By Stephen Petrick
There are surely environmental heroes walking among us in the community – and the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust wants to hear about them.
The non-profit, environmental charity is calling for nominations for its annual Enviro-Hero Awards.
“These awards serve to recognize and celebrate environmental excellence within our community,” the organization said in a recent statement. “This year we have decided to once again focus on finding the local unsung Enviro-Hero. We will be honouring one adult (or group) and one youth (or group) who has contributed to the protection and sustainability of our natural resources and environment through their action or initiative, through education or stewardship.”
The organization asks community members who know of people deserving of these awards to get in touch and put nominations forward. They just have to include a short description of the nominee, explain why they are nominating them and add contact information, if available.
To reach the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust call 705-457-3700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nominations close on Tuesday, Dec. 21. One winner in each category will be announced on Wednesday, Dec. 29. The Land Trust then hopes to have an award presentation sometime in the new year, but that will depend on the state of Covid-19 related restrictions.
The annual awards program raises awareness of the importance of local environmental projects and the Land Trust itself.
The trust is an organization that protects and maintains five properties in Haliburton County, which total 1,200 acres of forest and wetlands.
Two of those properties, the Dahl Forest and the Barnam Creek Natural Reserve, are open to the public and have trails for activities such as hiking or cross-country skiing (but not for motorized vehicle use). The Land Trust also covers the Fred and Pearl Barry Wetland Reserve, Norah’s Island and Smith Forest.
While the Land Trust is charged with protecting these properties, Enviro-Hero award nominees are not limited to those who’ve made contributions to these five properties, said Mary-Lou Gerstl, a board member and chairperson of the fundraising committee.
An “Enviro-Hero” could be anyone local who has done something special to contribute to a better environment.
“We call them unsung heroes — people in the community that have contributed to the preservation of the environment through their own actions,” she said.
In selecting award winners, the Land Trust will consider those who have contributed to environmental stewardship, such as conserving or protecting water, flora, fauna or mineral resources. It will also consider those who have organized and delivered environmental education opportunities for children, youth or adults.
Gerstl said the award program has helped the Land Trust honour all kinds of unsung heroes in recent years. Past winners include a property owners association that ran a “Love Your Lakes” program, a group that ran a shoreline restoration program along Gull River, a local beekeeper and youth who planned events to raise awareness of climate change.
She added that, as time goes by, there seems to be more community interest in protecting the environment; likely as a result of the society’s acceptance of climate change. As evidence, she pointed out that the Land Trust is a membership-based organizations, and its members have grown from roughly 150 five years ago to about 190 today.
One of the Land Trust’s main focuses today is preserving wetlands and working to ensure they’re protected from development.
“We’ve seen more and more land owners who have wetlands on their properties, interested in our research programs,” she said. “I think people are becoming very, very concerned. They’re looking at our environment and seeing how beautiful it is today and we want to keep it that way.”
She said the award program is also well received because Haliburton County has a strong environment-loving culture, driven by rural residents who see the importance of preserving nature.
Winners of the awards receive a gift, but it doesn’t come with a financial prize. That is never an issue, Gerstl said, because the people who work on these environmental projects don’t do it for money. Instead, they do it “because it’s the right thing to do.”