Outdoor learning: Professional development for teachers

By James Davis, Education Program Manager

June 2017

Our wonderful Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore and I had the privilege of facilitating six environmental education professional development workshops for teachers during the month of May.  The workshops took place in Fort St. John, Victoria and Surrey and covered topics such as building a routine to take your class outside regularly, connections to the new BC curriculum and conducting a risk/benefit assessment for an outdoor learning space.

Enjoying the woods. Photo by Nikko Snow.

The highlight of the workshops for many teachers was the time they got to spend outside. We put teachers in the role of students and led them through nature scavenger hunts, games of food chain tag, and other nature connection activities including “Sit Spot,” which allowed participants to sit quietly and observe (something many teachers commented that they rarely have time to do).

I really enjoyed these opportunities to get out from behind my computer and meet teachers face-to-face.  I was able to hear about the challenges that they face in trying to take their students outside during class time. Many of them also shared inspiring stories about the ways that they are helping young learners get outdoors and develop relationships with their natural surroundings.

We got great feedback from the teachers, with a vast majority saying they felt better equipped and more confident to take their students outside than they did before the workshop.

Looking forward to the 2017/18 school year, we are hoping to offer more of these Pro-D workshops and to collaborate with local teachers’ unions to make these opportunities available. Our goal is the work with these unions to institutionalize environmental education training for teachers, with the vision of having they types of Pro-D workshops offered to every teacher in the province by 2020.

If you are interested in having us visit your school district to facilitate Pro-D workshops this coming school year, please get in touch with me at

In the meantime, enjoy your summer and don’t forget to get outside!

Want to help us do more? We rely on donations to keep our programs free, accessible, and inclusive year after year. Please donate today to ensure they can stay this way.

Feature image by Navarana Smith.

Connections in the Peace

As I stood on the shores of the Peace River in Northern BC this past spring, I was reminded of the incredible diversity of land and water we hold here in beautiful BC.

Our children and future generations deserve to experience all of this amazing biodiversity. They deserve to know where they live and develop a connection to the place they call home. If we plan to nourish that connection then we must plan to protect it for the future. Children need opportunities to learn how they are part of this place so they don’t feel like they are separate from the rest of life that surrounds them.

As Sierra Club BC’s Environmental Educator for the past 3 years, my job has been to facilitate an opportunity for children to connect with nature in their home place.

Kirsten with Peace Valley farmer Arlene Boon.

This year I have had the pleasure of traveling to Fort St John and visiting the Peace River Valley during the fall and springtime.  My favourite experience was standing beside the Peace River and taking in all the scenery, then speaking with students about how they connect with the Peace and the surrounding area in the community of Hudson’s Hope.

Students shared with me their concerns about flooding and what will happen over the next few years to their home if the Site C dam goes ahead. Students and teachers spoke of the changes they have seen already within their community due to forest fires, the pine beetle infestation and the building of hydro dams. This has all caused changes to the river and the natural landscape.

Life along the river is getting tougher for these folks. Each day brings more challenges for holding onto the farms and forests, and of course their homes along the river. Learn how you can get involved in our campaign to stop the Site C dam and protect the Peace River Valley.

As I spent more time in Hudson’s Hope I soon realized that these students have a close connection to this place. They told me stories about their favourite experiences in nature: fishing, hunting, camping and snowmobiling in the area. Some kids travel quite a long distance to school each day and many spend their time helping out on their families’ farms along the river.

Kids in the Peace River Valley. Photo by Don Hoffmann.

One Grade 5/6 class took me to see a local forest they love to visit. This is a place they said, where “you can always see lots of deer.” Indeed, we saw lots of deer making an appearance in the forest and foraging for food after a long winter. I took walks with students to the toboggan hill near their school each day and we used that space to explore the variety of plants and animals by doing a fun and interactive nature scavenger hunt. I believe one of their favourite activities was rolling down the hill after our closing circle.

One thing I have become very aware of, no matter where you are in BC, is that finding as many earthworms as you can after a rain is truly a favourite activity!

