The Rocky Mountain Naturalists invited naturalists from all over B.C. to come to Cranbrook as they hosted the B.C. Nature fall general meeting. As well as the actual meeting, there was also three days worth of events going on, from birding at Elizabeth Lake to reintroducing Northern Leopard Frogs into their historic range at Bummer’s Flats.
Daryl Calder, a member of the local naturalists said there were 100 registrants for the events.
“A lot of people hadn’t been to the East Kootenay before,” he said. Each group has found unique ways to deal with things. “We approach some things differently than other groups, we have different issues.”
Calder noted that in the East Kootenay there are an abundance of stakeholders all vying for a spot in the area and a different goal.
“It lends itself to more discussion in depth to get to the heart of the issue,” he said.
The theme of the conference was Earth, Wind, Fire and Water, to signify the land, air, fires and the rivers and streams.
“The presenters and the field trips were absolutely fantastic,” said Greg Ross, member of the naturalists and B.C. Nature. Ross was especially impressed with the organization of the non-profit society and the quality of the speakers presentations.
“”We did try to focus on a spiritual element here,” he said. “It’s not a religious doctrine, it’s the spirit of nature – everything’s connected. We wanted to show how everything is connected between earth, wind, fire and water.”
He said that each presenter complemented the presentations of the others in that sense.
Those presentations included ‘Air Quality Vital to Life’ with Ingrid Liepa, ‘Ktunaxa Creation Story’ with Joe Pierre, ‘Native Plants of the Cranbrook Community Forest’ with Mike Keefer, ‘Ecosystem Restoration in the Rocky Mountain Trench’ with Randy Harris, a keynote by nature photographer Brian Clarkson, and many more.
Ross noted that well-known local naturalist Art Gruenig had a presentation on 20 years of bluebird monitoring. After touring the group around Gruenig took them down to Elizabeth Lake to show them a turtle nest with turtles in it.
Other big topics at the meeting were loss of habitat, pipeline and mining issues.
“We all realized that this oil has to be sold someplace and trying to figure out the best way to do it with the least amount of damage,” Ross noted on the proposed Enbridge pipeline.
“Every step of the way we’re going to be protesting, but it’s not because we don’t want it to happen. We realize it’s going to have to happen. But there has to be thought put into it and input by all the people to express their concerns and this has to be remedied.”
He said the naturalists hope to be made a stakeholder in issues like the pipeline.
“We can offer solutions for what is the best practice to go through grasslands and restore it after,” Calder said. “It may well be more expensive, but in the long run it may actually be an enhancement.”
Another issue has been an expansion of protected areas without funding to actually manage them.
“Compared to the ’60s and ’70s the budget has absolutely gone completely down,” Ross said. “At one time we used to have interpretive centres in every provincial park. Now it’s all done on a volunteer basis.”