Hiking in the Yukon. Image: Pat Morrow
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"I left inspired to protect the special places in my own backyard."
Sara Renner, Y2Y supporter

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Mining Can Co-Exist with a Healthy Environment

When it comes to brokering relationships for conservation, it's all about solutions, not semantics.

Conservation work has changed since Y2Y first began. The landscape is the same; the objectives are the same, but how the work is achieved on the ground and who is involved has evolved.

Ten or 15 years ago, partnerships between industry and conservation groups were rare. Sometimes stuck in their own ideological framework of profits or protection, each group often saw the other as the enemy. Today those lines are blurred.

“In today’s political climate we can’t depend on government as our only tool to protect lands for conservation. We need to be more creative and open to other, less traditional opportunities,” explains Y2Y President, Karsten Heuer.

“Companies, just like conservation initiatives, are made up of people; people who have families, people who enjoy the outdoors; people who love and care about wildlife,” says Heuer.

“We’ve shed our preconceived ideas about who is an ally and who is an enemy. Our focus is on solutions, not semantics,” adds Heuer. “The new conservation strategy involves bringing together people who share similar values and interests, and whose union will help us achieve our conservation goals.”

Conservation work has changed since Y2Y first began. The landscape is the same; the objectives are the same, but how the work is achieved on the ground and who is involved has evolved.

So far the strategy has led to great success!

World-Class Mining and a World-Class Environment Are Possible

Last year Y2Y Strategic Advisor, Harvey Locke, began working with mining company Teck Resources Ltd. The endeavor resulted in Teck purchasing three parcels of land totaling 17,668 acres (7,150 ha) in British Columbia’s (B.C.) Flathead and Elk Valleys for $19 million. All three parcels are located in one of the most critical wildlife linkage zones in the entire Yellowstone to Yukon region.

One of Teck’s core values is to have a net positive impact on biodiversity in areas where it operates. So when these blocks of land came up for sale Harvey Locke and Wildsight Executive Director John Bergenske, both members of the Flathead Wild team, explored the acquisition opportunity with Teck as a way for them to put their sustainability values into practice on a large scale. Teck embraced it.

“When you focus on values it’s often a win-win for everyone,” says Locke. “That is exactly what we achieved here. Teck is interested in world-class mining and a world-class environment and the Flathead campaign saw strategic parcels of nature protected.”

Locke notes there is more to be done to achieve those mutual objectives, but the experience and the trajectory is very positive.

The next step is for Teck to develop a management and stewardship framework for the land.

“I’m impressed that Teck has invested staff with expertise,” explains Locke. “We have conversations; we’re not talking across each other. When you can have honest, constructive dialogue, like we’re having with Teck, solutions are possible,” adds Locke.

Lumber Company Converges with Nature Conservancy of Canada

Wynndel Box and Lumber owns key parcels of valley bottom land near Creston. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) had a pre-existing relationship with them on forested lands, but these Wynndel farmlands were unusual. Research that Y2Y helped fund showed that the at-risk Selkirk grizzly population and other wildlife species were confined to using Wynndel Box’s land to move through the valley between the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains.

Hiking the hills above the Frog Bear Conservation Corridor, photo: Steve Ogle

“Y2Y’s vision gives us a unique lens with which to view the landscape. Small parcels of land are often overlooked, but they can have continental value,” explains Locke. “NCC joined us in understanding that these farmlands were critical to large-scale movements of bears that keep populations knitted together. Y2Y raised half the money, they found the rest, and we worked together to draft an important conservation easement that worked for the owner and for B.C.’s Agricultural Lands Commission.”

In late May of 2014, Y2Y, NCC, and Wynndel Box and Lumber will gather at Creston’s Frog Bear Conservation Corridor to celebrate and showcase this great success story.

Relationships Expand Beyond Land Acquisitions

“We`ve had amazing success in the Flathead because of this people connection,” said Heuer. “And we are expanding this strategy to other projects.”

Y2Y’s partnership with road construction and maintenance company Volker Stevin on southern Alberta and B.C.’s Highway 3 project is another great example.

Volker Stevin workers are the front-line people who pick up the carcasses when animals get hit on this highway.

“It’s a traumatic experience,” explains Heuer. “And Volker Stevin workers wanted to help make the road safer for all life.”

Their leaders listened and now Y2Y and Volker Stevin are working together to get the much-needed wildlife crossing structures built on Highway 3.

“In many ways working with corporations like Teck and Volker Stevin signals a maturation in our organization,” suggests Heuer. “We are thinking outside the box and aren’t limiting ourselves in terms of who we might partner with for conservation. So far we are thrilled with the results.”