The Peace River Valley holds a dear place in my heart. I send them lots of positive thoughts as the future of the river, the wildlife and the people are at stake with decisions to be made about the Site C dam. Help kids in the Peace protect the places they love – tell Trudeau to halt construction on the Site C dam.

Sierra Club BC’s K-8 environmental education programs delivered in classrooms across the province are all developed to meet BC curriculum requirements and connect kids with nature in their own community. I encourage you to check out our upcoming programs and keep connected to receive updates regarding fall registrations. This has been a very rewarding year for the education team with the hire of our new program manager and the success of our Climate and Place pilot program delivered in the CRD. I look forward to connecting with all of you in the fall. Enjoy a wonderful and relaxing summer in the great outdoors.

Donate today to help us reach more children next year!

UNESCO calls urgently on Canada to protect Wood Buffalo National Park


June 6 2016

New draft decision calls on Canada to conduct a proper assessment of Site C dam and make good on earlier promises.

June 5, 2017, FORT MCMURRAY – The UN’s World Heritage Committee is preparing to push Canada for immediate action to better protect Wood Buffalo National Park following Friday’s release of a strong decision proposed for the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee this summer.

The draft decision calls on Canada to, by February 1 2018, have made progress towards fully implementing all 17 of the recommendations from the fall 2016 UNESCO mission to Wood Buffalo National Park. This includes finally conducting a proper assessment of the downstream impacts of the Site C dam and developing concrete mechanisms to improve water governance for the Peace Athabasca Delta. The draft decision also urges Canada to make good on its promise to develop a major Action Plan for ensuring the Wood Buffalo’s protection and to move more quickly to develop and implement that Action Plan. The absence of a timely action by Canada will result in Wood Buffalo National Park being relegated to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

“Once again the international community is calling on Canada to safeguard Wood Buffalo National Park against encroaching industrial pressures. It’s time for Canada to immediately implement UNESCO’s recommendations and start protecting the Peace Athabasca Delta,” said Mikisew Chief Steve Courtoreille.

“The UNESCO report was a wake up call for Canada. We intend to continue working with the World Heritage Committee to hold Minister McKenna to her commitment to take real action to protect this amazing area,” added Melody Lepine, Mikisew’s lead on its UNESCO petition.

Mikisew’s supporters also welcomed the draft decision.

“This decision lays out what Canada’s governments need to do to live up to their responsibilities under the UN World Heritage Convention to safeguard Wood Buffalo on behalf of the world community,” said Alison Woodley, National Director of CPAWS Parks Program. “It’s a clear message from the UN that the threats facing the park from upstream hydro-electric projects and oil sands development are unacceptable, and that Canada needs to take concerted and immediate action to save this global treasure, working in partnership with Indigenous peoples.”

“We are pleased that the World Heritage Committee is poised to strongly reaffirm its position that the Site C dam poses a threat to Wood Buffalo National Park and the Peace Athabasca Delta, and that impacts from Site C must be understood,” Says Galen Armstrong of Sierra Club BC.  “Sierra Club BC is calling on the Trudeau government to suspend its approval of Site C and order an immediate halt to construction, while Canada assesses the report’s recommendations and implements changes. In the long run Site C simply cannot be built.”

“Canada keeps saying that nothing can be done about Site C, but the World Heritage Commission isn’t buying that and neither are we,” says Candace Batycki of Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. “The incoming BC government has committed to send Site C for assessment by the BC Utilities Commission. Meanwhile Canada is being asked to make every effort to understand the possible impacts of the Site C project on Wood Buffalo. They don’t need a legal mechanism to do that, they just need the will.”

The World Heritage Committee will vote on the draft decision at its upcoming meeting in July 2017.

For more information, visit

For interviews with Mikisew Cree First Nation representatives:

Melody Lepine, Mikisew Cree First Nation Industry and Government Relations, 780-792-8736,

For interview with environmental group representatives:

Alison Woodley, BSc, MA, CPAWS, 613-203-1172,

Caleb Behn, Keepers of the Water,

Galen Armstrong, Sierra Club BC, 778-679-3191,

Candace Batycki, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, 250-352-3830

Be bold: Stories from the women who inspire us

By Sue Elrington, Sierra Club BC

April 2017

(L-R) Songhees Elder Joan Morris, Rachel Vincent, Casey Camp-Horinek, Helen Knott, Caitlyn Vernon, and Sue Elrington.

