Welcome to FieldWork. I’m James Sidney.
The more conservationists I meet, the more impressed I am with their unique self-exploration. As we’ll soon hear in the moving words of Jennifer Henry, and the intriguing sound art of Darren Copeland, there seems an inexhaustible variety in the response to nature’s calling.
Take, for instance, Dave Vyse, a founding member of the Field and Stream Rescue Team. He helped create a whole new community focused on the rehabilitation of Ontario’s densely populated Halton Region. I met him following the conclusion of Field and Stream Rescue’s AGM, and asked about the challenges and satisfactions of looking after your own backyard. We spoke at the City Hall of Burlington, Ontario.
When we first started and had that first community cleanup in our neighbourhood back in 2001 there were really no expectations. The feedback from all the volunteers was, you know, “Can you come and do this in my neighbourhood?” So when we actually started to go through the not-for-profit process of becoming incorporated and a charitable organization there was a lot of work behind it. However, we felt that there was a need for that—becoming a credible, established type of organization within Burlington, and I think that’s what’s kept us close to the community for so long, is that we’ve got that tight knit with the city, we’ve got the tight knit with the conservation authority, we’ve worked with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans the Canadian Wildlife Service, and then all the other organizations. So they can actually lean on us and leverage us for our charitable status as well, and we found that was fairly important.
Trying to fight urbanization and trying to fight cities growing, we took a different stance, what we thought is, why don’t we work with the municipalities rather than work against them, let’s work with them and try to establish areas maybe when they’re developing streams and creeks, maybe thinking a little bit more about the environment tying in some corridors, maybe creating more green space. Unfortunately, money does talk and we do have a lot of urban sprawl especially where we live, in the GTA. However, most of the people within the municipalities are very sensitive to that, they live here as well, so they’re sensitive to how much we can leave back to the environment.
The ongoing challenge is finding volunteers. We seem to have too many organizations that are in need of volunteers and too many organizations that seem to spring up one year and are gone the next, and unfortunately that erodes our volunteer base. What I think, what always stands true is, we’re always here. So even if we see volunteers come and then go and then—they always seem to come back.
I think that through our efforts things have definitely become better. I think we’ve created quite a bit of awareness that these streams all flow in to the Great Lakes. A lot of them are treated as essentially as water runoff from the roads and, and storm sewers. And I don’t think a lot of people realized where the water was actually going off of the street. They started to see that, wow, you know the, all the Tim Horton’s cups and the cigarette butts all ends up in here, and all this flows into the Great Lakes.
I think one thing we’ve got to keep our eye on is maintaining a strong board, maintaining a strong volunteer base, and I think the rest will come. The rest will come. There’s lots of work to be done.