By Samantha Penner | On August 2, 2018, I started my 1,400km 27-day journey near Mount Robson in the headwaters of the Fraser River. I travelled downstream by canoe, raft and on foot with eight other community leaders, finishing in Vancouver’s Salish Sea. The purpose of the Rivershed Society of BC’s wilderness education program is to create a network of community leaders focused on Watershed CPR (conservation, protection and restoration). I represented The Nature Trust of BC in my position as the Lower Mainland Conservation Field Technician.
The Sustainable Living Leadership Program (SLLP) honed my leadership and stewardship skills, increased my awareness of the Fraser River, one of BC’s most important rivers, and introduced me to an amazing network of stewards. Each year, the program selects up to ten community leaders from around the province and immerses them in an intense experiential education program focused on watershed health.
The trip was more difficult than I anticipated! Days were filled with leadership tasks whether it was skill training exercises or daily chores including cooking, cleaning, tearing down and setting up camp. When on the river paddling or rafting we learned about the Fraser’s history, watershed health and about all the creatures we saw, especially salmon.
My highlights included sleeping under the stars, hiking the Goat River Valley, making new friendships with fellow participants, and connecting with First Nations and community groups along the river.
It was amazing being on the Fraser River each and every day, engulfed by nature, surrounded by beauty and connected to the earth. The Fraser River is a critical part of BC’s ecosystems, without it we wouldn’t have the plants, trees, wildlife, food, shelter and resources we need to survive.
Witnessing the transformation from headwaters to Pacific Ocean was fascinating. We travelled through ten of BC’s 14 biogeoclimatic zones, observing the metamorphosis of the river from rural to urban. What I took away from the program is we need to conserve, protect and restore our natural resources because without them we have nothing.
During the trip each participant created a project plan which they presented to the group near the end. Once back home graduates were encouraged to implement their project over the following year.
My project focused on engaging and educating a variety of community groups and youth in repairing salmon bearing habitat on Nature Trust properties on Vancouver Island through restoration, conservation and protection.
If you would like to learn more or get involved restoring watersheds, please watch for upcoming Nature Trust events or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be hosting events on Vancouver Island, at Sandersons Royd in Cobble Hill, along the Englishman River in Parksville and and other locations. These restoration events are funded by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. Event details and dates to follow on our website and social media.