We stand at a moment in time where we are witnessing clear threats to our environment and our social structures. It is a moment that demands action, whether that be action to defend our civil liberties, our rights to security, our rights as women, or simply the planet.

Women are at the forefront of resistance to these threats. Earlier this year, more than 4 million people took part in women’s marches around the world. Women are inspiring and being inspired.

Some of their stories have been captured in Rachel Vincent’s When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right. To encourage new and longtime environmental activists, in March Sierra Club BC invited Rachel to anchor an evening of storytelling based on the book.

Helen Knott on protecting her ancestral lands from the Site C dam.

Joining Rachel Vincent were Casey Camp Horinek, a Ponca Elder in the midst of the Standing Rock battle, Helen Knott, a Treaty 8 poet and activist against the Site C megadam, and Sierra Club BC’s director of campaigns, Caitlyn Vernon.

Rachel opened the evening talking about why so many women become environmental activists. In her work around the world, she repeatedly she sees women forced into activism to protect their homes, their water, and their agricultural land from extractive industries. That was certainly the case with Berta Cercares, the Honduran activist whose resistance so threatened the powerful that they murdered her in 2016.  (Rachel read from a story by Berta’s daughter that is featured in When We Are Bold).

Helen Knott clearly feels she has no choice but to be an activist in the struggle to save her ancestral land and cultural home from the destruction of the Site C megadam. One of the hardest things about being an activist is persisting in the fight when you feel outgunned by the powerful who have no respect for the world you want so passionately to protect. Helen brought much of the audience to tears are she explored the emotions that can overwhelm us in “For The Mamas on Frontlines with their Fists Raised up High,” a poem written to speak to us as activists. (Read Helen’s poem here.)

Caitlyn Vernon, Rachel Vincent and Casey Camp-Horinek.

Caitlyn Vernon, Sierra Club BC’s director of campaigns, has never known a time when she wasn’t an activist. She felt Helen’s poem deeply, sharing her very personal experiences in her journey as a fierce advocate for the environment. In speaking of the condescension, ignorance, touching and groping from men who were supposed to be working with her, Caitlyn shone a light on the dual struggles of most female activists: the primary one—in her case, defending nature—and the second one, usually hidden from view, where women battle the very people we should be able to trust to have our backs in the big fight. But we persist. As an activist, you keep your eyes on the goal.

For Casey Camp-Horinek, this has meant taking on new roles. Casey is a Elder from the Ponca Nation who describes herself first as a matriarch of her clan. She followed her sons to join the encampment at Standing Rock where she was arrested for nine days. Casey spoke eloquently about moving beyond inertia by finding new ways to act for the planet. She wants municipal governments to give nature the same standing and and the same rights in law as humans have. She has become a Council member to push this dream into reality.

There was much talk throughout the evening regarding how, for so many women, their activist journeys started with conversations. Conversations around kitchen tables with neighbours that led to decisions to act. There is no act too small, no vision too big to take on. We just have to BE BOLD.

“If we all stand together, there’s a beautiful way forward.” Casey Camp-Horinek shares about her experiences at Standing Rock and the importance of alliances between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Special thanks to Kirk Schwartz, MediaNet and Pacific Peoples’ Partnership for producing these videos.

Casey Camp-Horinek on defending land and water

“If we all stand together, there’s a beautiful way forward.” Native rights activist, actor and Councillor of the Ponca Nation Casey Camp-Horinek on her experiences at Standing Rock and the importance of alliances between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to protect the land and water we all depend on.Special thanks to Kirk Schwartz, MediaNet and Pacific Peoples' Partnership for videography, production and technical support.

Posted by Sierra Club BC on Tuesday, May 2, 2017

“It’s crucial to start honouring those promises that were made.” Watch and share this powerful interview with Helen Knott to learn why stopping the Site C dam is critical for Canada’s relationship with First Nations:

Help Helen stop the destruction — tell Trudeau to honour his promises to First Nations and suspend approval of Site C:


Feature image by Kat Zimmer.

