Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Ferrier property (Photo by Brent Calver)

Wolf and Joan, above Rocky Point Creek, Purcell Mountains (photo provided by Wolfgang Holzmann and Joan Blair)

Wolf and Joan, above Rocky Point Creek, Purcell Mountains (photo provided by Wolfgang Holzmann and Joan Blair)

Wolf Holzmann and Joan Blair

Wolf Holzmann and his wife, Joan Blair, love to travel the world.

But the Lethbridge, Alberta, residents love coming home even more.

“We see Canada differently when we return,” explains Wolf. During a recent trip to Ethiopia, he and Joan witnessed first-hand the effects of deforestation to make way for large-scale sugarcane plantations. In Cambodia, they saw how illegal logging and agricultural land clearing have deprived the country of a quarter of its tree cover, a much higher percentage than larger, forested countries, including Brazil.

In Peru, Joan recalls her shock at seeing a local resident cut down a tree simply to pick fruit.

“We’re so fortunate here in Canada with our many beautiful, wild spaces close to home and yet so remote,” she says.

One of their favourites is in British Columbia’s Purcell Mountains, where Wolf says a short hike from the car can leave you feeling like you’re alone in the world.

Seeing what could happen if these precious places aren’t protected has inspired Wolf and Joan to support the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) in ever-increasing measures over nearly 30 years.

They’ve donated annually since 1992, and over the past decade have helped advance NCC’s conservation work in Alberta. The couple has also been active Conservation Volunteers since 2009, participating in several activities a year on NCC properties, including weed pulling, fence repairs and a butterfly count on Sandstone Ranch, home to some of the province’s last remaining native grasslands.

Reflecting on their contributions, Joan says it’s rewarding to see how their many modest acts of conservation are making a difference. On a recent return trip to an NCC property bordering Waterton Lakes National Park as a Conservation Volunteer, for example, she saw how the hound’s-tongue she helped clear a few years previous was no longer visible.

Their annual giving has also added up substantially over time, a fact that leaves the couple, both retired University of Lethbridge mathematicians, feeling “really good” about their investment and hopeful for Canada’s future — even in the face of a global pandemic.

“The silver lining to all of this is we now get to enjoy nature’s beauty at home,” says Wolf. Joan agrees, “The evening stars, the bird’s morning chorus, the experiences can be so profound.”

Not that they’ve stopped dreaming about their next travel destination.

“Newfoundland,” Wolf declares.

“Or maybe the Yukon,” Joan chimes in.

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