The 2021 winner of the Jim Walker Conservation Field Crew Member Recognition Award is Okanagan Field Crew member Sam Blanchard.

This award honours the legacy of Jim Walker, a friend and past director of the Nature Trust of BC who passed in 2017. Known for his expertise in wildlife management and land-use management, Jim was a leader in helping to develop a number of provincial initiatives, such as the Forest Practices Code, the Muskwa Kechika Management Area, the Clayoquot Land Use Plan and the Grizzly Bear Strategy. During his tenure on the board, The Nature Trust acquired 57 properties (74 parcels) totaling 17,000 acres expanding our legacy of grasslands, marshes, forests and estuaries. Jim was committed to educating the next generation of conservationists. The Nature Trust of BC named the Conservation Crew Member Recognition Award in his memory starting in 2018.

This year, the $500 award was presented to Sam Blanchard, a member of the Okanagan Conservation Field Crew, who clearly demonstrated leadership, superior service and professional management of a wide variety of tasks.

Sam has been described as the perfect employee. If there was a task asked of him, he would not only get it done, but he would get it done right – the first time. He went above and beyond when in the field and was always the first person with a shovel, weed whacker, or any other tool. He never stopped until a task was complete. He always made sure to take care of his fellow crew members, whether it meant bringing extra water for everyone (Gatorade on those extra hot days!) or being a patient teacher. Anytime there was something he didn’t understand in his work, he would make sure to do research in his spare time and bring his knowledge to the job the next day. His unrelenting positive attitude kept everyone smiling, despite the hardships his crew faced with record setting heat events and smoke! He was not only the hardest worker out there, but was also one of the smartest. His commitment to the Nature Trust has been truly commendable.

Sam originally was drawn to this crew position because he was interested in learning more about the flora and fauna of the Okanagan. Sam mentioned in an interview, “Most of my knowledge is of coastal ecosystems so learning about the grasslands and shrub-steppe habitats of the Okanagan has been a great learning experience for me.”

Sam says he was pleasantly surprised by how often the crew members were able to participate in projects put on by other organizations and government entities. They were fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on the Southern Interior Mule Deer project with the Province of BC, feed and band Burrowing Owls with the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC, survey Bighorn Sheep with Okanagan Nation Alliance, and assist with bird banding at Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory.

Although he enjoyed much of the work, including one of his favourite activities, setting up and checking wildlife cameras, there was also some very difficult, strenuous work. There were days that largely consisted of lugging heavy building materials up steep slopes in hot temperatures. However, in response to this, Sam has said; “After several runs back and forth it can get pretty tiring. On the plus side it’s a good workout.” Just another example of his relentless positive attitude!

In the future, Sam plans to obtain his Registered Professional Biologist designation and work at an environmental consulting firm. He hopes this work will allow him to help reduce the environmental impact of development projects and associated critical habitat loss for species at risk.

Despite many challenges, Sam was able to conduct a wide variety of land conservation work. Each one of these tasks helped us deliver on our mandate to protect land and save species. On behalf of everyone at The Nature Trust of BC, we want to thank Sam and wish him the best with his studies and future career.