Farewell, and not goodbye: Bob Peart

By Executive Director Bob Peart

March 31, 2017

When I was hired by Sierra Club BC 3.5 years ago, I was excited to work with a key environmental group at such a critical time. Sierra Club BC was rightly seen as a leader in the movement – from our respectful approach to advocacy and our belief in science to our award winning environmental education programs and the vital role we play in the energy, forest and climate conversation. I was not disappointed. And we have delivered – from the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements and protecting big old trees to speaking out to keep tankers off the coast; and from putting the outrageous Site C dam proposal on the public radar to getting thousands of school-aged children back outside.

As many of you know, by the time you read this note I will no longer be Executive Director. My route to Sierra Club BC was through a 40-year role as an advocate for nature, combined with a deep passion for experiencing firsthand the smells and sounds of the wildlife and plants that surround us. Post-Sierra Club BC, my journey will continue.  I will remain involved in the conservation movement as long as I am able – putting my energy toward defending nature, moving off a carbon-based economy and reminding people that their health is directly linked to a healthy environment.

I am often asked: where do I get my optimism and why, given the degradation to the planet we see every day, do you keep working so hard to protect it? My answer is that I get my hope and optimism from people like you – our donors and supporters who believe in the good work we do. And like me, you refuse to give up and you continue to demand that the communities where we live are healthy, and provide a lifestyle that is truly sustainable and leaves no one behind.

I thank you for your confidence in Sierra Club BC, and please continue to support the good work we do through your donations.

Bob Peart

Volunteer spotlight: Derrick Leung

Hello, my name is Derrick. I am the volunteer of Sierra Club BC and an international student of University of Victoria.

I work as an office assistant in Sierra Club BC. My tasks include translating, researching, data entry and paper works. Peoples in Sierra Club BC are nice, and they have provided a comfortable working environment for volunteer to experience the job.

My English and interpersonal skills is improved during the volunteering. It is my first time to get into the English working environment, and it will be part of my foundation on future career for no doubt. As a non-profit organization, volunteering is very helpful to support our operation, and volunteer will also get benefits from it.

Therefore, please do not hesitate if you are interested to join us. Explore our website for more details and sign up for the new volunteer!!


Do you share our love of nature? Do you want to have fun and meet like-minded people? Why not volunteer?


Feature image by Andrew S. Wright

Our Thanksgiving Gift

By Bob Peart

October 7, 2016

It is important throughout the year to ‘take stock’ and contemplate our lives, our fortunes and the plight of those who are less fortunate. Perhaps this is especially true at Thanksgiving.

These days our lives seem to be overtaken with the pressures of family life, the demands of social media, and the growing concern that climate change threatens the economy, environment and society as we know it.


Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Sierra Club BC!

On the other hand, British Columbia is a gift to the world with our globally significant wildlife and web of life. There are few places on Earth that are as blessed with the water, air and natural world that surrounds us and keeps us healthy.

At Sierra Club BC, we are working hard to defend this gift of nature and to put forward a message of hope and opportunity. We will continue to oppose those who disregard the warnings on the horizon as well as continue to speak out about the necessity of moving toward a post-carbon solution so families, communities and nature can prosper together.

So on Thanksgiving Day I hope you ‘take stock’ and are able to get outside and enjoy the healthy gift of nature.

Bob Peart

Executive Director

Sierra Club BC

Great Bear Rainforest Agreement partners receive Sierra Club US’s 2016 EarthCare Award


September 9, 2016

First Nations governments, the B.C. government and a group of environmental organizations and forestry companies will tomorrow receive the 2016 EarthCare Award from Sierra Club US. With 2.4 million members, Sierra Club US is one of the largest environmental organizations in North America (and independent from Sierra Club BC and Sierra Club Canada).

The EarthCare award honours individuals or organizations that have made a unique contribution to international environmental protection and conservation.

