Vancouver couple puts their money where their hearts are
On the eve of the global climate conference, a Vancouver couple is encouraging other private citizens to support nature conservation as a critical step in combatting the climate crisis
Al Collings and Hilary Stevens believe everyday citizens have a critical role to play in combatting climate change and protecting nature. Instead of leaving it only to governments to take action on the climate and ecological crises, Collings and Stevens have chosen to put their money where their hearts are.
In the run up to COP 26, many people are asking what they can do to help address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Supporting nature conservation is a direct way individuals can help, and is the most cost-effective solution we have to minimize the impacts of climate change. Healthy natural systems absorb carbon (carbon sequestration), keep it in the ground and provide an essential buffer against the impacts of climate change.
But although nine out of 10 Canadians agree we must invest now more than ever in protecting, restoring and caring for natural spaces, only two per cent of charitable giving goes to environmental organizations in this country.
“We were surprised to learn that so little charitable giving in Canada is directed to environmental and conservation causes, especially in light of current conversations regarding climate change and the real need for more to be done sooner,” says Collings. “We see real value in providing a significant stream of steady funding that can be used as a catalyst for accelerating NCC’s ambitious conservation goals.”
Working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC), the Collings Stevens Family Foundation has donated $1 million to accelerate the pace of direct land conservation in BC over the next five years. Collings and Stevens hope that their donation inspires others to support important environmental issues now, rather than waiting. The family is particularly motivated to make more conservation happen faster.
“Our intention is that our donation encourages other individuals or families to give flexible funding to protect the environment," says Collings. “We hope this becomes a prototype for giving that other donors will be motivated to replicate.”
“It’s also very important to show younger generations that you need to keep giving back — to get them in the mindset of helping protect the environment and preserve natural habitats in perpetuity,” says Stevens.
The Collings Stevens’ gift will be used to establish the Collings Stevens Conservation Acceleration Fund to conserve ecologically important private lands across the province. Private land conservation offers a direct way to protect landscapes in areas where the threat of development is high. Donors and landowners have helped NCC protect essential wildlife habitat corridors and threatened ecosystems in some of British Columbia’s most heavily developed regions, including the Salish Sea, the South Okanagan and the Rocky Mountain Trench.
“We are so inspired by and grateful to the Collings Stevens Family Foundation for their significant gift to conservation in British Columbia,” says Nancy Newhouse, BC regional vice president for NCC. “By establishing this flexible fund for land conservation, they are demonstrating trust and leadership. Their generosity and flexibility will allow us to be nimble, strategic and confident and act quickly to deliver tangible conservation outcomes. Ultimately, this will benefit people and nature in British Columbia, Canada and the world for future generations.”
- Stats about Canadians’ interest in nature conservation are taken from poll conducted in 2020 by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of the Nature Conservancy of Canada; stats about charitable support for environmental charities comes from a report by Imagine Canada.
- In British Columbia, protected lands that are managed primarily for conservation (by government or other non-governmental organizations) represent 15.4 per cent of the province’s land base.
- Private land conservation (i.e. conservation of non-public land) can play a critical role in habitat and biodiversity conservation for many reasons, including:
- adding crucial linkages in ecological corridors across landscapes;
- preventing irreversible biodiversity loss or the need for costly restoration work;
- bolstering conservation effectiveness on adjacent lands; and
- protecting lowland areas that can be under-represented in public conservation lands.
The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation's leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 14 million hectares (35 million acres), coast to coast to coast. To learn more, visit natureconservancy.ca.
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