Larry Simpson is a man set out to make a difference on our planet and will encourage you to do the same. With almost 30 years experience with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, his dedication to land conservation and its inhabitants is honourable.
Hear from Larry himself on the current state of wildlife in Canada and how you can make an impact in your own backyard.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
I started working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada in 1990 in Toronto, after previously working with United Way and a large energy company. I joined the NCC because many of the places I loved were being modified and I thought I should get involved and try to make a difference. Now, I’m the Associate Regional Director and VP for the Alberta region. I also tell people I work with an organization that focuses on keeping healthy natural system intact and functioning. Embedded in those healthy natural systems are healthy communities, healthy businesses and healthy families.
What is the role of the Nature Conservancy of Canada?
Our role is to work with owners of land and rights of land to ensure high conservation value and to find solutions that will result in these lands being conserved.
What is The Jim Prentice Wildlife Corridor?
It’s an attempt by the NCC and donors to secure land in the Crowsnest valley and the last remaining suite of properties that provide the potential for wildlife to move north and south across the valley. The Crowsnest Pass, located in southwest Alberta is a very busy place. This magnificent pass has been a focal point for animals travelling east and west, as well as north and south, and secures land so that wildlife, particularly large carnivores, will still be able to move their genetic codes through the valley. It’s also named in recognition of one of Alberta’s past premiers, Jim Prentice, who enjoyed wildlife and nature.
Can you comment on the grim state of biodiversity in Canada and Alberta specifically?
Most of the species at risk within Canada come from the settled land of the country, which is being modified at an alarmingly high rate. In Alberta, the most impacted areas are the lands that are being settled. We’re converting 30,000 acres a year to either subdivision or crop production. To put this in perspective, a CFL football field is 2 acres, so we’re converting about 15,000 football fields every year and have been since 1941. For every acre of wetland that’s being conserved, 6 are drained. For every grassland that's being conserved, 3 or 4 are converted. So, we have some work to do but have the opportunities to make a difference—our earth is quite resilient and can recover from a lot.
How will funding the Jim Prentice Wildlife Corridor impact wildlife in the Crowsnest Pass?
If it’s an elk, it’ll be able to move back and forth through The Jim Prentice Wildlife Corridor through winter to figure out where it’s safest to have its calves. If it’s a bear with cubs or a male during breeding season, it’ll be able to cross safely through the corridor, taking its genetic codes north and south. The Jim Prentice Wildlife Corridor, I think, shines a light on our province, as a place that recognizes when something needs to be done and does it—and that includes saving space for nature. For people who want to make a difference in the world, I don’t know if there's a greater gift than trying to give the people you love a chance at a long, healthy, happy life. When they conserve healthy natural systems, that’s what they’re doing.
How will customer’s donations be used?
Donations will be used to work with landowners to secure land north and south of Highway 3. When it comes time to build the physical crossing structure, land bases on both sides will be intact and have the ability to give and receive wildlife on both sides of the corridor. If I can say one thing to donors, I’d say this: if you have the chance to give any gift to the people you love most, how could you give them a better gift than a chance at a long, happy, healthy life? To me, that would be the best gift. If we can keep healthy natural systems intact and functioning, then we can give you and your generation a chance at a long, healthy, happy life. That should be our obligation and we’ve got some work to do to make sure we give you that chance.
Any other thoughts you’d like to share?
None of us by ourselves can change the world, but every single act can make a difference. If you enjoy fishing, hiking, skiing, or even watching a sunset, and these moments make you think about how beautiful the earth is, then you should think about building nature into your estate planning—even in some small way. We can help guide you to create a conservation legacy that will be lasting and living, forever. I’m reluctant to say forever but it’ll last longer than a building in Calgary.