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest remaining relatively intact temperate rainforest areas of the world.   Fulfilment of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements was announced February 1, 2016 in Vancouver. Eighty-five percent of the remote wilderness region’s coastal temperate rainforests are now permanently off-limits to industrial logging. The remaining 15 percent of the forest are subject to the most stringent commercial logging legal standards in North America. First Nations oversight of their lands has been strengthened and new community development opportunities negotiated as a result of the government-to-government implementation process.

“The loss of biodiversity and natural ecosystems is a global crisis, and the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements are offering us a precedent-setting conservation model the world can learn from,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “These Agreements show us how to achieve an economy that respects both indigenous rights and nature’s limits.”

The Great Bear Rainforest Agreements protect biodiversity, help mitigate climate change, support improved community well-being, and provide a level of economic certainty to the forestry sector. The Agreements are considered a milestone for collaboration between indigenous and non-indigenous governments, environmental organizations and forestry companies.

“The Great Bear Rainforest is a global treasure and now that it is set aside, it will be a landscape of hope where economic activity can occur without undermining the environment,” said Bob Peart, executive director of Sierra Club BC. “The Agreements provide an astonishing example of land use planning that balances many important values.”

After years of intense conflict, collaboration and negotiation, the new model of conservation management is informed by science, First Nations rights over their lands, and stakeholder input. The goal of this unique conservation approach is to maintain healthy forests and high levels of community well-being across the entire 6.4 million hectare Great Bear Rainforest, an area larger than Nova Scotia.

The Agreements were announced by indigenous alliances Coastal First Nations and Nanwakolas Council and the province of British Columbia, with the support of three environmental groups—Sierra Club BC, Greenpeace and (formerly ForestEthics)—and five companies as stakeholder groups (Interfor, Western Forest Products, BC Timber Sales, Catalyst Paper and Howe Sound Pulp and Paper).

All parties involved are committed to Annual Monitoring reports and a five-year and ten-year review mechanism.


For more information about the Great Bear Rainforest Agreements:



Tim Pearson

Director of Communications, Sierra Club BC



Image by Jens Wieting

Victory! Enbridge approval overturned by federal court

June 30, 2016

Eight First Nations are celebrating a momentous victory. More than a year and half after First Nations first went to court over Enbridge,  the federal government’s approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers project has been overturned by the Federal Court of Appeal.

On Thursday June 30th,  the federal court ruled that the government failed in its duty to consult First Nations. The judge found that the consultation process “left entire subjects of central interest to the affected First Nations, sometimes subjects affecting their subsistence and well-being, entirely ignored.” With today’s court ruling, the project has no approval and no permits, period. As Peter Lantin, President of the Council of Haida Nation, puts it, “I don’t think there’s room for another nail in the coffin.”

Sierra Club BC, together with RAVEN Trust, raised $600,000 for their legal challenges through the Pull Together campaign. The funds meant First Nations did not have to shoulder the financial burden of paying for critical research, preparing legal arguments, and court time — all investments which today are paying off, big time.

United Against Enbridge. Photo by Wayne Worden

United Against Enbridge.
Photo by Wayne Worden

The ruling means that the federal government can now reject the project outright. If they don’t, they need to undertake proper consultation with First Nations. This isn’t quite over yet. We are calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to do the right thing: reject this climate-polluting pipedream for once and for all.

We will be calling on the federal government to legislate a permanent, binding oil tanker ban for BC’s north coast —  the surest way to protect the Great Bear Rainforest from oil spills.

For today, though, we celebrate!

Thank you to everyone who participated in Pull Together for your work organizing, fundraising and taking a step towards reconciliation with Indigenous people across B.C. Today’s victory would not have been possible without your dedication of time, energy, and money.

It’s because of the committed struggle and creative ways that people all across the province stood in solidarity with First Nations, that this historic judgement has been reached. We’re so honoured to stand with all of you to defend our common future.

Please continue to support our work to stop tankers and pipelines in British Columbia by donating today.

