Nature Trust Origins

The Nature Trust of British Columbia:
Origins of a Trust Guided by Science and Business Interests

By Ralph Shaw, CM, O.C.

It is now approaching 44 years since I had the privilege of joining Jack Davis, then Minister of the Environment (Canada), Len Marchand, Member of Parliament (Ottawa), Dr. Alastair McLean, Research Scientist, and myself an Elementary School Principal to try to come up with a plan to form a trust for the Second Century Funds of $4,500,000 from Ottawa to British Columbia to celebrate the province’s second century.

We walked the streets of Kamloops for hours in concentrated discussion on the importance of using the funds in a way that would be scientifically sound and at the same time use good business practises in spending and securing suitable sites. The common theme of suitable sites for the second century funds was that they be ecologically possible to balance and preserve whether a site was for enhancing particular plants, animals, birds, fish or any combination of life in our diverse natural systems.

There was to be a Board of Directors appointed from recognized conservation-minded scientists and equally dedicated conservation-minded business people. During the discussion names such as Roderick Haig-Brown, Dr. Bert Brink, and Dr. Alastair McLean – who was an obvious choice from the morning discussion in spite of his modesty. We also wished to attract people like Dr. Ian McTaggart Cowan if he could find the time. Known conservationists such as George Reifel  and John Woodworth  from the business world were also discussed. Bert Hoffmeister was to be approached to become the first chairperson.

In the passage of time the National Second Century Fund became known as The Nature Trust of BC. Bert Hoffmeister and his dedicated Board of Directors set a path on ethical business standards and ecological sound principles that guide The Nature Trust to this day. Over time they have been instrumental in securing over 400 sites where The Nature Trust is the guiding mentor and teacher. The influence of people like Dr. Alastair McLean and Dr. Ian McTaggart Cowan stay alive and meaningful through The Nature Trust.

As an aside, Dr. Ian McTaggart Cowan was directly involved in my attending the University of British Columbia. In the spring of 1946, I was a guest as President of the Calgary Junior Fish and Game Club at the Alberta Fish and Game Convention in Lethbridge, Alberta. Ian was the keynote speaker – he approached me and asked what I planned to do with my life. I told him I was going to the University of Montana to study wildlife. He suggested I come to UBC to take my wildlife training. I accepted his advice and that is how I came to live in British Columbia. Even though I eventually chose to leave zoology studies and move to education, I remained close friends with many of Ian’s science students.  Incidentally I also met my wife Elaine that fall and we celebrated our 65th anniversary in September 2015.


Ralph Shaw, a retired school principal, lives in Courtenay and, for over 25 years, has written a weekly fishing and outdoors column in the Comox Valley Record.

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