Nature in the City


I attended the 11th annual Eagle Festival in Campbell River last weekend along with hundreds of people. The event sponsored by Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society showcased the many local organizations in their region. The individuals from the largely voluntary organizations, shared a common desire to preserve and restore the environment. In the past, this sentiment was held by a small fringe group but today the view has entered the mainstream. This issue was apparent in my discussion with Mayor Andy Adams and Karen Adams. Mayor Adams explained how the city of Campbell River has embarked on restoring parts of its shoreline to allow a more natural shore to recover and plans were underway to plant trees to increase canopy cover. These are important steps and what impressed me was their pride in telling me their plans. Campbell River is one of several other municipalities and cities that are getting on the green band wagon. The plans also reflect a broader desire of the electorate for a greener cityscape.

Over 45 years ago, I began my biological career in the mountains above Campbell River tracking and recording the movements of grouse as a UBC summer field researcher. I travelled often to Campbell River to get supplies. In those years, Campbell River was a fishing and logging town famous for the huge salmon pulled from the waters and massive trees trucked out of the forest. Campbell River is also well known among the fishing and conservation crowd as the home of conservationist Roderick Haig-Brown who lived along the Campbell River. He wrote several classic books about fishing and was an early Board member of The Nature Trust of British Columbia. The Trust has purchased several key parcels of land in the region and supported the Brant Festival. Incidentally, I am a volunteer Board member of The Nature Trust and will be speaking at the Brant Festival on April 7.

What will be next once all the green infrastructure is in place? My hope is that events like the Eagle Festival and Brant Festival become traditions that involve all aspects of the community in a grand celebration of nature. Nature Culture is all about sustaining nature and the livelihoods as a uniquely west coast flavoured culture. We can encourage a Nature Culture by attending nature festivals, encouraging local governments to build green infrastructure, and by purchasing sustainable products.

Vancouver is renowned for its green policy and with it has come expectations of leadership. Smaller communities like Campbell River do not get the same recognition partly because of their size but each community contributes to the region’s ecological sustainability. Ecosystems often operate at scales much larger than cities. The greening of cities will require collaboration toward a shared vision that goes beyond city boundaries.


About rob butler

I am a scientist, author and naturalist with over four decades of field study of wild animals. You can read more at my web site at
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