Sierra Club BC’s Google Earth Tool Shows Vancouver Island Old-growth in State of Emergency

September 28, 2016 – Eighty per cent of delegates attending the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention have passed a motion to protect old-growth forests on Vancouver Island from logging. They have further resolved that the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) write to the BC government calling for an amendment to the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan to protect the remaining old-growth forest on provincial Crown land. Sierra Club BC campaigns director made the following statement on the resolution:

“We commend and support all of the municipal leaders, business leaders, and community champions who are speaking up for the ecological and economic values of big old trees. Today’s vote shows that communities all across this province understand that Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth rainforest is a global treasure, and that its protection is a provincial responsibility.

We will continue to work together with our allies to protect Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth rainforest, and call on the provincial government to update the Vancouver Island land use plan to include consideration of climate impacts and Aboriginal title and rights.”

Sierra Club BC’s Google Earth Tool Shows Vancouver Island Old-growth in State of Emergency

We have developed a Google Earth file, that shows old-growth coastal rainforest has reached a state of ecological emergency across vast parts of Vancouver Island and B.C.’s South Coast. (See below for instructions on how to use the file.)

The Google Earth file, which can be studied with free Google Earth software, shows how little ancient forest is left as a result of decades of industrial logging.

The Google Earth file reveals that almost half (46 per cent) of the landscape units now have less than 30 per cent of productive old-growth remaining.  (Landscape units are areas of land used for long-term forest planning, usually 50,000 to 100,000 hectares.) Seventeen per cent of the landscape units have less than 10 per cent productive old-growth rainforest remaining.

Large part of the Walbran remains intact. Photo by TJ Watt

Large part of the Walbran remains intact.
Photo by TJ Watt

Experts consider 30 per cent the threshold for ‘high ecological risk’ of loss of species. With climate change exerting additional pressure, endangered species such as the Marbled Murrelet are experiencing compounding stresses and are threatened with extirpation or extinction.

Sierra Club BC is calling for immediate action by the provincial government to protect and restore endangered coastal rainforest ecosystems, before intensifying climate impacts like drought, wildfires and storms coupled with destructive logging practices further exacerbate pressure on ecosystems.

Remaining largely intact rainforest areas, such as the Central Walbran and the Klaskish River/East Creek need immediate conservation steps to save habitat for endangered species and restore second-growth forest to allow for connectivity.

Unless the provincial government changes course and protects what remains of our endangered old-growth, much of the southern coast could turn into an ecological wasteland this century. We must protect and restore our rainforests now, for species, for clean air, clean water, long term forestry jobs and as one of the world’s most efficient carbon sinks.

Photo by TJ Watt

How to use the Sierra Club BC Google Earth file

Explore how the software works, download and install the free version of Google Earth:

Download the Sierra Club BC Google Earth file.

Open the file and zoom into the 155 landscape units of Vancouver Island and South Coast (landscape units are areas of land used for long-term forest planning, usually 50,000 to 100,000 hectares).

The Google Earth file (and the Sierra Club BC map) shows the remaining percentage of productive old-growth for all landscape units on Vancouver Island and the South Coast. These are rainforest ecosystems that typically grow relatively big trees (good and medium productivity forest) and store record amounts of carbon, but are also of high interest for logging.


The file reveals that almost half (46 per cent) of the landscape units now have less than 30 per cent of productive old-growth remaining.  Seventeen per cent of the landscape units have less than 10 per cent productive old-growth rainforest remaining. For more information read our backgrounder.

If you click into one of the landscape units, a box shows up with the following information: name of the landscape unit, the total number of hectares of forest in it (some of the area could be non-forest like wetlands etc.), the number of hectares covered by productive forest (good and medium productivity), the number of hectares that remain old-growth, as well as the corresponding % value.

The Google Earth file also shows boundaries of parks (this allows to distinguish areas that are protected from unprotected areas within a landscape unit, for example in the Walbran). This layer can be found in the “Primary database”under “More” (second item; see lower left corner of the first screenshot on this page)

Here is an example:  The Walbran landscape unit contains 30,380 hectares of forest, 27,634 hectares are productive forest (good and medium productivity), 19,576 hectares remain old-growth (71%), which makes the Walbran landscape unit the only one remaining in the entire South Coast with this amount of productive, intact old-growth forest.

walbran screen

We can’t do this work without you! Please help us protect Vancouver Island’s last remaining old-growth.