In 2016, The Couchiching Conservancy undertook a project called the 17% Pledge. Thanks to a grant from the Gosling Foundation, Kelcey McLean and I were hired as this year’s Engagement Organizers. The goal of Engagement Organizing was simple – to reach out to members of the public, inform them of the work of the Conservancy and to invite them to become more involved in our efforts. Through a combination of door-to-door canvassing, attending community events, and speaking with trail-users on several of our 45 conservation areas, we and a team of volunteers encouraged members of the public to take the 17% Pledge.
What is the 17% Pledge? As part of a global movement in 2010, our provincial and federal governments made a commitment to bring at least 17% of Ontario’s land and inland waters under conservation by 2020. With the 17% Pledge, we are identifying supporters of local conservation by asking if you support Ontario’s 17% conservation commitment and further if you support the efforts of local land trusts such as The Couchiching Conservancy. Local land trusts are a practical, cost-effective way to bring ecologically sensitive lands under protection and to hold them in trust for the public today and for future generations.
“We would like to say thank you to all who have supported the 17% Pledge so far – you help make conservation work in this region.“
As of August 13th, 2017, over 2000 people have added their name in support of the 17% Pledge to protect nature. Identifying over 2000 unique supporters in a little over a year gives us a good indication that conservation is a priority for people in the City of Orillia and surrounding areas. Identifying these 2000+ supporters was a combined effort between staff and volunteers, building on the hard work and success of last year’s Engagement Organizers Aiesha Aggarwal and Courtney Baker. It was really encouraging to meet so many people who are supportive and passionate about conservation work. I think that was the best part of the job – it’s easy to wake up and go to work when you feel good about what you’re doing. To echo our Director Mark Bisset, it is a privilege to do work that is aligned with your personal values.
But we’re not finished yet! We invite everyone reading this to lend their support to the Conservancy by adding your name to the 17% Pledge. In doing so, you are supporting the Conservancy’s efforts to protect more than 12,000 acres of our region’s vital lands – in some cases globally rare ecosystems.
As we spoke with people this summer, perhaps the most common question asked was “How else can I get involved?”. One of the best ways to get involved with the Conservancy is volunteering. There are many rewarding volunteer opportunities – most of which require no previous experience. The Conservancy offers volunteers specialized training and a variety of workshops on topics including species at risk, invasive species, water quality monitoring, etc., promoting good stewardship practices. You can also join the Conservancy by purchasing a membership. Membership fees and donations make the Conservancy’s work possible and contribute directly to the acquisition and stewardship of our properties. A great example is the Conservancy’s current campaign to protect over 4 km of Black River shoreline within 730 acres of diverse wilderness which we call the Black River Wildlands. Currently, the Conservancy has raised over 78% of its total project cost.
I would encourage everyone reading this to get out on one or more of the Conservancy’s properties. I think once you have been out for a walk or hike through the trails at Grant’s Woods, Scout Valley, T.C. Agnew, Alexander Hope Smith, Church Woods, Elliott Woods, etc. – suddenly you become very aware of the importance of protecting these special natural places. We would like to say thank you to all who have supported the 17% Pledge so far – you help make conservation work in this region.
Grant Mask is an Engagement Organizer and volunteer with The Couchiching Conservancy – a non-profit, non-government land trust which works to ensure that special natural places are safeguarded for the future. To learn more and add your name to the 17% Pledge, visit couchichingconserv.ca.