incorporated under the provincial Societies Act in 1969, some 80 years after the formation of BC’s first volunteer, natural history organizations. The Vancouver Natural History Society started in 1912, the Victoria Natural History Society in 1944. There has been an explosion of interest in nature and consequently, natural history societies since 1969. BC Nature’s 53 member and affiliated clubs, represent more than 5,400 people with a deep interest in the natural world.

In the draft of a new history of BC Nature, currently being written,   there is an interesting passage; “As the 1950s and 1960s brought new concepts on conservations, ecology and managing the environment, so did the realization that human activities…were at odds with the natural environment, noticeably impacting and destroying wildlife habitats. People…were being attracted to the natural history societies, searching for a means of voicing their disapproval of human consumptive uses of the environment. Nature had become political.”

And nature has become even more political, particularly this year with the intense opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway, Site C Dam project and Kinder-Morgan pipelines (Just to name a few)

There are two concepts in the BC Nature motto, “To Know Nature and Keeping it Worth Knowing” — education and conservation. BC Nature also has four objectives, which are:

  • To provide naturalists and nature clubs of BC with a unified voice on conservation and environmental issues;
  • To foster an awareness, appreciation and understanding of our natural environment, that it may be      wisely used and maintained for future generations;
  • To encourage the formation and cooperation of nature clubs throughout BC, and;
  • To provide a means of communication among naturalists in BC.

Through its redesigned website (www.bcnature.ca), a monthly electronic newsletter (Nature’s Voice Enews), and the quarterly magazine, BCnature (the electronic version is available on the website), the organization offers educational material – articles, photos, book reviews, news, expert opinion – on topics covering the geological, biological and zoological sciences, all prepared to inform novice to professional naturalists, and tweak public interest in major environmental concerns.

BC Nature, through host member clubs, has two conferences each year, in different BC communities. The 2014 Annual General Meeting took place last May in Victoria organized by the Rocky Point Bird Observatory with partners Victoria Natural History Society. The Fall General Meeting, in September was in Salmon Arm and organized by the Shuswap Naturalists Club. The 2015 AGM will be hosted by the Salt Spring Trail & Nature Club on Salt Spring Island and for the first time in BC Nature History, there will be no FGM.

The two yearly gatherings include pre-and post-conference field trips, half-day field trips during the   conference, presentations on natural phenomena unique to the area where the meeting is taking place, reports on local conservation projects, executive and member gatherings.  Often there is a presentation by the local MLA. The conferences  are well-attended and provide wonderful natural history education about the local area, which the host clubs know so well.

Other popular programs are the week-long field camps, held in  Tofino, Wells Gray Park and Nicola Valley and Bird Blitzes at SkagitValley and Manning Park. These events are usually for @ 24 participants and sell out same day of registration with a waiting list.

BC Nature helped to establish the Young Naturalist Clubs of BC. Operating since 2000, this organization supports clubs for children ages 7-15, to help them learn more about the natural environment and their role as its future stewards. BC Nature continues to support YNC , by sharing office space, through combined General Meetings and  through the local member clubs.

In every issue of BCnature and at both conferences, there is always an in-depth report from the Conservation Committee. This is a reflection of the conservation, preservation efforts of BC Nature (and the second part of the motto),  and is two-fold – making sure member clubs and individuals are aware of critical issues, and taking action, through resolutions, notices and letters, targeted at all concerned parties in the public and private sector.

Currently there are few high profile issues that we are tackling, Northern Gateway Pipeline, Kinder Morgan pipeline twinning, Roberts Bank proposed addition . BC Nature opposes proposed pipeline and tanker traffic, as an intervener in partnership with Nature Canada, and has provided expert witnesses together with support from a legal team from the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre at the final regional hearings that took place this fall in Prince George and Prince Rupert.   This has given  BC Nature and Nature Canada the opportunity to cross-examine Enbridge.

Other major concerns, monitored by BC Nature’s Conservation Committee include the proposed expansion of the Roberts Bank port facilities in Delta, grasslands conservation, species at risk and an off-road vehicle management framework. This issue is of particular interest to Outdoor Recreation Council members, and BC Nature continues to press for a visible plate or decal for all off-road vehicles part of a hoped-for registration program.  Finally in 2014, this has become law!

BC Nature sponsors, or co-sponsors two major stewardship programs – Important Bird Areas (IBA) and WiTS (Wildlife Tree Stewardship) – again, in line with its conservation mandate.

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are designated areas across Canada, of which there are 84 in BC. At present, there are more than 50 volunteer IBA Caretakers involved in stewardship, bird monitoring, conservation and educational programs focused on these important avian conservation areas.

WiTS is a BC Nature initiative, started in 2001, the goal of which is to protect Wildlife Trees – those standing, either alive or dead, with special characteristics  that provide habitat for birds and other animals.  Through monitoring by volunteers, landowner agreements and education, WiTS helps to preserve mature trees and mixed tree stands with documented high levels of wildlife use. This is especially important in communities on Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan, where wildlife tree habitat is either lost or threatened by building development, agricultural land clearing and logging.

BC Nature is a recognized, respected and effective voice for nature. It has wide-ranging interests and concerns, cared for by one staff member, the office manager, and a large contingent of volunteer, executive, board and committee members, all with the common interest of knowing nature and keeping it worth knowing.

Membership in BC Nature is either through one of the federated, local naturalist clubs and societies, or directly. The annual direct membership fee is $20.00. Please visit our website: www.bcnature.ca where you will also find information on each of our local clubs. Most clubs offer field trips throughout the year, and educational evening or daytime presentations.

Our mailing address is BC Nature, c/o Heritage Centre, 1620 Mount Seymour Road, North Vancouver, BCV7G 2R9 and our telephone number is 604-985-3057.

Regardless of your particular interest, knowing about and safeguarding our environment is everyone’s responsibility. We look forward to your help in knowing nature and keep it worth knowing.

Penney Edwards is the Communications Chair of BC Nature





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