Field work, one of the highlights for many Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) staff, was a little harder to come by this year because of COVID-19, but thanks to hard work by engagement staff and with all the safety protocols in place, we were able to hold our annual Meeting Lake tree planting event.
Prior to NCC purchasing the property, the three quarter-sections of mixed forest were logged with portions of the land converted to domestic forages for grazing livestock. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers, the planting events are returning native white spruce back to the land and will help transform this property back into a forest that will blend into the landscape.
Newly planted tree at NCC’s Meeting Lake 03 property, SK (Photo by NCC)
But it is also a chance for me to wear my big hiking boots, stomp around in the bush in my beat-up Carharts (work pants) and re-live my glory years as a scrawny starving teenage tree planter. So, during these events, I generally spend the day trying to teach people how to plant trees, encourage volunteers, maybe clear some vegetation for people, but really, selfishly, I just enjoy myself.
As I plunked my last few trees in the ground (green side up!), our group gathered together, slumping on our shovels, and listened to Sarah Ludlow, conservation science coordinator for NCC’s Saskatchewan Region, tell us about bat research into species presence and habitat preference on the property that will guide future management of the future forest on the property.
Volunteer at NCC’s annual tree planting event at Meeting Lake, SK (Photo by NCC)
As I was preparing myself for a relaxing ride home, one of the volunteers asked if she could lead us in song called “I’m a Wild One Now.” Now, as a former choir member (baritone, if you’re looking to recruit), I’m keen to sing. But I never remember all the words to any particular song I want to sing, so I’m stuck singing the same couple of lines. Today, this wasn’t a problem, because the volunteer not only knew the tune, but all the words, too. So, with wavering voices, our group of grubby tree planters sang each line after hearing a line sung to us by our volunteer tree planter/song leader. The song is powerful and appropriate, describing the connection of humans to nature.
When we finished the song, she told us a bit about her personal reasons for being there today and why planting trees was important to her. It is hard to describe how singing and the days’ accomplishments rocked me and shook me out of my self-absorbed headspace, but it did. I think I managed to teach a few people how to plant trees that day, so that’s good. But the thing I learned that day was that people connected to NCC, that send us money or go out of their way to help us achieve our conservation goals have really powerful reasons to want to work with us.
Getting to meet the people who support NCC and understanding why they do so is really motivating and life-giving. Acknowledging the significance of what we do in an intentional, joyful way does make a difference and needs to be done regularly. So, next time you find yourself heaving the last bundle of rolled-up barbed wire onto the truck or pitching the last bag of pulled weeds into the dumpster after a volunteer event, make sure to give yourself a little time and energy to celebrate a job well done.